This is quite the feature in the modern age, the extent to which fans of a TV series/movie/song/gif deconstruct same and produce complex explanations for the machinations they’ve seen.
The ease with which those theories can be promoted and shared tends to give them legs: my own favourite revolves around the notion that all the Pixar movies take place within the same universe, making Andy’s mother in Toy Story the little girl who loses Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear early on in Toy Story 3 (or is it Jessie in number two? Answers on a postcard, etc).
You need consider sport as an adjunct to that fantasy- entertainment complex, of course. Take the GAA fan theorist, for whom everything within the Association is organised and distributed to the benefit of Dublin — the coaching, the stadia, the sponsorship — in order to create an engorged weevil to the east which soaks up all resources for the . . . for, well . . . (and here the fan theorist takes aim) . . . the selling of the GAA to a (buyer unknown).
Lack of crucial details delays nobody. The true conspiracy theorist dismisses consistency and rationality as the props of sceptics.
He or she sides with Wallace Stevens and his idea of the supreme fiction, the arrangement of the evidence to suit the theory rather than the other way around.
The rugby fan theorist also clings hard to a couple of notions, such as the perennial downgrading of his province, or the supposed existence of a consultants’ report suggesting a certain stadium shouldn’t have been built in a certain city, or the real reason a certain player didn’t sign for a certain team. You know this person well. Admit it.
These individuals flourish in every corner of the sporting universe. The boxing theorist who points to some shadowy eminence grise manipulating Irish amateurs into professionalism. The league of Ireland theorist on why the domestic competition can’t grow the way it should. The gambling theorist who feels that bookmakers conspire against him.
Actually, though you may feel that such people are inclined to wear hats of tinfoil to prevent those vast gambling companies stealing their thoughts, but last week it emerged that a Dublin pensioner was accusing bookmaker Paddy Power of spying on him for 11 years, alleging it had compiled a file on his appearance, betting preferences and habits. The normalisation of gambling is something that has appeared a couple of times in this column in the past, and the usual retort from one or two sweats is to ask what I’ll whinge about next.
It’s hardly a surprise that a vast company earning millions from people’s gambling wouldn’t be inclined to gamble on having all the information it can get at its disposal, but there’s something deeply unpleasant, if not sinister, about gathering that amount of detailed information.
However, it also serves to encourage all those theorists in other fields, much as someone winning the lottery encourages all the others who buy their tickets. The fact that a theory is confirmed is one thing, but the fact that it also confirms a deeply held paranoia is a restorative for fellow paranoiacs everywhere.
Westworld and its notions about Ed Harris’s true identity, or Anthony Hopkins’ true purpose, are only in the ha’penny place.
Poppycock and politics
You’d lose the will to live, wouldn’t you?
The not-at-all manufactured annual knicker-twisting about the poppy on English soccer jerseys has reached a new something or other with the decision by the FA to have the national team wear one even though political symbols on jerseys are...
I can’t even fake my interest, to be honest. But I do note that this has taken off in another direction now as a result of an MP, one Damian Collins, complaining about Ireland having a 1916 logo on an international jersey this year.
Far be it from me to suggest that this MP might have better things to do (not at all random quotation from the Guardian: ‘Damian Collins also under fire for suggesting young people busk to raise money for fares to find work’). The flapping of a backbencher’s wings is never pretty.
But the organisation ‘investigating’ Ireland’s transgression, and barring England from wearing whatever jerseys they want, is FIFA. Yes, FIFA.
Double standards on jersey issue
On a related matter to the jersey non-controversy, or nontroversy, if you will... why does anybody feel any surprise whatsoever that people take umbrage at national expression?
The whole point about wearing one colour rather than the other is to delineate difference in the first place — and to delineate one place as opposed to another. That’s what national identity means: you’re from here, not there.
But the real laugh here is that it’s FIFA ‘cracking down’ on these national symbols when it’s entire raison d’être is based on national symbols in the first place: team jerseys.
To this observer, if you’re queasy about one particular expression of nationalism, then why are you happy snuggling up to another? They’re just a couple of random spots along the continuum. This one’s suppressed, but this other one is sold with FIFA’s blessing anywhere people have money to...
Wait a minute. These few paragraphs should probably be in with the thoughts on fan theories. But then again, in whose interest is it to keep these two matters separate? Who does this benefit?
Further details when I meet you in that multi-storey car park tonight at 2am.
Not very smart
Just to hand: Suggestions that smartphones are affecting people’s running in competitions, and not for the better.
As a marathon agnostic, I have not smashed into a fellow runner taking a selfie, nor have I seen anyone take a wrong turn because their earphones blocked the directions offered by a volunteer on the racecourse, but I understand that these events now figure in the marathon experience.