Donald Trump’s sporting dalliance

At the end of this week Donald Trump will officially become President of the United States.
Donald Trump’s sporting dalliance

Not a sentence anyone thought they’d be typing 12 months ago, or even 12 weeks ago, but it’s the truth. It’s also the truth Trump has all the charm of a drain blockage on a piggery, but that’s neither here nor there. It is what it is. We are where we are.

My reason for referring to the Orange here is simple: there has always been a sports edge to him.

Those with long memories may recall Trump performing the quarter-final draw for the Rumbelows League Cup back in 1992, which sounds like a line from an Alan Partridge script but can be revisited thanks to the glory of video and the internet.

Simply input When Donald Trump met Saint and Greavsie into Youtube and admire the magnificence (thanks to my iron self-control that is the sole reference to Trump and videos in this column, if prurience is your animating principle.)

That’s just one of many sporting adventures Trump has had. When yours truly was in New York last May I met up with the great Joe Sexton, one-time sports editor of the New York Times, for a chat. In his time Sexton had headed the metro desk of the Times, which meant encountering Trump in his days as a property developer, but he could go back even further. When the United States Football League threw down the gauntlet and challenged the NFL over 30 years ago, Trump was one of its prime movers, and Sexton noticed him.

“I was a young sportswriter, working at United Press International,” Sexton told me in a small canteen in the ProPublica offices in Manhattan.

“It was a wire service which was a competitor to Associated Press, and I had to do a story on Doug Flutie, the college football star. This was 1985. Flutie was a big name at the time, he’d signed from Boston College to the United States Football League for a big contract - for Trump’s team, the New Jersey Generals.”

There was a twist, though. The upstart league was finding the financial going tough, and the Generals’ owner was no exception.

“At the time Trump, not surprisingly, was trying in effect to renegotiate his contract with Flutie in order to get the other team owners in the league to pony up some money to help pay the contract that Trump had signed him to. Some might see parallels there between that and some of Donald’s trips to bankruptcy.”

As a diligent reporter, Sexton put a call into the Trump organisation to find out what exactly was going on.

“I got a guy called John Barron on the phone, who was identified as a vice-president in the Trump organisation.

“We talked for a while, I wrote the piece quoting Barron, but it turned out later Trump was given to acting as his own publicist, operating under pseudonyms. And one of those was John Barron.”

Sexton’s family roots in the Banner County meant he was keeping an eye on Trump’s activities in Clare. That afternoon he pulled out a Daily News story about the Doonbeg golf resort. “Well, he’s been a climate-change denier, saying it’s a hoax and so on, but I see that in his golf club in Clare he’s looking to put in a sea wall to protect his golf club from rising sea levels - which is obviously an acknowledgement of the reality of climate changes.”

Neither of us thought Trump had a chance in hell of making it to the White House, of course. One of Sexton’s lines stayed with me, though: “He’s a curiosity that’ll take some time to fully assess.”

Time to get serious about best practice

You might remember a little flurry just before Christmas when Minister of State for Sport, Patrick O’Donovan, announced gender quotas for sports governing bodies, with financial penalties to be imposed on organisations which did not comply.

The flurry arose when the major sporting bodies pointed out there had been no consultation on this matter, and the flurry died a death when the senior Minister, Shane Ross, dismissed the notion of financial penalties when he met with some of those sporting bodies a few days later.

Now I note that last week O’Donovan was talking about term limits for sporting officials. Unlike the situation before the holidays, at the time of writing Ross had not yet dismissed the suggestion.

An outside observer might wonder about the relationship between these two politicians, and while it might be knockabout fun to wonder if they josh on a Monday morning about how their teams did over the weekend, there’s a serious side, such as recent suggestions that from 2020, voluntary codes of practice for sporting organisations will become mandatory measures.

Next week you can read an interview here with sports lawyer Ian Lynam on governance among sporting bodies in Britain. The implications for this country are obvious, no matter who the ministers are.

This week’s sign of the Apocalypse

Also in the department of interesting implications, a throwaway comment by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last week.

Referring to the slew of delays and time-outs and generally fizzling-out that occurs at the end of NBA games, Silver both acknowledged this phenomenon and chipped in with an observation that . . . well, read it yourself.

“It’s something I know all of sports are looking at right now, and that is the format of the game and the length of time it takes to play the game,” Silver said. “Obviously people, particularly millennials, have increasingly short attention spans, so it’s something as a business we need to pay attention to.”

So because the kids - sorry, ‘the kidz’ - don’t have the patience to watch sports for a long time, everything’s got to be changed for their convenience?

As Sports Illustrated say, This Week’s Sign Of The Apocalypse.

The Deuce: tv nirvana

Unfortunately I’m a little late to the party but I feel I need to share some stunning news with all and sundry.

David Simon will have a new television series on in a couple of months: The Deuce, focusing on the sleazy side of New York in the 70s.

David Simon! George Pelecanos! Times Square! The seventies!

Frankly if a chocolate muffin made an appearance at some point all my obsessions would be answered.

I may just have to go for a triple chocolate special with some ice-cold milk when I binge-watch for the full effect.

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