What do we want from our GAA coverage?

A few questions on GAA coverage.
What do we want from our GAA coverage?

First, define your terms. Do you want coverage or analysis when you read about or watch Gaelic games? It looks increasingly like an either/or proposition. Sky has focused coverage on a small number of games with detailed analysis. RTÉ covers far more games and as a consequence, the analysis gets squeezed.

Which do you want? It looks harder and harder to do the two together properly.

How much of the analysis is analysis in the first place? Michael Duignan’s criticism of Sky during last week’s Sunday Game wasn’t breaking down the particulars of a game, though it was in general relation to Waterford-Kilkenny. It generated a huge reaction, with many people supporting Duignan’s position.

Yet how many of those same viewers roll their eyes at some of Joe Brolly’s rawer opinions? Does the entertainment value of some of the tangential discussions dilute the coverage? Or add to it? Some of the ‘celebrity pundit’ jibes thrown at TSG are harsh, but analysts don’t help their own cause, or credibility, when they live up to the stereotype.

Talking of The Sunday Game . . . is there another sport dominated by another programme anywhere in the world? Not to this writer’s knowledge, and the traction Duignan’s remarks got underlines this point.

Could it be better? It could.

Could it be fresher? It could.

Could it be replaced? No.

Is that why the GAA pays such attention to it? Croke Park officials are consistent when saying there’s a non-causal link between incidents revisited for disciplinary purposes and what’s highlighted on Sunday evenings by RTÉ’s pundits, but many observers are sceptical about such claims, if I can put a tooth in it.

Why the antipathy to Sky? No: park that and rephrase it: why the antipathy to the Sky money? RTÉ pays the GAA for broadcasting rights.

The GAA itself charges people to enter stadia and watch games.

From the moment in the nineteenth century when fields were enclosed and money taken from spectators to enjoy the sporting experience, the commercial agenda began.

Has the Sky deal worked? No. People don’t watch Gaelic games on Sky in any significant numbers and the occasional flare of Saxon enthusiasm on social media about the wild game played by Paddies isn’t a justification.

What’s the future, then? People should pay more attention to the GAAGo deal as the way forward.

Longer-term? Easy: imagine some chief technical officer in Facebook knocking on Mark Zuckerberg’s door in California and telling his boss about this sport his grandfather played back in the old country. Cue Gaelic games being subsumed into Facebook Live.

Even longer-term? Unfortunately for all of us, even now there’s probably some bespectacled teenager in a garage in Palo Alto or San Jose who is no doubt threading the code together which will create the amygdala-manipulating technology that will create pod people of us all before the end of the next decade.

Your hormones will be coerced into imagining the analyst of your dreams, reinforcing the deepest, most secret opinions you have always harboured, in a bespoke performance that will never exist outside your own cerebral cortex.

What do we want from our coverage? Everything, isn’t that obvious?

Venus still shines brightly in the

I mentioned tennis elsewhere on the page and as Wimbledon finishes, a word on Venus Williams.

All of us who have seen our first flush of youth disappear in the rear view mirror (followed by the second flush) had to feel for the 37-year-old on Saturday as she was beaten by Garbine Muguruza, 14 years younger than her.

No disrespect to Muguruza, who pulled off a fine win, but there’s something piercing about a great athlete when the edges start to fray and few have been at Venus Williams’s level in any sport (or had to deal with the bizarre police statements about her recent car crash, but that’s another story).

Her greatness isn’t compromised in any way by that loss last Saturday.

Anything but.

The Notorious living up to his name again

It’s not all bad news this week. Tennis served up (coughs) a terrific vignette just a couple of days ago. Andy Murray, fresh from a dispiriting defeat at Wimbledon, casually obliterated a reporter’s omission of Serena Williams from the history books. Murray’s reflexive correction was the kind of natural reaction that underlined his status as a hero for the ages.

As opposed to the man you’re probably tired of reading about. The trouble with criticising this particular chap - I have an aversion to naming him, apologies - is that your criticism or dislike is instantly identified as old-school.

To this observer it’s an insult I like to turn around as per the great Hank Kingsley of The Larry Sanders Show (“Old school? You know the school they tore down to build the old school? That’s the school I’m talking about.”).

If you don’t like this chap you’re out of touch. Blind to the beauty. Biased against this much-maligned sport. A deadly foe to progress and modernity, and envious of the attack-gnome himself. As for the racism storm which flared briefly last week regarding the upcoming event, which centred on that “Dance for me, boy” aside . . . how quickly we forget.

Only two years ago there was a rumble of disquiet in this country at the suggestion that Channel 4 was to make a comedy series about the Irish Famine, of all things. Tim Pat Coogan was unequivocal, saying: “Murder, genocide, people dying, retching, with their faces green from eating weeds, their bowels hanging out of them — no passage of time will make that funny.” Plenty of people took a similar view, with 40,000 signatures ending up on a petition to the broadcaster asking for the idea to be abandoned, and it duly withered away as a concept.

Yet the comments last week . . . if it only took 40,000 signatures to put an end to this national nightmare, I’d go out and collect them myself.

Time for a good read

Ran across a new - or newish - book by Simon Garfield the other day, who has always been a hero to this corner of the paper for his ability to find a niche subject and explore it to the fullest.

I spoke to him when he wrote Just My Type, a relentlessly entertaining study of types and font design, and admired his To The Letter, an ode to the lost art of letter-writing, when that was published a couple of years ago.

Now he has a new book out, Timekeepers, about people’s efforts through the centuries to measure time accurately. Early impressions very good: I’ll come back to this in more detail.

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Saturday, February 27, 2021

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