Last week some intriguing audio emerged from theseries of talks featuring Michael Darragh MacAuley, the Dublin midfielder.
In conversation with Jim Carroll ofthe big man said: “I distinctly remember being ten years old, walking to school with a discman and I had Tupac’s greatest hits on it. I knew every single word on that album off by heart . . . I was discussing this with my friend who also grew up in middle-class suburbia. Why we were so drawn to Tupac? We didn’t grow up in those socio-economic conditions. My parents weren’t fighting for welfare and stuff.
“We never really got to bottom of why it appealed to us so much. They weren’t talking about cars and nonsense, they were talking about real life issues like what they were seeing in front of them and trying to change it. That was what made an impact on me.
“Tupac was one of my biggest teachers growing up. Although he was from a different background, many a life lesson I got from that man. Even how he treated everything, how he treated women, how he dealt with his mam. My mam died when I was in primary school and he had very emotional songs about his mam.”
See? The Dubs. Always out for the advantage. Right now the only option yours truly can see is some sort of west coast-east coast rap split emerging, with the likes of John Small and Con O’Callaghan falling out with MacAuley and co. over the relative merits of Biggie versus Tupac, though here endeth my expertise in such matters.
In the samechat MacAuley sang the praises of Damien Dempsey, the Dublin singer-songwriter who has more than once come in and sung for the county footballers. It did strike me that this sums up the Dubs in a nutshell, the outward-looking mindset which can mine something from an unlikely source - in this case the rap stylings of someone thousands of miles from Parnell Park - while also remaining rooted in the essentials of place: hence Damo, as MacAuley calls him.
I sometimes wonder if any Dub-based antipathy is rooted in part in a suspicion of that sense of place. Because Dublin is somewhere most of the country visits and enjoys - but also enjoys leaving - is there a nagging sense that you can’t feel the same way about it that people from other counties feel about their home places? Is there a failure of imagination among those from outside the capital?
The fact Dublin have been successful, of course, also contributes to people’s weariness with them: success always sparks the desire for change.
I can’t accept, though, that cynicism is now part of that desire to see different champions. Even in my lofty eyrie news has filtered through of the concerns about cynicism in Gaelic football, concerns which have reached peak hand-wringing because of the conclusion of the recent All-Ireland football final. The carry-on since is all very Claude Rains in the casino in Casablanca saying he is shocked - shocked! - there is gambling on the premises before being handed his winnings for the night.
The background of some of those with the wringiest of hands lends this particular irony. All the pious bleating about the spirit of the game, while funny in a “these are my principles and if you don’t like them I have others” way, isn’t quite as funny in a “hypocrisy with a straight face” way. Dublin didn’t invent cynicism: it has been part of Gaelic football for as long as this observer has watched the sport, and no doubt longer than that.
If the shoe fits is the least of a maker’s worries...
A couple of weeks ago I noted the arrival of laser-printed hands as a harbinger of what we can expect in the coming years, the creation of bespoke attachments and additions to one’s body for sports and other reasons.
Which made a recent piece I stumbled across almost endearingly old-fashioned. Wired magazine’s Rowland Manthorpe has written a fascinating account of how important speed is in the production of sports shoes, instancing adidas, who have now begun to make such shoes in their Speedfactory in Bavaria, using new processes to get them out as fast as they can I was intrigued by some of the incidental details: how adidas was lagging far behind Under Armour, never mind Nike, in the States a couple of years ago; how few jobs reshoring - the industry term for bringing back manufacturing jobs from Asia - actually restores to Europe and America; and most significantly, the driving force behind speed in manufacturing - the disappearance of the nine-or 18-month supply chain in retail because “you’re more likely to order a pair of Yeezys from the back of an Uber than in a store”.
Incidentally, data transmitted from your footwear back to the manufacturers is also on the horizon. To help them determine what you want the next time you buy sports shoes based on your current usage. Who knew that when Big Brother eventually became reality it would be in your footwear?
A gripping story on the way soon
In despatches from the department of I never knew that - a vast darkling plain, admittedly - comes news of a sport destined to be seen at the next Olympics, speed climbing.
To be precise, I had a link forwarded to me which shows two human spiders zooming up a climbing wall in what looked to me like a reasonable facsimile of the part of Dracula when Harker looks out the window and sees the Count clambering with uncanny speed around the castle walls.
With that in mind I touched base with Damien O’Sullivan of Mountaineering Ireland last week about the sport: look out for the full chat in these pages soon, but he certainly sold the experience to me.
I’ll hit Awesome Walls soon, though I think I’ll leave the Dracula cape at home.
On the offensive again
Among the books I splurged on (there) (recently) was Boss by Mike Royko, a biography of Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago (ask your fathers about him, or maybe your grandfathers).
I dithered about the purchase until I remember this quote from Royko, a legendary columnist for many years in the Windy City: “Newspapers, magazines and other publications have the constitutional right to be offensive, even disgusting. As evidence of that, just watch this space regularly.”