Michael Moynihan.


Star Wars: Where is sport in a galaxy far, far away?

My issue with the Star Wars phenomenon isn’t centred on what it, and other movies of its time, did to the interesting grown-up films of the seventies (i.e., got rid of them as a mainstream alternative to such modern nonsense as those Marvel films), writes Michael Moynihan.

Star Wars: Where is sport in a galaxy far, far away?

It’s not based on the horrific dialogue, which drove Harrison Ford to tell the man who wrote most of it, George Lucas, that you could type it but you couldn’t say it.

It’s not even driven by the recurring drive to shoehorn characters into the movies that could be repurposed as lucrative toys which small kids covet for Christmas.

No. My antipathy is based more or less entirely on the fact that in a vast galaxy of thousands of independent civilisations and planets, there doesn’t seem to be a decent sport worthy of the name.

This intrigues me because a world where people put the religion Jedi on census forms - that’s our world, if you’re not too sure - is clearly a world that pays a little too much attention to what I like to call Space Lord of the Rings. Yet not enough attention - for me - is paid to this glaring hole in the Star Wars universe.

Where are all the sports?

If you look around our own planet you see a dizzying variety of athletic activities and outlets, from the small-scale and localised to the global sweeping movements. Yet in Star Wars, where there are any number of different life forms and civilisations, there’s... pod racing.

If you were forced to endure the Star Wars movies which featured Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and others, you may recall pod racing, which in my memory was some kind of motorised bike-racing tournament which didn’t seem at all reminiscent of Ben Hur’s chariot race in any way shape or form.

This pod race was won by the character who would later grow up to become Darth Vader. To the best of my recollection - admittedly sketchy, because like everybody else who lost a couple of hours of their lives to The Phantom Menace, I’m not keen on revisiting that period — the race is conducted on a wild frontier-type basis, with little in the way of enforceable rules and a cavalier attitude to the age of participants. Darth Vader Junior looks about nine years old.

Whats infuriating is that there are other future sports you can really get behind. Around the same time as the original Star Wars came out, Rollerball hit the big screens as well, a movie based entirely on the premise of a violent game that everybody would be obsessed with.

(If you’re not familiar with it, the movie stars James Caan but has one of those fantastically random seventies cast - John Houseman, Maud Adams, Ralph Richardson and Mr Seventies Second Banana himself, John Beck).

The differences between Star Wars and Rollerball went pretty deep, with the latter movie making some interesting points about individuals serving corporate power. Lest you be put off, those points were made in an entertainingly violent way.

I leave it to you, gentle reader, to decide whether the Star Wars vision of a world is more credible, though anyone who has tried to enjoy a quiet stroll on Skellig Michael in the middle of the summer will have their own issues with the realism of Luke Skywalker’s monastic solitude.

Rollerball, on the other hand, was set in what was seen as the distant future: 2018. Whether the point the filmmakers made 40 years ago still applies - about how spectacle can be orchestrated to distract the masses from really matters - is something only you can decide for yourself. Happy Christmas.

Dublin debate: Divide and conquer

I don’t want to rake over every coal that was in the Dublin County Board secretary’s report last week, entertaining though that might be. In GAA terms John Costello’s wide-ranging dissertation was the headline of the week, though. Dublin don’t tend to give a lot away so when opinions are proffered they’re given a lot of attention.

By taking some of the Dubs’ critics to task, Costello could be accused of giving that much needed gas, the oxygen of publicity, to those complaining about Dublin’s recent dominance. He didn’t do himself any favours with his reference to Mr Men characters either, while his acknowledgement that “Dublin players will never be loved the length and breadth of the country, but they are liked, admired and respected by plenty outside the county,” sounds no more than a reasonable description of how most players are viewed beyond their own counties. (The above, by the ways, is not an invitation to anyone to name the county players who aren’t even loved the length and breadth of their own counties.) But in rejecting the oft-mooted plan to divide Dublin into two, Costello is doing a favour for the critics of the capital.

Dublin’s much-vaunted economic power ultimately funnels to their senior side, but that’s an arrowhead which can only contain 15 players. If Dublin were to be divided in two each entity would still be bigger in population than the next-biggest county by some distance, would have far more resources and revenue to draw upon, and would be able to field two teams rather than one. And if anybody thinks that would be an aid to levelling the playing field in Leinster they’re more optimistic than Little Miss Sunshine.

Castle leads way for women in rugby

This newspaper reported last week that Raelene Castle had become Australian Rugby Union’ new chief executive - the first female boss of any of the major national unions in world rugby.

Phil Kearns, who you may remember as a cherubic-looking Wallaby forward, was seen as a potential ARU boss but Castle, previously chief executive of the Canterbury Bulldogs and head of Netball New Zealand, beat him to the job.

An interesting development, particularly given the upcoming vacancy in the GAA when Paraic Duffy steps down in March, and Sarah Keane taking over as OCI President earlier this year.

Make some time for ‘Cat Person’

Because generally speaking I am late to the table on these matters, I believe I am the last person in the known universe to read the story ‘Cat Person’ by Kristen Roupenian, which was published recently in the New Yorker magazine.

I won’t disturb your peace or coffee with any details, but it is a terrific story, though it’s a matter of some surprise to most people that it has become such a talking point.

Or maybe not, given the temper of the times and the subject of the story, what might euphemistically be called a date gone wrong.

The last short story to cause that kind of furore in the New Yorker was Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ - good company for Roupenian.

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