The thought has occurred on and off in recent years. These past few days it’s occurred again. Let’s start by pondering a tweet from a chap, one who’s done many a fine match report over the years, on Thursday morning following the events at Anfield.
“Sometimes I forget the simple pleasure of getting lost in the papers after an epochal night of sport,” quoth he. “Some of the writing — on the whistle — today is brilliant.”
Now ponder Val Dorgan’s pensee in his Christy Ring biography on this newspaper’s controversial report, penned by a chap named Tom Higgins, of the 1953 All-Ireland hurling final between Cork and Galway.
“Higgins was a reporter of the old school, strong on accuracy and fact but often sparing on comment. Almost invariably reporters of his era began with the result, the half-time score, an evaluation of the game, the attendance and the weather.
“Nowadays sportswriters on daily papers don’t like to be too confused by the facts, most of which will have been conveyed on television and radio long before their reports are read the following day. Today comment is what counts. Latterday sports readers are believed to want to know the writers’ opinion of the players’ opinion of what happened rather than what happened.”
Now ponder a prescient recent article on the Football365 website entitled How Pep Guardiola Has Forced the British Media into a Rethink.
Before Guardiola, the post-match quotes process was simple and time-honoured. Managers gave two press briefings after a game on Saturday, one for the Sunday papers and the other for the Mondays. Never did the twain meet and there was a quote for everyone in the audience, with the Sunday writers and their Monday counterparts slicing up the pie between them and plenty to be shared out.
With Guardiola it’s been different. One press conference for all, with the Monday papers now hoping and praying that what in the past would have been ‘their’ quotes are not nicked by the Sundays. Last Friday the inevitable happened.
Guardiola’s claim that he was offered Paul Pogba by Mino Raiola, the super-agent, during the January transfer window, was supposed to be embargoed until 10.30pm.
Some foreign journalist broke the story. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued from the English reporters. Guardiola’s quotes were out there in cyberspace and could no longer be controlled.
In the words of the eminent 20th century philosopher Dr Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast. Or as Val Dorgan would say were he writing currently, the facts “will have been conveyed on television and radio and social media long before their reports are read the following day”.
There are implications here for Irish provincial papers and they’re already manifest. The Kilkenny People, as traditional an outlet in GAA terms as you’ll get, have changed the thrust of their match reporting. Pages two and three of their sports section this week will carry two articles: The report of yesterday’s NHL final and the fallout therefrom, complete with quotes from Brian Cody.
This is noteworthy because the fallout article will be the bigger one, accounting for two thirds of the space, and the match report the smaller one. And rightly so; by the time the People hits the streets on Wednesday, not a single person in the county will be unacquainted with the minutiae of events at Nowlan Park three days earlier. They know the What, the Where and the When. John Knox, the sports editor of the People, is seeking to move the story on by giving them the Hows, the Whys and the What Nows.
In his book the Vanishing Newspaper a gentleman named Philip Meyer predicted the date the last newspaper will roll off the presses: 2043. Like John Lydon, he could be wrong and he could be right.
Either way, the simple pleasure of getting lost in the papers after an epochal night of sport will not be lost just yet.
Questions that need answers, and now
Some random ceisteanna that arose from watching a few of the umpteenth Reeling in the Years, 1990s series, repeats last week.
Who faked sincerity more smoothly, Bill Clinton or Tony Blair?
Why didn’t the 1995 episode have the bit when Ger Loughnane was collared by Marty Morrissey after half-time in the All Ireland hurling final (“We’re. Going. To. Win.”)?
Did Ray Houghton ever score a goal for Ireland — Stuttgart 1988, Yankee Stadium 1994, Brussels 1997 — with a part of his anatomy other than his head?
Who was it decided that Ronan Keating would make a suitable Eurovision host?
Who faked sincerity more smoothly, Clinton/Blair or Bertie Ahern?
Wouldn’t you miss Meath all the same?
Troy Parrott: Remember the name
The most in-form striker at Tottenham at the moment is not Harry Kane or Son Heung Min.
The most in-form striker at Tottenham is Troy Parrott.
Yes. Troy Parrott really is a person and that really is his name.
He won the golden boot award at an under-17 tournament in Italy last week after bagging ten goals in five games, including a hat-trick against Juventus. He’s also been scoring for his country’s under-17 team.
All of this is of interest because Troy Parrott is Irish. Not Irish in the way of a Declan Rice or a Jack Grealish (remember him?), but Irish in the way of being from Dublin. Not south-west London. Not Birmingham. Dublin.
He’s not eligible for England. He won’t be poached by England. He isn’t facing an imminent crisis of conscience over whether to declare for England rather than Ireland.
But there’s one grave question that needs to be answered sooner rather than later.
Should he continue with his goalscoring exploits, will he be known as the new Robbie Keane or the new Harry Kane?
O’Donnell’s Playing with Fire is a hot read
A literary item for you now, in keeping with the custom of the man of letters normally resident here on a Monday.
Your correspondent is the proud new owner of Playing with Fire, a book by Lawrence O’Donnell.
The subject is the 1968 US presidential campaign and O’Donnell begins with an encounter between Richard Nixon, at that stage one of a slew of Republican hopefuls that included the former actor Ronald Reagan, and a young TV producer called Roger Ailes.
Ailes was working on an afternoon programme beloved of housewives. Nixon was an unwilling guest.
Ailes had the temerity to tell the former vice-president that his television persona and strategy sucked. Nixon, far from being affronted, listened and learned.
Did Nixon end up in the White House as a result? Did an older Ailes end up running Fox News for 20 years?
Did Bobby Kennedy run for the Democratic nomination and embark on a campaign visit to Los Angeles?
More news as we make our way through the book.