Last week in this paper, Paul Rouse analysed the GAA’s ticket price increase with his customary skill. Offering a wider context to those price increases was his trump card, because it deployed one of the GAA’s strongest core beliefs against itself: that it is a game, or games, of the people, writes
This can be a sticky wicket, because whenever you refer to “the people” you’re referring to a very diverse group.
It’s entirely possibly you’ll offend a huge swathe of the population whose outlook doesn’t mesh with the huge swathe whose outlook serves your rhetorical needs.
In another sense it’s as plain as the nose on your face who I’m referring to as the people — those who make up the membership of thousands of GAA clubs and who fill the terraces and stands of stadia big and small all over the country.
Last week’s announcement was unfair to them because I believe for many of them their direct experience of the economy runs counter to the description offered by GAA president John Horan when discussing the ticket prices. Horan must be regretting his description of the economy as “strong” and therefore able to sustain those increases, because it is demonstrably not strong in many areas.
The bitter irony is that there is no better metric to show the fragility of the recovery than GAA clubs. In an economy where two or three rural clubs must band together to try provide a single minor team — a rise in price of 30% is excessive, full stop.
There is another connected layer to the issue which will no doubt rankle with the GAA hierarchy. The national leagues were launched last week in Croke Park, and if you stood at the very peak of the stadium’s skyline tour you might be able to make out the Dublin docklands hard by the Liffey to the south.
With impeccable timing there were media reports last week quoting one of the busiest estate agents in that particular part of Dublin as stating that the average salary of his tenants renting in the area rose to €117,095 last year, more than double the level of three years ago. It’s the laziest of insults to throw at the staff in Croke Park that they’re
disconnected from ordinary members of the GAA, but it’s no exaggeration to say that using Dublin to estimate what people around Ireland can afford is a huge misstep.
The same estate agent estimated the average monthly rent in the docklands area was €2,392 in the third quarter of last year, compared to the national average of €1,334 and the Dublin average of €1,915. Draw your own conclusions.
Finally, there’s another side to having a game for the people, a side in which the sense of community and togetherness is real and not manufactured by a marketing department and perpetuated by a hashtag.
There are examples all over the country of GAA clubs and teams pitching in with local causes, but one example will suffice.
It is not so long ago that a group of workers in the Vita Cortex factory in Cork engaged in a lengthy sit-in to try to get what they were entitled to, and it was hugely instructive to see the support they were offered from sporting quarters.
While they were battling for their rights Jimmy Barry-Murphy visited the workers and offered his support: at the time he was manager of the Cork senior hurlers, so his words carried weight. That’s the connection we mean when we say a people’s game. It doesn’t have to be spelled out because people instinctively know it for what it is and don’t have to be sloganeered into adopting it. Something the GAA should bear in mind.
A political football
You probably heard — or saw — that there was a controversial call in the NFL the weekend before last, when officials missed a foul that may have helped one team — the Los Angeles Rams — make the Super Bowl at the expense of the New Orleans Saints.
The Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman appeared to take Saint Tommylee Lewis out of the game before the ball landed between them but got away with it. He (Robey-Coleman) admitted he’d fouled his opponent afterwards and was fined, while officials also conceded they’d made a mistake.
Step forward Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy.
“The state of Louisiana is outraged because of what happened in the Superdome last Sunday,” Cassidy said, or maybe thundered.
“Saints fans would like to have an accountability for the referees.
”People look into conflicts of interest. It has been pointed out that the referee who missed the call lives in Los Angeles.
“There is still no official statement from the NFL. Perhaps they could answer some of these questions.”
Next time you roll your eyes about our politicians, remember the name. Bill Cassidy.
Green shoots for Cork hurling
Last week I ended up chatting to a chap about the NHL games down for decision this past weekend.
At least that’s how it started. He cut across me with an early shot about the most significant games of the weekend being the Harty Cup semi-finals, and specifically their resonance for Cork.
As it happened, Christian Brothers Cork and Midleton CBS both qualified for the Munster Colleges decider, proving my man’s point.
What neither of us factored in was the possibility of an all-Cork pairing in the B category decider, but that’s how it turned out. St Francis College, Rochestown take on Hamilton High School of Bandon in that category.
There are true dawns and false dawns, and nothing is guaranteed, of course. But Cork seem to be stirring in hurling and the age range looks promising, senior colleges finalists of 17 and 18 and recent graduates of the U21 All-Ireland final guaranteeing a crop ranging in age across a five-to-six-year range.
Harnessing that quality in hurling is a challenge for officials in Cork, one made more difficult than in other counties because of the dual commitment on Leeside: surely some of last weekend’s hurlers will ultimately opt for Gaelic football?
But that’s tomorrow’s challenge, or next season’s.
What would be a more fitting venue for these colleges deciders than Páirc Uí Chaoimh, preferably as a warm-up for a hurling league game?
Chose your subjects wisely
I know I have mentioned Robert Caro in these pages before, the producer of magisterial biographies of Robert Moses, the man who planned/built much of New York, and the (ongoing) volumes on Lyndon Johnson’s eventful life.
He has taken a short break from Johnson’s millions of files, however, to write a memoir to be published in April — “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing.”
The Johnson books have been coming since the mid-70s, so this book will delay the final instalment a bit, but having read an excerpt, it’s a digression worth having.
For instance, Caro was frustrated that his research visits to Johnson’s home town (called Johnson City, of course) weren’t producing the goods, so he persuaded his wife to move there.
For three years.
She did so without complaint, he remembered, but she asked that the next time he wanted to write a biography, could he maybe consider someone who lived in Paris?