Larry Ryan: Real life stepping up and going down to fill the sporting gaps

When we come out the other side of this thing, at least one eternal truth will have been established: Nothing, nothing can suppress debate about GAA ‘structures’.
Larry Ryan: Real life stepping up and going down to fill the sporting gaps

When we come out the other side of this thing, at least one eternal truth will have been established: Nothing, nothing can suppress debate about GAA ‘structures’.

Other hardy staples have survived this shutdown too, notably spurious transfer speculation, nostalgia for better times, and

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There has actually been a surge of interest in the affairs of our Olympians, now that there is no Olympics.

And not all sport went quietly.

There must be some ignominy for the racing fraternity in having to be told: ‘Ah lads, will ye ever wrap it up’. But by and large, structures is still where it’s at.

Back door. Round-robin. Champions League. Qualifiers. Open draw. Two tier.

These are the terms that have carried us through the decades, as the finest minds wrestle with the one problem that has proved unsolvable; a perfect format for championship.

But it wasn’t time wasted, because now the debate carries more urgency than ever, as the search is under way for a format to suit whatever time this new normal leaves us with.

And once all the thinking is done, and the Championship is played, in whatever format, discussion can begin about how well it went, and whether we should stick with that structure altogether.

In these times of great flux, isn’t there some comfort in being able to take that much to the bank?

Chuck Schumer
Chuck Schumer

For those suffering withdrawal symptoms, nonetheless, at least the outside world is pandering to our old way of life.

In the temptation to ‘connect’ with us, the political classes are going big with the sporting metaphors and analogies.

They are all at it. Australia is “top of the leaderboard” for Covid response, according to their PM.

Chuck Schumer assured Americans that their senate was “on the two-yard line” with the stimulus bill.

And of course Rugby Country’s leaders have been carrying on about “answering Ireland’s call” and telling us “we all have a chance to play for Ireland”.

They are not exactly digging deep, as you can see. They are not giving it 110%.

By now, you’d think someone would have reminded us that you can’t go far wrong observing the habit of a lifetime and asking what would Gilesy do, in his pomp, if pandemic struck.

Of course he’d make acres of space for himself.

But to be fair to it, in the absence of actual sport, real life is stepping up. Taking the bare look off things.

On the exercise front, we have Joe Wicks looking after all that now. The world has outsourced that to Wicksy.

That is the new life of millions; lunges, and bunny hops in front of YouTube.

There was always going to be an opportunity for a new leader to emerge, during this vacuum.

At this time when the men we have looked to for guidance — your Klopps and your Peps — have had to take a backseat.

And so Wicksy has fronted up. And he has a real shot at uniting us all, from his front room.

On some days, you can almost plug into that sense of urgency out there, to make something of this hiatus before real life restarts, or maybe before real life goes ahead without us.

To get something done before we have to go back to doing too much.

And it is men like Wicksy we turn to for inspiration, to learn the guitar, or read Joyce, or get a six-pack.

It begs the big question; why didn’t we have time for Wicksy before now? What great achievements were we compiling that we didn’t have time for a few lunges?

But then there are other days when we still don’t have time for Wicksy.

On those days the hope of rejoining real life some day is enough, six pack or not.

Of course, the crucial missing ingredient during a sporting shutdown is blind devotion and allegiance.

So RTÉ’s screening of I Went Down last weekend was timely.

The best film ever made has a core following of loyal supporters more dedicated than any ultras and they congregated on social media to swap the hundreds of memorable lines as though recalling golden goals.

The magnificent front two of Brendan Gleeson and Peter McDonald as Bunny and Git carry a heavy load in this one.

But screenwriter Conor McPherson pulls off what so many movies can’t manage: maintaining the twists and turns of a convoluted plot while never neglecting a beat of dialogue.

And there was never a better time for a reminder that every single moment and interaction is to be savoured rather than worry too much about where this is all going.

Still and all, word the snooker had fallen too was a blow.

But there have been bleak times before, back in one-channel land, when a man with one red shoe and one yellow shoe was left to entertain us.

And sure enough, with no Crucible on the horizon, Aonghus McAnally was there for us again this week, at this dark hour, plucking a magisterial version of Drag Racer, better known as the BBC snooker theme, out of his guitar.

And in case that wasn’t enough, Aonghus knocked in a lovely long red off the blue spot to the yellow pocket and showcased his smooth cue action by following through with the white.

We’ll take what we can get.

Of course we have new heroes now. And it was fitting that RTÉ showed it live, with an 8pm kick-off, the round of applause for health workers.

It was a poignant moment of gratitude.

And also a chance for everyone to experience what sport regularly treats us to; an uplifting moment of shared appreciation with the stranger standing next to you — at a socially acceptable distance.

Even if these days, those strangers are often our neighbours.

There’s one more area where real life has had to pick up the slack. To fill a void.

We bang on often enough about sport’s ability to make us dream.

But even with no sport going on, many people are reporting incredibly vivid dreams at the moment.

Seemingly, in times of great upheaval and stress, the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain, is over-active, so everything that goes on in our dreams is amplified.

That explains Bunny and Git breaking into Wicksy’s front room, looking for a friendly face.


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