Michael Moynihan: How can contact sport resume in the absence of a viable vaccine?

The current crisis has little enough to recommend it. No matter how many unintended consequences you come across, few of them seem beneficial or positive.
Michael Moynihan: How can contact sport resume in the absence of a viable vaccine?

The current crisis has little enough to recommend it. No matter how many unintended consequences you come across, few of them seem beneficial or positive.

Speaking personally, I feel sure I’m not alone in saying I have lost the ability to put on a pair of real trousers with buttons and zippers, given the rotating cast of tracksuit bottoms and ‘leisurewear’ pants that have been pressed into service for the last few weeks, but enough of my issues.

A more general problem has been the rise of the amateur epidemiologist, the virus-hunter who can deploy sophisticated modelling to prove the infection rates being publicised are dubious and shouldn’t be taken seriously. This pox upon the nation’s happiness is closely aligned in my mind with the 5G propagandist, for whom a specific circle of hell has been reserved (the one underneath a metal pylon, obviously).

The difficulty with the amateur epidemiologist — all those semi-digested notions, all the serious-sounding buzzwords — is that the noise being made by these busybodies is drowning the signal coming from people who are qualified to talk about these matters.

(To quote a pal of mine on similar situations: “Ah yes, that old inconvenience, the person who knows what they’re talking about.”)

Sport is far from the most important matter to consider at this time, of course. It was great to speak to boxing coach Billy Walsh last week, and to have someone so deeply immersed in sport to offer a common-sense perspective: “Sport has been my life since I was six or seven years old, playing hurling and football and soccer and boxing, and I’ve ended up working at it as a career.

“But at the end of the day, it means absolutely nothing. Sure, it brings us together in many ways, but life is far more than that, and it’s a much better game to be involved in.

“Living a long life is an ambition for all of us, and while it might be hard for people not to have sport on the television or no games to go to, this is far more important.”

Billy’s common-sense approach is one that a few more people could apply.

For instance, in the (understandable) eagerness to see sports being played the most obvious question is being overlooked: How can a contact sport, or any sport be played, in the absence of a viable vaccine for the coronavirus?

We’ve seen elaborate suggestions from Major League Baseball and elaborate and outlandish suggestions from the UFC, kites of all kinds being flown by other sports organisations — sports events behind closed doors, with no spectators, on remote islands, with some spectators, with just the teams and staff.

But how can any sports event be held when the basic principle of social distancing still applies? The reasoning behind the lack of spectators in the stands precludes the competition between players on the field, unfortunately.

It’s in the nature of most of the field sports that close physical contact involving the participants goes with the territory; how can that be differentiated from the interaction among thousands — or even hundreds or dozens — of people watching? We believe it’s unsafe for those crowds to be together watching the game, but it’s OK for the crowds playing the game?

There’s been a certain amount of revisionism at work already when it comes to an event or two held at the beginning of this crisis, but whatever room for error existed then — in a very generous interpretation of the facts — has long vanished.

The ramifications of the shutdown for sports organisations all over the world are truly serious, from hyper-commercialised professional leagues to the Sunday kickarounds, but the alternative — a return to action which causes deaths — isn’t really worth considering.

It would be disappointing in any case to see a decay in the standards most people are holding themselves to, but if those standards are set aside for sport, that disappointment grows exponentially. Ask your local amateur epidemiologist what that means.

Exploring darker side of cricket

As a snapshot of how the lockdown is affecting your columnist, try this. A hefty chunk of last week was spent basking in Bodyline, the TV series from the 80s about the great cricketing controversy of the 30s involving England and Australia.

(It’s an uncomfortable thought that the difference in time between the events described in the TV show and the initial broadcast isn’t much more than the difference between the time I saw it first and now, but sic transit, etc.)

Anyway, after decades existing almost entirely in my imagination, the series popped up on Youtube in a serviceable format, down to a recognisable Hugo Weaving as the fiendish Douglas Jardine, long before he became an elf in Lord of the Rings.

So far it seems to have aged reasonably well once we (eventually) cruised past a lengthy preamble about the greatness of Empire, which I rationalised by believing it was ironic.

Anyway, the controversy centred on English bowler Harold Larwood endangering Australian batsmen with his ‘bodyline’ bowling, so it’s an indication of how the stars aligned that a mate forwarded a new book by Duncan Hamilton: Harold Larwood: the Ashes bowler who wiped out Australia.

I’ll report back here with my unvarnished opinion, though given Hamilton’s past record (Provided You Don’t Kiss Me, about Brian Clough, or The Great Romantic, which deals with Neville Cardus) the prospects are good.

Premium pause could be sporting gesture

Is it too early to make a very simple point about hard-pressed sports clubs all over the country, many of them already under significant pressure before the lockdown even began?

It would be a welcome and imaginative move for the insurance industry to waive premiums for the length of time the premises of those clubs are shut down.

The lockdown, after all, was a direct order of the Government as opposed to an option the clubs chose; furthermore, many of those clubs are now deploying their members not in their chosen sport but to aid other people in their communities.

It would be encouraging all round if the spirit of co-operation and support being shown by those sports clubs were matched by an industry with the capacity to make their lives a lot easier.

If a premium has to be paid to maintain insurance cover, a gesture such as reducing that premium to a nominal €1 would surely be the kind of selfless act that would echo the work of those clubs, whose members are putting themselves on the line to preserve lives in our communities.

The sense that everyone is in this together may be a temporary one in any case, but recognising people’s efforts is something that would preserve that sense of togetherness and be of huge benefit to many organisations around the country.

Is it too early to make a very simple point about hard-pressed sports clubs all over the country, many of them already under significant pressure before the lockdown even began?

A terrible loss at a testing time

A sad note on which to end this morning: Last week our sports editor Tony Leen has lost his brother David — a terrible loss at a testing time.

All we can say is our sympathies at this time go to David’s family and friends — to his wife Kate, his boys Harvey and Sam, his parents Con and Betty, brother Tony, parents-in-law Brendan and Judy Kavanagh, brother-in-law Ben, sisters-in-law Ria and Deirdre, nephew Darragh and nieces Ellie and Sarah.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

LOTTO RESULTS

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

  • 1
  • 8
  • 14
  • 33
  • 38
  • 40
  • 30

Full Lotto draw results »