This may come as something of a shock to all of you this morning, struggling to get the scrambled eggs in past the face mask, but it’s true.
I made a mistake last week.
A real mistake, and not the kind a beloved colleague likes to talk about (“The only mistake I ever made was when I thought I made a mistake”).
In speaking to Podge Collins of Clare for our Hurling Hands series I inadvertently identified him as a Clonlara clubman, when of course he plays for Cratloe.
(And yes, that sentence is one I have visited and revisited several times before committing it to print.)
This led to some good-humoured kidding from the Clonlara lads online about transfer forms, while anyone who knows the Collinses will know Podge took it in good spirit as well. Yours truly was absolutely fine too, once that initial bowel-loosening sensation went away.
We all make mistakes. Some more than others.
A few years ago I was covering a Cork-Tipperary U21 football game, a contest lit up by a storming goal from one of the Tipp midfielders. I duly filed the match report, trumpeted its availability on social media, and then settled down to my cup of coffee and dark chocolate digestives (strictly McVitie’s, since you ask).
I spluttered some digestive crumbs across the room when I was notified online that I had gotten the scorer wrong.
This notification arrived courtesy of the player himself, who was kind enough to point out that while he’d be glad enough to take the credit for the goal, it was his midfield partner, in fact, who had supplied the finishing touch.
Again, the correction was delivered with good humour, and the tenor of the message was appreciated by the recipient.
Then there was the day in Dublin when I was one of many journalists lined up to chat to one Jonathan Sexton: the rugby star had signed on to endorse some kind of fitness supplement and we were all to have our (separate) few minutes to ping questions at him.
After grilling Sexton for my allotted time I filed my piece and then, free of responsiblility, I gambolled lightly down Grafton Street, wondering about the best possible location for lunch, or what treasures I might uncover in Tower Records, or Hodges Figgis, when the office rang: “We got the piece, but we’re just wondering where all the stuff about his contract negotiations is.”
At the time Sexton was engaged in a bit of back and forth about his playing future, and the only reason any outlet was sending reporters to this particular gig was to see what he had to say about his contract, which meant there was a large negotiation-shaped hole in my piece.
A quick call or two to an understanding colleague resolved the matter with the requisite boilerplate, but it was an uneasy few minutes. Almost spoiled my coffee.
None of them quite match up to the time there was an imbroglio about GAA managerial appointments a few years ago, and one appointment in particular. I called a county board officer, who stoutly denied something or other that another source had mentioned to me.
I in turn texted this source the particulars of the denial, looking for his reaction, and got what might be euphemistically termed “a land” when I got an angry text back from the county board officer.
Because his was the last name on my mind, I had unfortunately texted the details of the denial back to the officer. Not the source.
In fairness, a phone call patched things up. I pointed out that cross-checking stories was a basic principle, which the officer accepted.
I was surprised he was able to hear me, as in my head I was ringing from a hole in the ground which opened up to swallow me when I realised what I’d done.
By the way, if you think all of these stories resolve themselves a little neatly, you’re wrong. There are other stories which didn’t end quite as well, but you won’t hear about them here.
That would really be a mistake.
Could the pandemic hit coaching specialists?
Writer Michael Lewis is someone I’ve mentioned here plenty of times in the past, though the accuracy of ‘writer’ as a description seems to be receding in favour of ‘podcaster’.
Lewis’s particular gift is locating a subject that may seem unpromising at first glance, but which is transformed in his hands into a riveting, agenda-dictating premise.
His latest podcast, season two of Against The Rules, is a case in point. Lewis looks at the explosion in coaches in life in general: mortgage coaches, money coaches, life coaches, death coaches, writing coaches, executive coaches — the list goes on.
This isn’t even scratching the surface when it comes to sports coaches — skills coaches, goalkeeping coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, defence coaches, attack coaches, position coaches, head coach, assistant coaches.
I haven’t listened to the podcast so I don’t know where Lewis intends to go with it. The previous season was a very interesting analysis of the decline in respect for referees in sport, but Lewis was able to tie that to a wider story, the general decline in power of regulatory bodies outside sport.
Within sport itself, then, what does the increase in specialisation in coaching tell us?
Taking a granular approach to improvement, be that in skills, conditioning, nutrition, is going to benefit an athlete, but there’s very clearly a wider story here as well.
As sports organisations and teams struggle to survive financially after the pandemic, will specialist coaches have to do a bit more double-jobbing?
The precious immunity of e-sports
In the fullness of time you’ll read about my adventures in e-sports in these pages, but I whet your appetite with a throwaway line from someone I spoke to who’s deeply involved in that area.
I asked about the attraction of e-sports for sponsors, broadcasters, sports organisations and teams, and he made the point that everything which militates against sport right now — social distancing, costly infrastructure, the cost of staff, national and international travel — isn’t a factor in e-sports.
Every reference to the future now comes festooned with caveats about what shape that future will take, but a sports outlet which is essentially impervious to the impact of viruses of all sorts is clearly in a position of strength no matter how the future shapes up.
This may strike you as the ultimate in stating the obvious, but then you’re probably immersed in this world already. Spare a thought for the poor Luddites like myself as you zoom past.
Unlocking the Warriors code
If you enjoyed The Last Dance— words I can’t believe I’m writing, given a friend’s description of it as a corporate video is unconquerable — then you may be interested in another book on the horizon.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss has written The Victory Machine: The Making and Unmaking of the Warriors Dynasty, about the Golden State Warriors’ recent successes.
Great players like Steph Curry are part of that story, as is coach Steve Kerr, a standout contributor to the documentary mentioned above.
Having lived in the East Bay in the mid-nineties when the Warriors were melodeon, their dominance is still a baffling phenomenon to me. Looking forward to having it explained here.