Is anything really new?
Apologies in advance for giong so deep on a Bank Holiday Monday, when you’re probably blaming the weekend’s sun for the headache (and I believe you).
My reason for raising such an existential question is the slow seep of information about sports returning to action in the States, and specifically professional basketball.
The lockdown came just as the NBA season was sharpening up, which means head honcho Adam Silver is canvassing opinions as to the best format for concluding the season.
Their options? This was reported by The Ringer: “General managers were surveyed about a “play-offs-plus” format — either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the play-offs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the play-offs with a round-robin format.”
To which there is only one obvious question.
Did Silver or any of his colleagues think to ring anyone involved in the GAA about the alphabet soup of formats and championships?
Surely the obvious person to call would be a beleaguered county secretary juggling intermediate hurling and junior football championships being held up by a single inconvenient dual player?
I note there is no reference above to the last refuge of the format-addicted scoundrel: The much-discussed “Champions league” format, though when Silver reads this column I confidently predict a sudden breakthrough along approved “four groups of eight or eight groups of four” channels.
This was not the only intersection of American sports rule books and GAA culture in the last week.
NFL officials were making a good deal of noise about an innovative appointment they’d made — Perry Fewell is now the NFL’s senior vice-president of officiating administration.
What makes Fewell different is that he has been a defence coach for NFL teams like the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, and the appointment is seen as ground-breaking — getting someone so familiar with the elite game to go over to the side of the officials, etc.
There was a time in Gaelic games, though, when the referee handling an All-Ireland football final might be playing in the All-Ireland football final himself the following year.
Peter McDermott, an All-Ireland medallist with Meath in 1949 when the Royals beat Cavan, was the referee for the 1953 All-Ireland final between Kerry and Armagh — and then played in the 1954 final himself when Meath beat Kerry.
It tells you how things have changed that McDermott was acceptable as a referee for Kerry one year and as an opponent for Kerry 12 months later.
The NBA’s Adam Silver might want to note something else in McDermott’s CV: In the early 50s he doubled up at times as county board secretary. If Silver were a top professional referee as well as a leading scorer for the Golden State Warriors he might be approaching McDermott’s productivity.
It’s not too late, Adam.
Time to turn our back on the past?
The drift towards opening society up seems to be gaining momentum, much like an oil tanker at sea trying a three-point-turn.
The biggest burst of speed your columnist sees is from those rushing to decide what lessons were learned in lockdown.
Simpler lives. More cycle lanes. Banana bread. Whatever you’re having yourself, though the keen-eyed among you will notice that many of the lessons are fairly narrowly focused, being variations on What I Have Learned About Myself These Past Few Weeks.
In sport a good many of these lessons have yet to be unspooled completely, but a few developments have already been overtaken by events. For instance, nostalgia fatigue has now firmly taken hold.
Whether on screen or —dare we say it — in print, the scatter of top 10s and best ofs, the lists headed greatest-ever and all-time best, the game that changed this and the player who changed that, have overstayed their welcome.
There’s a limit to what the ordinary citizen can absorb, no matter how keen he or she is on their chosen sport.
This is not just a sense of weariness with a well-worn theme, either.
Any Mad Men fans out there will recall the episode where Don explains the appeal of nostalgia in a meeting with clients: The bittersweet sensation when you realise that the place you long to revisit is somewhere you can never go again.
Granted, Don is talking about the apocalyptic wreckage of his own marriage, and not a junior club game, but his explanation has another dimension in our lockdown. People are tired of the sports-nostalgia-industrial complex not just because they’re bored, but because of a vague fear lurking on the edge of consciousness.
That it isn’t a place we can never go again, but that it’s a place we may see again in the future.
(You note I don’t refer here specifically to Michael Jordan fatigue, which is a sub-genre all its own. More on this anon.)
Raising a glass to Jimmy Glenn
Apologies to all for the lateness of the notice, but I only clocked recently that the Jimmy of Jimmy’s Corner passed away last month.
Those who found their way into this small, corridor-like bar in Manhattan will recall the sensation of arriving at an oasis. The decor leaned heavily towards great boxers posing in their prime, the beer was unusually cheap for a bar in the centre of New York, and the staff were friendly, with Jimmy himself a common sight working the room.
A former boxing trainer, Jimmy Glenn was almost 90 when he passed away from complications due to the coronavirus.
He had run a boxing gym in the area which closed down years ago, but the bar survived and thrived.
I don’t like to over-egg the pudding when it comes to drink, but Ihad a couple of very enjoyable evenings in Jimmy’s a few years ago, occasions made all the better for the owner’s genial, unobtrusive presence. I didn’t think you could beat the great Cronin’s of Crosshaven when it came to a hostelry where you could lose hours taking in the boxing photographs on the wall, but Jimmy’s is in that conversation. No insult to either establishment to rule this one a draw.
I don’t know if I should recommend this book or not, which seems a funny starting point. Max Brooks wrote World War Z, which was later made into a movie you may have stumbled across; hence his standing in America as the “nation’s lone zombie public intellectual”, according to The New York Times.
NowHe hais new book coming out — Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre — tells the story of an exclusive neighbourhood in Washington State which is cut off by an erupting volcano and is then attacked by... well, the clue is in the title of the book.
Whether a local apocalypse is the best reading in the middle of a global apocalypse is a decision best left to yourself, but I can tell you that World War Z was one of the most entertaining reads of the last few years, so the omens are good.