Michael Moynihan: 30 reasons why 1990 is the nostalgia default

As everything opens up again, little by little, a question: what happens to our lockdown obsessions?
Michael Moynihan: 30 reasons why 1990 is the nostalgia default
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthcleas John Horan, during the GAA fixtures press conference at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Players watch a high ball dropping in to the square during the Senior Football Club Challenge match between Listry and Dromid Pearses at Listry GAA club in Listry, Kerry. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Players watch a high ball dropping in to the square during the Senior Football Club Challenge match between Listry and Dromid Pearses at Listry GAA club in Listry, Kerry. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

As everything opens up again, little by little, a question: what happens to our lockdown obsessions?

By obsessions I have one target in mind: the year 1990. It seems to be the year/season/game-producer that anchors the nostalgia industry, but for how much longer? And what it is it about that year?

It was 30 years ago, so . . .

1. It’s the perfect length of time because if you’re conscious of what you were doing at the time, then chances are you look back fondly. Mind you, in comparison with 2020 even 1845 would look good.

2. Is it one of the last years you could say Ireland was simultaneously pretty insular and beginning to look beyond in terms of sport?

3. The World Cup. Of course.

4. The irony is that games in the tournament were terrible — also an ‘of course’ — but it was an extraordinary summer here.

5. The monoculture which existed then meant that tournament was a shared experience in Ireland to an extent that’s unthinkable now.

6. Eamon Dunphy was able to generate a parallel narrative about the Irish team, which gave the summer a whole other texture.

7. Added texture is also provided by the quality of those eighties highlight reels. Those vivid colours on screen make the memories all the sharper.

8. And the ball easier to track, let’s be honest.

9. That World Cup was a feelgood story for the country. No small matter after the eighties and no small part of its longevity in the national memory.

10. There was no shortage of political activity that year — the Eastern Bloc was dissolving, for instance — but can any Irish person say hand on heart that the increasing democratisation of Poland is a 1990 stand-out?

11. On reflection, given the number of Poles living here now, the answer to no. 10 must be quite a few.

12. All the nostalgia shows offer glimpses of a mulleted population: comfort viewing for a country with barbershops slowly reopening.

13. And of course, none of those mullets were remotely ironic.

14. The remoteness of the sportspeople. Distance equals glamour, millennials.

15. The musical accompaniment that summer was memorable, too: the Three Tenors, remember?

16. It may have been the last summer a manager said something remotely interesting before a high-profile GAA game.

17. All forgiven now, Babs.

18. In GAA terms 1990 was something of a hinge: in a couple of cases players who had begun in the eighties were still playing in the 21st century.

19. Aside: in tennis terms it was less than memorable, something I note in the BBC’s Wimbledon reruns. For instance, can you name the runner-up in the women’s singles that year? (No prizes for correct answers.)

20. The sportswear is . . . can we tease this out and admit that for every beautiful Germany World Cup top there are some horror shows? Two words: shell suits.

21. The Argentina gear that tournament was class, I’ll give you that.

22. The GAA jersey was morphing into the current model, but there’s a strong pull towards those primary colours, largely unspoiled by advertisers’ logos.

23. A personal highlight? The Cameroon player Mbouh Mbouh: so bad they booked him twice.

24. Paul Gascoigne. Looking back now an intervention was needed.

25. It was the beginning of soccer’s re-explosion in Britain after the grimness of the eighties, so the year functions as a hinge there too.

26. Teddy McCarthy. Just for the sheer outrageousness, the dazzle of the achievement: two senior All-Ireland medals in a fortnight.

27. For Cork people the year can’t be discussed without reference to the Double. So there’s that.

28. Larry.

29. Of course, those commissioning the nostalgia shows are of an age to remember 1990 well. It could just be that simple.

30. Still, it’s just distant enough to remember, and now it’s remote enough to forget.

Farewell, shiny shell suits. Thanks for helping us through.

Who's actually in charge?

Uachtarán Chumann Lúthcleas John Horan, during the GAA fixtures press conference at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthcleas John Horan, during the GAA fixtures press conference at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

First there was an announcement that Croke Park wouldn’t be punishing inter-county teams that were training surreptitiously, though President John Horan encouraged people to “call them out” if teams were doing so.

Then there was another announcement that Croke Park would, in fact, be punishing teams etc. etc.

The body which represents players on those inter-county teams, the GPA, appealed for the player insurance scheme to cover such inter-county training sessions even though it noted simultaneously those sessions should not be taking place.

With me so far?

The GPA added that it was the role of county boards “to ensure that these training sessions are not sanctioned prior to the agreed dates”.

Which crystallises the issue for the GAA neatly. It’s not an accountability problem. It’s a responsibility problem.

Croke Park acknowledges there’s a problem and the GPA acknowledges there’s a problem, but pointing at county boards as the people who should resolve that problem isn’t a solution. How can it be, when some of those boards are facilitating people in creating the problem in the first place?

That’s why I’ve gone off the idea of a barrister. I’d be more interested in a constitutional specialist having a look at who exactly bears the responsibility for executive action here. Division of powers, authority to enforce legislation, all of that good stuff.

Because that isn’t at all clear from the last week or two.

Unintended consequences, post-lockdown

Now that there are sports events of all kinds occurring again, there are results and data to process again as well.

And for once there’s some information to sift through which doesn’t revolve directly around the virus.

I see the Bundesliga has now had enough games to provide evidence that playing in front of an empty stadium has an adverse impact. On the home team.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that sports statistics companies in Germany have reported — based on the resumption of the Bundesliga — that the traditional advantage enjoyed by home teams has all but vanished, both in tangibles such as the number of games won, and intangibles like the tendency of referees to be ‘homers’ when thousands of fans are baying at them.

One statistician even suggested an increase in the average number of passes — which indicates an unwillingness to take risks with the ball.

All very plausible. Can we expect something similar when games resume here?

Now that there are sports events of all kinds occurring again, there are results and data to process again as well.

Staring at God part two

Great to see the libraries back open in many parts: yours truly got to the Grand Parade branch of Cork City Library on Saturday, for instance.

What did I emerge with? Simon Heffer’s Staring At God: Britain in the Great War, which I wish I’d unearthed just before the March shutdown, but what harm. I have it now.

Further details to come, but early signs very promising. Thanks again to the Library.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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