Michael Moynihan: Standing before the green table

Michael Moynihan: Standing before the green table
Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

You know what the great knock against the modern world is?

(Only the big ones here, folks.)

It’s the way everything is covered, everything is frictionless and easy, with no challenge to understanding. Slick simplification, and a universality all too easily weaponised, and then monetised, in order to perpetuate itself.

Sorry for mimicking someone who discovered George Orwell in the long summer after his inter. cert, but the odd time you have to admit it grates. By ‘it’ I mean the easy availability of everything, the click of explanation that strips away the mystery by sharing the meaning, the smooth, easily-assimilated culture everyone can find and follow.

If everything is shared and understood, though, how can we have discovery and awakening? Difficulty generates meaning, after all. What we have now is a bland experience stripped of any individuality, shorn of difficult particulars.

And what has set your columnist on this collision course with all of modernity?

Simple. The other day someone mentioned the green table.

This is what I mean by everything being available all the time, because there was a time that the green table meant something specific in specific place and nowhere else.

Namely, the disciplinary process in the GAA in Cork.

The etymology of the term is easily explained - the giveaway is the green, the baize covering in the centre of the table that supplicants stood before when hauled up before the relevant committee in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

When the stadium was about to be redeveloped I went down to have a look and there it was in a back office, the furniture that heard all those plaintive appeals for justice, the earnest pleadings long since absorbed by the timber and echoing along the grain like the radio messages sent out into space by NASA.

Over time the term lost its specificity. Any table would do the job.

I remember being in a GAA club one evening many years ago when a prominent intercounty player was being questioned closely about his non-GAA activities.

The questioning took place in a connecting corridor rather than a committee room per se, and the band of officials were perched around a low table more appropriate for the finger food at a 21st birthday party, but when you tried to use the corridor, the response was quick and to the point.

Go around the other way. There’s a fella inside up before the green table.

Double credit for the flurry of pronouns on his alignment before said table, of course - he was just standing in front of the table, not actually being hoisted up by his thumbs - but the formulation was always a matter of curiosity to me that “before” was always the term used.

Nobody ever was “in front of” the green table, or “dragged up to” it: the person was always “before”.

This gave the entire process a completely undeserved but slightly courtly aura, as though Fionn Mac Cumhail or Con of the Hundred Battles were adjudicating on a delicate matter of knightly honour as opposed to some gurrier who’d blown three teeth out of a forward’s mouth in a row behind the referee’s back.

Perhaps Diarmuid and Oisin wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble if they’d been brought before the green table.

I’ve mentioned before the time a pal from Dublin fastened onto my reference to a green table, and suggested a colour-coded series of tables, with expulsion from the Association delivered from behind a black table, maybe.

His unfamiliarity is the point, of course. What passes as normal in Cork is fascinating exotica in Dublin.

That kind of particular, localised meaning is typical of what we’ve lost in our headlong rush for uniformity. But as long as there are disciplinary hearings there will always be a table, and for me it will always be green.

Dean and the faculty

Dean Rock of Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dean Rock of Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Dean Rock, Dean Rock, Dean Rock.

There we all were facing into a round of matches and all that comes with it. Scorelines and refereeing decisions, angry managers and totting up frees, and Dean has to go and put his size tens in it.

Or rather, one size ten next to it, the other size ten through it and following through: you kick with your whole body, kids, not just your legs and feet.

The unhappiness people are displaying with Rock charging for a free-taking clinic . . . is it real or is it performative?

The reason I ask this question is that whatever your actual level of comfort or discomfort is with this development, I doubt it’s as acute as your level of c. or d. with the phenomenon of paid managers.

Or, to be more accurate, coaches and managers getting money illegally from clubs and county boards.

There seems to be a level of accommodation with this concept that’s not offer to Dean Rock, which surprises me.

Why?

County boards which pay or facilitate the payment of managers are in an odd position where they are entitled to impose financial sanctions on clubs and players misbehaving within their jurisdictions. Granted, those sanctions tend to relate to on-field disciplinary issues, but isn’t there an obvious contradiction here?

Say the club of board officer X is paying a coach to train its senior team, and X is party to a decision to punish another club for brawling at a championship game.

Where is X’s moral authority to do so if his own club is breaking the rules? Where is the moral authority of that board committee or sub-committee, or of that county board?

Dean Rock’s free-taking clinic, though. That’s the real problem.

Releasing the Kraken. Or hafgufa.

A general view of hockey. Photo: INPHO/Donall Farmer
A general view of hockey. Photo: INPHO/Donall Farmer

News you may not have picked up on: Seattle in the States has a new professional hockey team, and last week they unveiled the team’s new name.

The Seattle Kraken.

On one level I admire this nod to Clash of the Titans - 1981 edition, with Judi Bowker et al rather than the farrago of ten years ago - but I have to raise an objection based on the obscurity of the plural.

Are the players all part of one giant Kraken? Or are they happy to be individual, ah, mythical sea-beasts coming under that umbrella term - Kraken, not Krakens?

If I might be even more helpful, my occasional research assistants have pointed out that the original reference to Kraken-type sea monster is in the old Norse sagas, but the term used is hafgufa.

As in, the beast lurking in the Greenland Sea with an eye on unwary travellers. Later the term was changed to Kraken, which is pale enough in comparison.

The Seattle Hafgufa. Now there’s a team name.

A look at why you talk the way you do

Long, long ago your columnist took a course in sociolinguistics, certainly one of the more interesting byways taken in college.

The clue is in the title, of course, which gives away the mixture of linguistics and sociology - the kind of mixture that has lessons for everybody.

Hence my eye being drawn to a new book: How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do and What It Says About You by Katherine D. Kinzler.

This has been drawing great reviews in the States, with particular reference to the surprises Kinzler produces in explaining how people talk and why that affects the way those people are perceived as a result.

Count me in.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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