The exact quotation takes different forms, so it took a while to track down, but here it is.
Asked about violence in his movies, the great French director Francois Truffaut told an interviewer he found violence “very ambiguous” in films.
“For example, some films claim to be anti-war but I don’t think I’ve really seen a film that’s anti-war. Every film about war ends up being pro-war.”
This has been revolving in my mind like a rotisserie chicken over the weekend, though not in the Full Metal Jacket sense employed by Truffaut. I was more interested in the discourse and debate about sports events which stirred and shifted all last week.
Is all writing about sport inherently pro-sport?
Granted, the zero-sum-game counter-argument is a rarity on the sports pages. A couple of windy evenings on an exposed sideline in November and the necessity for human activity of any kind comes under pressure, but “The Sport of Tennis: Why It Needs To Be Abolished” or “Team Games Are Simply Unnecessary, End Of” are not headlines you’d see outside of a journal of philosophical thought-experiments.
Even the subtle undermining of a sport isn’t a common topic (but unsubtle undermining is fine, eh? - ed), which is understandable.
After all, the rest of the newspaper/website/news programme offers alternative fields of interest. It’s not a matter of having just one or the other, the weather or the rugby match report, either the business news or a set Olympic previews.
However . . .
Last week there was a great deal of debate about GAA games going ahead at intercounty level as Covid cases ramp up, with some easy binaries involved.
The games had to go ahead for the sake of national morale while at the same time there was no way they could be played while infection rates were so high; players were training hard for months and were entitled to games, but simultaneously players were reluctant to play because of the prospect of infection for themselves and their families.
To mangle Lyndon Johnson’s phrase for the sake of delicacy, much of this was done inside the tent looking out, rather than outside the tent looking in. The discussions and points made had an inherent bias in favour of the proposition that sport just has to continue, or at least took that as the starting point of the discussion.
Not a matter of should it be played, but how and when: the conditions of resumption were under debate rather than resumption itself for the most part.
That proposition is one I share in general terms, which will hardly surprise readers. Sport is how I - and many others in the country - make my living, and the arguments in favour of sport continuing or resuming are familiar to us all and resonate with anyone who ever kicked, bounced, threw or pucked a ball. Or engaged in entirely non-ball-related activity, I’m not forgetting you either.
In its specifics, though, the proposition is far more challenging than ‘how can we save our sports event of choice?’
In the clearest case, that of the GAA, the focus on concluding the national leagues means transporting dozens of people from areas with a relatively average number of infections - like Kerry, say - to areas with very high numbers of infections - like Monaghan, say - and back again seems difficult to see, to put it mildly.
Same for Fermanagh and Clare. Cork and Louth. Donegal and Tyrone. The list goes on.
We are being told on a daily basis that the number of infected cases is rising at a dangerous rate in many areas, which seems a powerful incentive to lower rather than increase the number of people travelling between these areas.
And yet a couple of people your columnist spoke to this week suggested that the best course of action might be to sacrifice the leagues in order to save the championship later in the year; another acquaintance reported a straight-faced discussion with friends which came up with swapping out national league action in favour of a provincial club championship.
Truffaut had a point. Absolutely. And he probably never saw a national league match in his life.