Michael Moynihan: Sport or arts for mental health, not both

It was noticeable during the week that one of the arguments being made in favour of continuing with an inter-county season in Gaelic games was that it would be good for people’s mental health
Michael Moynihan: Sport or arts for mental health, not both

A general view of action during the Munster SHC match between Limerick and Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles. It was noticeable during the week that one of the arguments being made in favour of continuing with an inter-county season in Gaelic games was that it would be good for people’s mental health. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Mental health is the latest battleground, I believe, but unlike many battlegrounds it’s a location that doesn’t dictate the terms of engagement.

It was noticeable during the week that one of the arguments being made in favour of continuing with an inter-county season in Gaelic games was that it would be good for people’s mental health.

This argument was contested by people who said that Gaelic games in particular, or sports in general, contributed nothing to their mental health - compared to the arts, for instance.

As a statement of unvarnished fact neither of these expressions seem anything other than reasonable representations of the truth and not particularly vulnerable to being undermined on their basic premises.

The doesn’t take into account the extraordinarily sloppy thinking to be endured last week, though.

One of the recurring themes in the coronatime is a slightly more evolved version of basic whataboutery. By this I mean the ever-increasing incidence of ‘it’s not fair that I can’t indulge in my pastime, but it’s doubly unfair that you can indulge in yours’.

The stupidity of such a notion would be immediately apparent to a three-year-old child with one eye on Peppa Pig, but I noted a few noisy self-promoters during the last few days making such unfounded connections. Perhaps a couple of three-year-olds could be enlisted to sing the old Sesame Street standard, ‘One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other’, for everyone’s edification.

In addition, while it’s clear that some people are not soothed by the clash of athletes of any stripe, it’s not quite as clear when precisely sports were prescribed to all and sundry as a universal panacea for all ills.

Genuinely: This is a memo I must have missed.

Was there an official missive issued to all households in the country dismissing people’s fondness for theatre and sculpture and poetry in favour of junior rugby and inter-county hurling, as directed by the politburo?

I don’t recall anyone at any level of government giving people the choice of consoling themselves with sport or nothing but am open to correction here.

More seriously, given the general delicacy among the population in another lockdown, it was surprising to see, or hear, so many people express their willingness to criticise a situation where many others were having their craving for self-expression satisfied by sports events.

This is where the toxic logic ‘you’re having your fun, so why can’t I have mine’ crumbles. There are plenty of sports that people can’t enjoy for reasons of social distancing/indoor activity, but I don't recall hearing participants in those sports complain because on the ‘arts side’ others can read books, say, in a physically safe environment.

Glib? Perhaps. But comparing apples and oranges has been a feature of this non-controversy. So have the expected pitfalls, which have claimed their usual victims.

One of the usual diversions in this - ‘controversy’ is a bit generous - is that one stomps off to prove that there are real, breathing people who enjoy the arts and sports. Really.

This notion always reminds me of the part of Kingsley Amis’s memoirs when he attends a party in the Deep South of the US: the host announces to the throng that there is another Englishmen present, “displaying the modest pride of a provincial zoo official who reveals its possession of not one but two Arabian oryxes.”

(Thank you, I am aware of the irony of using that yarn here.)

Another interesting but ultimately pointless by-way puts you on the road to showing that this is all part of an anti-GAA agenda being pursued by Certain Elements (Up In Dublin)(You Know Who I Mean).

Again, this train of thought usually follows a familiar trajectory, one ending in a weary call for solidarity at this time of national crisis.

Or, as I translate it, solidarity until we are free to pursue our traditional petty enmities without guilt. Which will benefit our mental health enormously all around.

Playing GAA games. Or Gaelic games.

They say there are no stupid questions, just stupid answers, and though that axiom bears very little scrutiny when one hears questions posed in the wild, I have a mildly silly query.

Why do people play GAA?

I never hear anyone say they love a good IRFU game. I have yet to meet someone who’s looking forward to playing their Thursday night five-a-side FAI match. There was a regular basketball game near my place when I lived in California, but nobody ever said it was time for their NBA game.

I understand completely the difference between people talking about GAA officials and GAA policy and so forth - I’d want to, says you - but a cursory glance at Google will throw up dozens of examples of people saying they love to play GAA, not Gaelic games, which I presume is what they mean.

It’s rare to see their views on hurling, Gaelic football, ladies football, camogie, rounders and handball broken down in detail, though maybe the implication is that all Gaelic games are cherished equally.

I don’t need anyone to point out that we all have bigger things to worry about at the moment. That has come to my attention. Absolutely.

But admit it - once you notice this once, it’s hard not see how often GAA is used where Gaelic games is the correct term.

Betts: basketball, bowling and . . . the Rubik's Cube?

For the misguided Boston Red Sox fans in my circle of friends, the departure of star Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers was a terrible blow, and it now looks like they had good reason to be unhappy.

Betts’ spectacular play helped the Dodgers to reach the World Series, with some terrific catches against the Atlanta Braves crucial to their progress.

However, until last week I was unaware of Betts’s other gifts until I stumbled across a report last week.

Though just 5 foot 9, Betts can dunk a basketball and his high school basketball coach believed he could have played in the NBA. He beat another high school coach at ping-pong while talking to his girlfriend on the phone at the same time.

His mother didn’t want him to play American football in high school in case he got hurt, so he bowled instead. Two years ago he bowled a perfect game at the World Series of Bowling.

He can also solve a Rubik’s Cube in under two minutes.

How’s the World Series going? This was MLB.com’s description of the first game: “Ultimately, though, Game 1 was the Mookie Show.”

What isn’t?

The Return of Gore Vidal

Alas, the tide seems to be going out when it comes to Gore Vidal’s reputation.

Which means I was doubly thankful to the reader who alerted me to the fact that the New York Review of Books had taken down the paywall to allow access to such works as Vidal’s review of Tennessee Williams’s memoirs back in 1976.

A throwaway line? “Tennessee is the sort of writer who does not develop; he simply continues.” It sent me back to Vidal’s United States: Essays 1952-1992, and then to the greatest historical novel of them all: Burr.

Accept no substitute.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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