I’ve a new habit lately, a fresh condition. This tendency to type out tweets, consider things for a second or two, then delete them. Leaving it off altogether, for fear of stirring a Twitter storm.
And God knows there’s no reputation here for tackling weighty matters. It’s likely to have been a query on why theseries link has stopped working again. Or maybe a musing on the merits of the duck loaf as an elevenses option versus the humble brack.
But you can no longer be too careful. When it comes to the Twitter storm, there’s now a red warning in place.
“Utter ignorance from @RyanLarry making an effort to be annoying and calling it “gah” rather than the GAA. Grow up!”
That squall never picked up, thankfully, but in blustery conditions you don’t want to be throwing too many straws in the wind.
It’s easy to see why people are trigger-happy, after reversing into a new year on the back foot. Bad news and disgrace and ignominy are everywhere. There’s a palpable air of doom and sense of helplessness. When you can’t go out, there’s little for it but to lash out.
Of course, for a certain category of columnist — with a healthy appetite for our old friend controvassy — this is fertile ground. There has been no better time to amplify yourself via people hating what you have to say.
But if you’re rattled, if you’re running scared of the Twitter storm, where do you turn on a Friday morning, with the clock running down to deadline?
In this toxic tailwind, the Premier League mocks us with the top of its table. As if the world needed Liverpool and Manchester United getting serious on top of everything else pulling it apart.
Ordinarily, you’d be obliged to tackle some aspect of the weekend’s main event. I suppose it might be time to study what mystical energy is persuading the man in the middle to point to the spot every time a United player encounters ‘contact’ in the box.
Indeed, to help us out, the retired referee Mark Clattenburg — AKA Clatts — has been keen to distinguish whatever is happening here from the old energies that brought United penalties in his time, which he identified as emanating from Alex Ferguson.
We could drill down into this phenomenon a little more, see if it is in any way related to the blessings bestowed on Liverpool last term, as VAR bedded itself in.
Or we could revisit that long lost ally of the back pages, the mind games, ceremonially restarted by Klopp the other week.
Yes, we could go down those roads alright, but could you really be dealing with all that pinging on a Saturday morning, when you’re trying to focus on pipping the nippers to unmasking the culprit on Scooby-Doo?
Look at how John Fogarty, of this parish, has seen his phone melt this week.
It was the nearest we’ll get at the moment to a theatrical experience, or maybe an artistic installation, watching the Examiner Sport mentions on Twitter once the latest ‘Fogarty Forum’ hit the internet. Few tweets from the account have generated more replies.
The headline of John’s column posed a plain enough question — ‘Should inter-county GAA players be pushed up the vaccination queue?’ — and I think we can safely say that the internet provided an unvarnished verdict.
Indeed there was rich comic anger in many of the replies, alas not too many of them printable.
“Being restrained by security as I try to barge my way to the front of the vaccine queue - “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, I PLAY COUNTY.”
“It is the year 3216. Only those who play county have the right to vote. Coppers is the seat of government.”
That kind of thing.
And while it was entirely understandable, on one level, given the alarm and despair out there, if you’re the kind of person that is rather thankful to sport for keeping us ticking over, this past year, some of the venom out there was startling.
We’ve tended to congratulate sport for bringing us together, for binding communities, even as we keep our distance. But are we deepening other divisions at the same time?
Back in October, when things had lightened up a small bit, I noted here that watching sport on television seemed to be the one feature of normality we’d move mountains to keep going. That while other aspects of civilian life — like a few pints or a dinner out or a gig or a film or a holiday or even a bit of elective surgery — had gone by the wayside, at least ‘the match’ was, happily, sacrosanct.
But if ‘the match’ isn’t your thing, you could see how that would stretch tolerance levels.
I suppose that is what has happened over the last year — we all have a new appreciation of life inside our bubbles. And heightened suspicion of those outside.
Even within sport, lockdowns have only cemented ancient inequalities and rivalries. The big three kept afloat while others sink. Indoor sport cut adrift. Women’s sport often taking the biggest hits. Elites prioritised over grassroots.
For ‘the GAA’, in particular, there was fair warning this week that people haven’t forgotten the handful of PR disasters. Many of the replies to John’s article went along these lines: “I can’t believe I am reading this. They have done enough damage playing the Championships.”
A reminder to inter-county managers this isn’t the best time for splitting hairs on rules and restrictions if you are of a mind to sidestep training bans.
Of course, nobody in the GAA has suggested players should get priority for vaccination. Indeed, in the column, John stressed players would be reluctant to entertain any queue-jumping, something Gearóid Hegarty emphasised the following day.
But the online stats highlighted another interesting phenomenon — it was far from John’s most read. While this tweet had a huge reach, a tiny minority actually clicked onto the column. So only the headline was widely seen.
And that remains the priority now, in the last knockings of this column — don’t give the sub-editor the keys to a Twitter storm.
But even Tadgh delivered fair warning: “I bought a new subscription before Christmas. I find myself looking at games again.”