Irish Examiner View: A good time to reinstate core values - Sport and the pandemic

There was, not so long ago, a small, one-van builder in West Cork who offered his clients, especially strangers dreaming of turning a tumbling cottage into a summer nirvana, what he described as his Bantry Guarantee.
Irish Examiner View: A good time to reinstate core values - Sport and the pandemic
Locked out, for now: The Government decision to veto gatherings of more than 5,000 until September means that this year’s championships, if they go ahead at all, will be very different to their predecessors. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

There was, not so long ago, a small, one-van builder in West Cork who offered his clients, especially strangers dreaming of turning a tumbling cottage into a summer nirvana, what he described as his Bantry Guarantee.

Strangely, very few clients asked our Brunel what that entailed but those who did were not impressed. “Everything is fully guaranteed until it breaks,” he promised.

There are, sadly, parallels between that abdication and the way some airlines and insurance companies today run from their obligations to customers who have paid for services that cannot be delivered.

Another version of the Bantry Guarantee is beginning to bite.

At a moment when harmless, well-scripted escapism has a value beyond compare, there is a gaping hole where sport used to be.

Our world is broken and the soothing balm of sport — sometimes a mass sedative — has gone AWOL.

The well understood, cherished safety-valve of a few hours distraction at the end of the working week has gone and nobody can say with any certainty when they will return.

This sudden, unexpected absence also highlights how sport has permeated every day of our every week. It is, or was, a permanent presence.

If it can capture an audience, a sport has a commercial value for advertisers.

This seems to be the logic behind suggestions, some daft and all self-serving, that various events might go ahead behind a cordon sanitaire.

That compromise winnows what might, in traditional terms, be seen as real, tribal sport from profit-driven, especially gambling profits, sport. One is heartfelt, pumping life-blood, the other is just about money.

Some race meetings or soccer games may go ahead in echoing Marie Celeste settings but the idea of a Munster hurling final in Thurles, or a football final in Killarney, without tens of thousands of partisan, loud fans seems far worse than Hamlet without the Prince, especially as fans’ participation is the ultimate raison d’être of the GAA — community first, games second. And what a noble ideal that remains.

The Government decision to veto gatherings of more than 5,000 until September means that this year’s championships, if they go ahead at all, will be very different to their predecessors.

Some voices still hope that they will but it may be necessary to ask if it is time to accept that they will not, so we might better accept the psychological limitations needed to try to defeat the pandemic.

Rugby did something like that a month ago when it cut pay for officials and players.

The sudden absence of sport also shows the huge difference between enjoying live sport and re-runs.

After all, even Munster’s 2011, 41-phase, redemption-at-the-death against Northampton in Thomond Park, through a Ronan O’Gara drop goal naturally, may not have the faithful shedding a tear or punching the air on the 25th viewing, well maybe the 35th.

Coronavirus has forced a re-evaluation of everything we do, of everything we aspire to too.

It has shown how important sport is, which may, in time, reenergise those who confront the drug cheats and commercial opportunists who diminish and corrupt one of our greatest forms of expression.

We cannot accept a Bantry Guarantee on that we hold so dear. .

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