Fiddy’s failure at the plate

Sport 2 (Hawking, Cent) Rest of the World 1 (Barton OG)

Fiddy’s failure at the plate

Even as the gripping Champions League final parable weighed the benefits of socialist collectivism before coming down on the side of capitalism; there were people fretting about tallies and transfers and lifting lads onto their shoulders for having done nothing more than get their names on a team sheet.

Many of them were still at it the following day when Cork and Waterford got going in Thurles. All perspective lost. Important matters, sure, but there’s a time as well as a place.

Are any of them fit to lead us, if they were nosing around boxes of votes while all this magic was happening? Ultimately, as anyone who has clattered their boss in a five-a-side and never looked at them the same again knows, the sporting arena is the only true place of judgment. Bertie knew that well and kept the hand in, even if it was only the bit of punditry.

Credit to the Americans; they may get some things wrong with sport, but they know this much too, and have put systems in place. One of them is the ceremonial first pitch.

The traditional opening to a baseball game is when the American people get to know their leaders and their heroes.

Since Taft in 1910, all the presidents have had a go, perhaps most notably Truman in 1946, when he restarted more than a baseball season with a tidy left-hander.

Those were more forgiving times, when the POTUS didn’t have to leave his station in the grandstand. It wasn’t until Reagan at Wrigley Field in ’88 that they started doing it right, throwing from the mound. Now people could truly see what kind of stuff they were made of.

If George Bush’s initial reaction to 9/11 was sluggish; the defiant, near-perfect strike he threw the following month during the World Series at Yankee Stadium rose the roof and galvanised them, whatever good that did.

In contrast, Obama’s failure to reach the plate at St Louis during his first term might have been the first time his followers wondered if Maybe We Can’t.

Even other sporting heroes have been damaged. When people puzzle over the decline in popularity of athletics and some suggest the role of drugs, others recall the night Carl Lewis arrived out before a Seattle Mariners gamer and dollied a bouncer. What good was pace to him now? They might all throw a decent sinker in their backyards, but in front of a packed house, that 60 feet, 6 inch gap could grow to a chasm for people from the worlds of scripts and speechwriters and lyric sheets.

It is the only thing that rattled Frank Underwood in House Of Cards. This week, it destroyed 50 Cent.

Some are saying his pitch before Mets-Pirates was worse that Lewis. It wasn’t, but it was bad. It went 20 feet wide and it ensured there will be no use any more for Fiddy’s version of Obama’s catchphrase: “If I can’t do it, homie, it can’t be done...”

If Fiddy’s bravado is gone, another of the great thinkers also dropped in our estimations. Bertie might have been well able for football punditry, but Stephen Hawking has come up as short as Lewis.

Maybe, in the prof’s defence, he realised there were better things to stay up all night working on than some promotional guff for a bookie, but his scientific theory on the perfect penalty — a run-up of more than three steps, velocity is important, but so is placement — won’t cause even Robbie Savage to question himself.

Sport continuing to expose pretentions then, though it did concede a late consolation when Joey Barton scored an own-goal and picked up a yellow card minutes into his appearance on Question Time for a comment as wide of the mark as Fiddy’s pitch. Joey remains anxious to prove himself outside his sporting world, but his latest effort brought even greater indignity than Fiddy suffered; a lecture on political correctness by the woman from UKIP.

Players deserve better support

You’d have to fear for the losers of this one.

Ahead of Tipp-Limerick, we heard from Brendan Cummins that the Tipperary players had “reconnected with their supporters”.

But it may be a flimsy enough bond — just weeks ago captain Brendan Maher, weary of the grousing and grief, was moved to note that certain supporters tend to forget the players are human.

It might be a similar story across the western border, judging by Damian Lawlor’s new book Fields of Fire, which described the abusive letters received by Limerick captain Donal O’Grady last year; just weeks after supporters thronged the Gaelic Grounds in frenzied celebration of Munster success.

Elsewhere in the book, Cummins recalls the defeat by Kilkenny in 2012 — perhaps the loss that most deepened the Tipp ‘disconnect’ — and remembers watching match programmes fly in disgust every time he looked up to take a puckout.

“It wasn’t frustration; it was pure anger.”

Of course, the diehard will cling to the right to clap his neighbour on the back on a Saturday — and maybe a Monday — but call him a useless bollocks on the Sunday.

But in a game of small margins, where the fickle hand of fate plays its part, these lads might be spared the fickle hand of their own people.

Will Simeone now join Atletico exodus?

It was the best of times. It was the shortest of times. “Is that their era over?” Bill O’Herlihy wondered, after Atletico Madrid ran out of gas last Saturday night. Seven days in utopia.

Billo has never shied from an over-dramatic assessment and he might be underestimating Diego Simeone’s powers of regeneration. But as the exodus begins — Courtois, Costa, Tiago; maybe Luis, Godin, Miranda and others — you suspect Simeone will need to run as fast as he did onto the Lisbon pitch just to stand still.

Sooner rather than later, it will be his turn to decide he can do no more.

It remains the most sobering reality of top-level football that teams like Atletico, Dortmund and Porto must break up just as romance blossoms. Atletico made the scattering of its talent more inevitable with its accumulation of debt, but the patronising acclaim coming from Barca and Real would mean more with a fairer share of television revenues.

At least — in a marvellous defiance of the accepted order — Atletico claimed a crown before losing its jewels. There is no such consolation for the fans of Southampton, whose plight Bananarama anticipated many years ago.

It’s a cruel, cruel summer now you’re gone. You’re not the only one.

As Uefa flirts with regulating the natural laws of the market; there is nothing creative in the works to give teams like the Saints any chance of marching on.

Heroes & villains


Xabi Alonso: Kicked every ball of the final but didn’t need to tog out to show us. But who knows, maybe he was wearing shin-pads underneath the suit.

Sergio Ramos: Officially upgraded — in the Dunphy flexi-rankings — from ‘headbanger’ to ‘a real character’.

Dunnes Stores: A new range of golf clothing in association with Pádraig Harrington. Can we look forward to a St Bernard version of the orange straitjacket?


Cristiano Ronaldo: Made a show of himself.

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