Today then, a public service. Does the looming Premier League season fill you with dread? Do you greet tomorrow’s Charity Shield with the kind of foreboding one might ordinarily reserve for free Ed Byrne tickets? Will you spend the next week wrecking people’s heads about 200k per week salaries and foreign mercenaries and simulation? Do you jolt awake, fists clenched, from a recurring nightmare; Moycal McMullen on an infinite loop, leading the sports news with “encouraging news from the Reebok on the fitness of Gretar Steinsson” before affording a passing mention to that afternoon’s All-Ireland hurling final.
But, at the same time, you know well that you will be sucked into it all one more time; glued to Stelling, pouring over your fantasy team, banjaxing your laptop with spyware to play that feed you found on myp2p, degrading yourself by texting Stan Collymore.
Fear not. I have consulted the great spiritualists, gurus, writers and, of course, Judge Judy for some effective coping strategies for the rough months ahead. It may just be possible to get through this.
1. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” — Susan Jeffers. Or, in other words, chance going into town during Gillette Soccer Saturday. You could, in an outlandish twist, even go to a match. Sure, you might be denied that parental surge of pride when Dean Windass completes his first sentence. But, ultimately, will you miss much at all?
2. “Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child.” Ron Wild was, clearly, inviting you to avoid the scores until Match of the Day or Premier Soccer Saturday. No easy task, in this day and age. After all, the Likely Lads didn’t have to contend with Livescore apps, Twitter and the annoying habit the BBC News has of telling you to turn away now before announcing the results anyway. But which would you rather? A giddy leap out of your chair as Motty’s strangled squeals greet a late Swansea equaliser at Stamford Bridge or settle for Paul Merson’s mangled description of the goal seven hours earlier?
3. “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”
Donald Trump’s grave fear of baldness is beginning to take root at the top of the English game and there’s a lot more we could learn from him too. Forget everything you know about Asian buyouts, debt loading and the murky finances of the Premier League. It need not worry you that Kenny Dalglish paid €23m for Stewart Downing. You should have enough to contend with worrying he signed him at all.
4. “If you want more, you have to require more from yourself” — Dr Phil. This cogent advice from the big man is quite easily executed and marvellously effective — turn off that radio phone-in. Turn it off now.
5. “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action” — Benjamin Disraeli.
Simple enough. Unfollow Rio Ferdinand on Twitter.
6. “The past has no power over the present moment” — Eckhart Tolle. An exhilarating winter of infinite possibility awaits if you can convince yourself of this the next time a Wigan, West Brom or Stoke braveheart takes an 89th minute tumble in an Old Trafford penalty box and glances plaintively at Howard Webb. You never know...
7. “Stupid is as stupid does.”
If you are taking any notice of anything Robbie Savage has to say, Forrest was talking about you.
8. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw attended enough post-match press conferences in his time to know the drill. By now, you should too. “Mancini upset by United theatrics.” Next time you work yourself up into a lather of umbrage about managerial mind games, picture the geezer with the notepad enquiring “how upset were you by United’s theatrics?” Does he really care about the answer? Should you?
9. “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”
Judge Judy, a top dispenser of justice, saw Jamie Redknapp coming a long way off.
10. “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain” — Dolly Parton. Contrary to what the naysayers would have you believe, this isn’t organised crime. It’s a collection of the world’s best footballers — outside Catalonia — playing the greatest game. And every single week, somebody in their number will do something some kid, somewhere, will never forget. Pare down the nonsense and, despite yourself, you might enjoy it.
THE most important battle of the new English football season will certainly not be fought during tomorrow’s phoney war at Wembley. Nor in next weekend’s opening set of league fixtures.
In fact, it won’t be played until October, as pub landlady Karen Murphy will take on the Premier League in a tricky tie to be staged in Luxembourg — at the home of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
A hearing has been fixed for October 5 for the long-anticipated case, escalated to the ECJ by Murphy when the Premier League sued her for screening foreign feeds of Premier League matches at her pub, the Red White and Blue.
Earlier this year, ECJ advocate general, Juliane Kokott, suggested that licensing television rights by country contravened one the founding principles of the European Union — the free movement of goods and services.
Of course, football has managed to successfully flout many principles — legal and otherwise — for as long as it has organised itself, but any decision that curtails the Premier League’s ability to sell rights in the lucrative way it has done since its foundation will pose a real challenge to the revenue streams that have lined so many players’ pockets over the last two decades.
Legalising the dodgy 3pm pub trade may also affect attendances.
Earlier this year Niall Quinn said he “despised” Sunderland fans who watch home games in the boozer.
Mind you, with online publishers like Google champing at the bit for sports content — it screened the Copa America on YouTube everywhere except UK and Ireland — the availability of EU-wide deals could prove attractive.
Ultimately, perhaps it’s organisations like Sky Sports that should worry most about Murphy’s law.
COMING out of the Gaelic Grounds on Wednesday night, the facility to hit ‘Save As Template’ would have prepared you for a lifetime’s entertainment. The Munster U21 hurling final packed anything you could wish for in a sporting contest into 80 epic minutes; all the skills, lung-busting intensity, Roy Race heroics from Aidan Walsh, ascendancy swinging more often than a golfer with his keys in the bowl, and a titanic finish to break and swell hearts in equal measure.
What it had too was occasional prods at purists who insist hurling must only be played direct and long. That to carry the ball is trouble.
Sure, much of the game was played with open shoulders, but in the last minute of normal time Walsh’s single-minded drive from his own 40 into scoring range brought to mind Ciarán Carey’s famous winner against Clare in 1996.
And then there was the work of art Sean O’Brien and Graeme Mulcahy created for Declan Hannon’s winning goal — a two-prong surge that carried Limerick 90 yards.
There is a suspicion in the more cynical senior grade, Mulcahy would have been wrestled in his tracks long before the opportunity presented. Perhaps purists should turn their attentions instead to the growing tolerance of this type of foul.
THE ACCUSED: International Amateur Boxing Association.
THE RAP: Tainting Olympic boxing with professionalism.
THE CASE: The AIBA has announced plans for a professional programme from 2013. Boxers could be paid and compete in 2016 Olympics. Current pros could rejoin the association in that first year.
DEFENCE: Plan comes with a structure to rank all AIBA fighters. An alternative to the mess of governing bodies and titles.
THE PROSECUTION: Isn’t there a danger washed-up pros will clamber on board for a medal and a last payday?
INADMISSIBLE: The AIBA plans to ditch headgear for elite fighters.
VERDICT: Case adjourned. A credible governing body would be a shot in the arm for the pro game, but would vested interests of promoters let it happen? In the meantime, the purity of an Olympic event renowned for showcasing new talent could be lost.