Larry Ryan on Saturday: Throwing snowballs at the week’s sport
Of all the big calls this page has made — big big calls really, if not big big big calls — I suppose last week’s must go down as the biggest.
Competition is stiff, of course. It was here you heard first how the black card was a divers’ charter. You were warned long before it was called VAR that VAR would empty stadiums. And a good while before Brexit, you were put on notice that the British might now be capable of any sort of madness without Des Lynam on the BBC to keep them on an even keel, to give it the old ‘steady, chaps’ every now and again. (A warning, admittedly, that might have been extended to include Des himself, given his eventual support for Farage and the lads).
But even in a crowded field, last week was the big big one. And sure, the reasoning may not have been flawless. But there’s no need to pore over the workings, because it is the bottom line that counts.
You were told that sport might not necessarily survive the handshake of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte at Old Trafford last Sunday, that there might well be no more sporting weekends, after that one.
And it turns out, at time of writing, we are on track. We are one for one. Sport, at least in this jurisdiction, has been called off. And with RTÉ2, TV3 and TG4 all having shown live rugby at the same time last weekend, this truly is life after the eggpocalypse.
OK at the very same time of writing, the Premier League — the juggernaut with no brakes — is set to steam on at full speed. Which does apply an asterisk to the sport-free experience, since for many, in this jurisdiction, the Premier League is the only show in town on any given weekend.
But still, let us overlook that minor detail; instead let us presume that undersoil heating failed to work its magic across England last night, and that as well as the League of Ireland and the Allianz Leagues and the PRO14 and the racing, we are to be denied Southampton v Stoke and all its fellow six-pointers today.
Let us take it that, a year ahead of the Premier League clubs, we have been granted our very own winter break from sport; a chance to recharge batteries during a World Cup year.
The question now is; will we enjoy it and might we even get used to it?
Maybe you would ordinarily, out of some indefinable cocktail of habit and obligation, have braved the nip at Dr Cullen Park this evening, for the visit of Wicklow. Or perhaps some inexplicable compulsion would cause you to build your Saturday around Navan for the gee-gees.
Or you might usually be found wrestling with a laptop, frantically injecting it with all class of spyware to find some stuttering feed of Spurs v Huddersfield with commentary in Chinese, first rewinding Merse and co by a few seconds on the box, so they don’t roar spoilers.
aybe those things would normally bring you peace. Or it could be that today, you are filled with an enormous sense of freedom, released from these irrational responsibilities. Today, the shackles are off. If you get out and about, you mightn’t have to pull in the car every few miles to retune Five Live for word from Anfield. You needn’t fret about Leinster’s work-ons, or whether you should axe Sanchez from your fantasy team. Today you have an excellent chance of avoiding ‘The Fields of Athenry’. And you don’t need to figure out whether Dublin will beat the spread, or where your three draws will come from.
Today, there is no facing the car for home to get back for the dinner. You are under no pressure to jostle your way onto television behind a live interview. And you needn’t worry that one of those heroes you’ve appointed as your kids’ role model will disgrace himself. Today, you might even avoid becoming embroiled in a bitter Twitter spat over your team’s defensive problems.
Today, there will be no pain of defeat, no sting of disappointment, no regret at having fooled yourself one more time. There will be no absolute disgrace. Nobody will be gutless or spineless. Today, you won’t be let down. You will not be obliged to roar strong personal invective at your fellow countymen.
Today, there will be no need to turn off your kids’ cartoons, disappoint your partner and duck your domestic duties.
Instead, you might paint a skirting board, bake a cake, if there are eggs left. Or finish the last season of House of Cards you got tired of halfway through.
Today might be the start of the rest of your life. The day you see sense, realise life is too short, to get so involved.
Maybe you’ll learn a language, get the guitar down out of the attic. Look into cancelling Sky.
Today, you might just revel in the time and space to get to know yourself a little better.
Though by Sunday evening there’s always a chance you might know yourself a bit too well.
And maybe realise that a weekend can be long enough, let alone a life.
And after a dull enough couple of days, with a curious itch you can’t scratch, maybe you’ll truly appreciate what Dolly Parton meant, when she said, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”.
And even, occasionally, the snow.
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