Our appetite for sporting controvassy might not yet rival our friends across the water. But when the opportunity arises, we tend to give it 100%.
Indeed, if we have an idea our friends across the water might be looking in and taking a bit of interest, we are able to dig deep for the elusive 110%.
Ordinarily, these things become a straight fight between Absolute Disgrace and Ah For Feck’s Sake What About It.
But in an FAI controversy (we are still, for the time being at least, saying ‘controversy’) we can often rely, for added flavour, on the special sauce Total Shambles.
Those were the main ingredients in John Delaney’s stew this week.
Was it news at all? Man sings in pub. Whatever the song, it’s not too long since we might have let this one slide. At least they’d hardly have held the front page of The Irish Times.
Though the FAI chief picked an unfortunate night to open his lungs, staging a sing-off with the England fans who had chorused about the IRA that same evening in Glasgow.
Still, it might have blown over handily enough and the last word may have gone to the country’s most famous football fan, Davy Keogh, who was summoned to the home of Absolute Disgrace, Liveline, to make the case for Delaney and laugh off the charges.
“One thing Joe, he won’t make the X Factor.”
He hardly needs to. Another video did the rounds this week, featuring one of the lads who has done well from the X Factor, Liam Payne of One Direction.
In it, the lad travelled along a line of awed girls, taking a phone from each one, faking a series of adequate smiles and snapping selfie after selfie.
He was a picture of misery as he lived his dream.
The week started brightly for the FAI chief, with word, via Barry Egan — the Sunday Independent’s man in charge of whatever is going on around the town — that Delaney and his new partner had celebrated Ireland’s win over USA with that sing-song in the Bath pub in Dublin, before spreading “the power of their love to foreign climes” and “heating up Marbs (Marbella, seemingly) with their passionate intensity”.
Or, they went to Spain, as we used to say.
By the time Delaney returned home to a chill, the man who has seemed increasingly content to live his life in front of a soft focus lens may have finally copped what young Payne realised a good while ago: the cameras don’t switch off any more.
They had a call to make, meanwhile, in the FAI.
It is fairly obvious, wherever you look online, that as more and more of what might be regarded as private business makes its way into some kind of news story, it increasingly takes something fairly juicy to generate outrage. To create the momentum for Absolute Disgrace.
The old Misjudgment-Controvassy-Apology-Whatever cycle grows shorter by the day.
As long as you judge the response right. For instance, the Malky Mackay text scandal would have run on its own steam, but it gained fresh impetus when the League Managers Association released a statement describing the whole thing as “friendly banter”.
Since one online poll of more than 14,000 people still shows more than 70% saying Delaney had nothing to apologise for, a token mea culpa would likely have put this to bed.
But perhaps flushed with the efficiency of a heavy-handed shutdown of fan protest during the USA match, or maybe because our friends across the water were looking in, the FAI went down a different road. The legal road.
Or, as an entertainer like Delaney might put it; they mounted the Shaggy defence: It Wasn’t Me.
A strategy betraying a beginner’s misunderstanding of how video footage works.
Now we had something the controvassy specialists could get their teeth into. “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” roared The Daily Telegraph, recycling the old Watergate mantra and suggesting the FAI response was “one of which Richard Nixon would have been proud”.
The lads in Abbotstown were in with the big boys now. But they are quick learners.
It was during those Watergate days that Nixon became associated with the phrase “non-denial denial”. Essentially a statement that looks like a denial, but nobody can quite pin down what exactly it means.
Back from Spain to continue his reign, Delaney lent some of his passionate intensity to an even more specialist area: the non-denial denial of an original denial.
“I now understand that while I was travelling and uncontactable there was some confusion through a third party around the background of a video which appeared and where it happened which led to misunderstanding.”
“The tougher it gets, the cooler I get,” promised Nixon, before he resigned. With no impeachment likely, the power of Delaney will be heating things up for a while yet.
Reflecting on the Hughes tragedy
The most shocking footage of a sporting death I’ve seen was of the young Indian footballer who, last month, misjudged a celebratory cartwheel having scored a goal and broke his neck.
I suppose it was the way joy became tragedy in an instant. As well as how unnecessary it was. How much regret their would have been, if he regained consciousness at all.
That’s why it somehow seems inappropriate to debate the laws of cricket in the days after Phillip Hughes’s passing.
If we are to say now, after this, that the bouncer must go, are we demeaning the bravery Hughes and every other first class batsman has shown at the crease?
Are we are more or less saying how unnecessary it was? That the nerve, agility and poise Hughes habitually showed must be a source of regret.
At a more respectful time, there will be things for cricket people to wrestle with. As they have wrestled with many times over the decades. A tactic designed to intimidate wouldn’t be tolerated in many non-combat sports.
Yet maybe it’s sewn too tightly into the fabric of the game to unravel. It would be an odd tribute to Hughes if his death changed the essence of the sport he loved.
HEROES & VILLAINS
Stairway to Heaven
Roy Keane: The hatchet is surely buried after Roy had the decency to step in and lead the news agenda away from his old FAI adversary.
Katie Taylor: There are quibbles about the depth of competition whenever her standing among Irish sporting greats is debated. But her constancy, her unwillingness to cede to the law of averages, must negate much of that.
Hell in a Handcart
Jose Mourinho: Even as he sweeps majestically all before him, there is always time for a mean, begrudging dig at a predecessor.
Real Madrid: In a move encapsulating a shift in football’s values, Real have removed the cross from their badge so it can be emblazoned on a new credit card issued by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
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