LARRY RYAN: Falling into the generation gap

You are always sent a sign. Mind the generation gap. And I’ve had two recently, writes Larry Ryan.

Whenever football threatens to spill over, the insults shipped have remained comfortably consistent over the years.

“Lanky ****.” “Shit ****.”

Until this week, when a tense top-v-bottom six-a-side produced this Wildean variant from a youthful combatant.

“Old ****.”

Ouch.

In truth, that writing was on the wall since the gaffer demanded an update of the picture at the top of this page, insisting the previous one was a touch nostalgic.

In any case, you are always sent a sign. Mind the generation gap. And I’ve had two recently.

Snapchat. Young Eoghan Cormican tried his level best but it’s not sticking, the way Facebook and Twitter made sense. So far off the pace I’ve fallen on this one, I only copped the Buff Egan phenomenon a fortnight ago.

And there’s McGregor. Many writers have waded in recently, expressing pure bafflement at the mindless festival of banality we are being treated to in the ‘build-up’ to this farrago with Mayweather. Two buffoons indulging in witless unpleasantries for a travelling circus to a cacophony of punditry earnestly analysing who landed the cleanest insult. Who got under whose skin.

No doubt Conor has kept ‘old ****’ in his locker for the big night.

Bafflement is all I can muster too. But when all you can offer is bafflement, maybe it’s best to stay clear altogether.

You’re not going to detect what it is that makes McGregor a seemingly magnetic figure to a generation, a pied piper drawing them to bling and beard wax.

You won’t get a sense of what itch he is scratching. What scab he is picking off safe, establishment, PR-conscious, insurance company-sponsored, globalised sport.

You’ll just feel a bit older.

Evidently, Pablo Aimar is feeling much the same way. That’s what taking over as Argentina U17 coach will do to you.

“We are the last generation that enjoys watching whole matches,” the former Valencia trickster observed this week. “Nowadays, people are more used to what’s brief, short-lived. People are now accustomed to highlights; to watch on their cellphones goals from every football league.”

Old as he is, maybe Pablo is too young to recall when highlights were all we had. But his unease also captures a certain confusion at large. A feeling that a shake-up is coming. That everything is up for grabs again.

A sense even that sport is slipping through the fingers of the broadcasting giants, much like music did with the record companies.

We get it too from the vague air of panic at Sky, where they appear to be constantly renumbering and rebranding the sports channels. Rearranging the deckchairs maybe.

Like Aimar, we are wistful for simpler times, when you pressed 401 and watched the blessed match.

We note tumbling ratings all over and we see various sports taking different punts.

Falling into the generation gap

Cricket has fallen back into the embrace of the BBC, to be on more television sets. The PGA of America has made the same call, for the season’s final major, sacking off Sky for terrestrial TV in search of “broad distribution”.

Rugby’s Champions Cup has picked one horse — BT Sport over Sky — rather than ask viewers continue to straddle both, or dismount altogether.

But at the (British) Open this week, Royal & Ancient chief Martin Slumbers backed the event’s switch to Sky, saying BBC coverage had grown “tired and outdated”. Old.

Wide awake Slumbers also insisted the R&A had “an absolute policy on encouraging under-25s to come here to The Open.”

We instinctively know that a sport which talks about encouraging the under-25s has already lost the under-25s. And we instinctively know that a man who talks about targeting the under-25s is not being heard by the under-25s.

But Slumbers has a decent grip of where things stand, in so far as he is baffled.

“I think the world of TV has changed and is going to change even more. And I don’t know exactly where it’s going.”

The rapid pace of change makes those barneying constantly about whether GAA should be shown on Sky Sports or free to air on RTÉ sound a bit old.

They will tell you the future of hurling and football is at stake and maybe they are right. But the future is unlikely to be won or lost on the choice between RTÉ and Sky.

The mysterious under-25s will watch on their phones regardless, legally or otherwise, if they want to watch. Or at least they will consume the sports in clips and talking points and controvassy and flashpoints flung around the internet.

Many of them won’t watch at all, drawn instead to a pair of shapers roaring insults at one another in a vision of hell where they don’t need to talk about attracting the under-25s.

An event, remember, where the eventual fight costs up to 100 bucks to watch. Officially anyway.

So the link between growth of a sport and its broadcast pricing structure looks tenuous enough. In this disintegrating marketplace all those price elasticity models we learnt about in economics look a bit stretched. A bit old.

And then there’s Buff. A man who exists nowhere in the firmament of traditional GAA media, as George Hamilton might put it.

Yet, suddenly everyone knows him. He’s more recognisable than most hurlers. He has ‘broad distribution’.

Somehow Buff — with a few catchphrases and Snapchat updates and a bit of the old bantz — has unlocked the portal to the under-25s all the big guns covet.

Drink that in, maaaan!


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