As the celebrities of the world stampede one way in cowardly dereliction of responsibility, the county men march heroically against them, their hands up for duty.
“She’s a role model, I’m not,” protests Rihanna, refusing to take the stage with Taylor Swift, at some shindig.
“I’m no role model,” abdicates rapper Iggy Azalea, a far cry from Fr Iggy Clarke.
“I would rather be an inspiration and not a role model,” weasels domestic abuse’s Chris Brown, taking the gain without the pain.
“No one truly wants to be a role model because that puts so much pressure on a person,” reasons reality’s Kendra, defending her pal Kim Kardashian’s habit of togging off for candid snaps.
In their reluctance to be role models, the celebs have long had sports stars as their role models.
It’s more than 20 years since Charles Barkley cashed in his qualms for a Nike ad. “I am not a role model. Parents should be role models. Just because I can dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
Ever since, any furore involving sporting heroes disgracing themselves invariably produces, from some quarter, the old saver: They didn’t ask to be role models.
Last year, Conor McGregor moved swiftly to intercept those parents about to implement a What Would Conor Do? programme of moral guidance in the home. “I don’t want to be anyone’s role model.”
Many children saved, perhaps, though among their elders sales of three-piece suits and beard wax soared regardless.
Now, however, we have a group of sportspeople not only prepared to guide us as best they can, but actively seeking official recognition of their standing as paragons.
The people who have survived The Sacrifices and The Demands of inter-county GAA are ready to go the extra mile and lead us by the hands to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
John Fogarty brought word in Thursday’s paper of the proposal: A letter sent by the Gaelic Players Association to the Department of Sport promising support for “key government policy objectives in the areas of road safety, obesity, and tourism.”
They offer: “At the core of this proposal is the use of the unique cultural attributes of Gaelic games and the iconic role models that its inter-county players represent to support the policy objectives referred to earlier.”
While the players’ motives are undoubtedly as noble as one might expect of iconic role models, a modest quid pro quo is suggested.
The “Framework Agreement would include two key pillars,” Dessie Farrell’s document grandly sets out, the first pillar being the steady supply of iconic role models, the other “a staged enhancement of financial support”.
Iconic role models with topped-up grants.
So, everyone a winner? A few quid for ‘indentured slaves’, to spend on brown rice and hardship. A domestic illuminati of lean, tourist-friendly, responsible road users the rest of us can imitate.
Without wishing to hinder in any way Dessie’s negotiations with government, recent studies have tended to play down the influence of sporting role models, self-appointed or otherwise.
A Sport Scotland analysis of the effectiveness of using sporting heroes to inspire more people into sport concluded that “no impacts have been robustly demonstrated”. Research by Sport England two years after the London Olympics found participation in sport had significantly dropped, contrary to hopes British success would ‘inspire a generation’.
But never mind what we are going to get out of the deal, of more concern is whether our putative guiding exemplars really know what Dessie is getting them into?
This was a week when the spokesperson for Gaelic football’s outstanding team complained bitterly about being subjected to the basic drug-testing procedures expected of athletes who could never dream of being elected as our moral guardians.
It was one when another footballer, whose hand somehow — let’s accept accidentally — made contact with the eye of an opponent during a recent exchange of ‘pleasantries’, expressed umbrage at media interest in the incident.
Are these lads really ready to set themselves up for the kind of intimate scrutiny even Kim Kardashian might be wary of?
And that’s just pitch-related intrusion. Can the relatively wide media berth given to off-field indiscretions hold if there are official icons to be held to account?
Excusing herself from active duty on the example-setting front, Rihanna put it like this: “I can’t really say I’m a role model. I’m not perfect. I’m not trying to sell that.”
That’s exactly what the GPA is trying to sell. But will the price be right?
Even great sages of the game can’t make sense of brave new world
World football seems to be in a period of adjustment. As we emerge from the tiki-taka years, when giving the ball away was a sin, the likes of Atletico Madrid and Leicester are now showing that gluttony for possession may be an even deadlier one.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect in the rise of the dispossessed is the zealotry with which the practitioners of this new football chase down the ball, even if they have no plans to keep it for very long.
The Savage Hunger, we know this as, in the GAA.
It first became noticeable during the 2014 World Cup, that there were teams out there playing the game at completely different speeds.
It is at times of great flux like this that we look to the deep thinkers to make sense of things, men like Paul Merson. Last Saturday, Merse turned his attention to the psychology of personal motivation. Where does this interest in running around come from?
Disputing Jeff Stelling’s assertion that Swansea had packed up for the season, and wouldn’t trouble Leicester, Merse pointed out that this game was live on Super Sunday. “Just watch, when they come out… they’ll have all got their hair done. They’ll have a line there and it’ll all be gelled. It’s live. You telling me it don’t make a difference that it’s on the telly, Jeff. Swansea will not lie down.”
You don’t even have to recall the days when Merse would emerge with a new barnet — a perm, perhaps — for a live game to know there was something in the theory. Don’t we all instinctively trust our team to produce that little bit more after the ‘And It’s Live’ build-up? And yet, the Swans went out and folded their tents within half an hour.
Maybe you could put it down to every game being live these days, somewhere in the world. Or is just that there are no certainties any more?
Heroes and Villains
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
The Hillsborough families:
Wouldn’t be denied by the might of establishment.
HELL IN A HANDCART
In their great hunger for bottle and defensive stability, the Arsenal fans are clamouring for a man who organised a football to be thrown onto the pitch to break up an opposition attack. But if you tolerate this, then Mourinho will be next.
Understandably struggling to compute a scenario where Kerry are half decent at hurling and competing in Leinster, they broadcast a match preview from four years ago when at least some things made sense.
There comes a day when every man must accept that his trousers have become too small for him.
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