LARRY RYAN: Looking in the mirror for legends

Why are we all such legends? That is the poser we have to tackle this week. That is the six-marker.

The big question was put by a contributor to one of the Whatsapp groups where Ireland internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding and pals discussed their business. A forum where women were described as sluts and brassers to be pumped and roasted. Where one woman was likened to a merry-go-round at a carnival.

We must try to make sense of things for this legend. For all the legends.

Why? What is it that put him where he is today? What does he have to thank for his enormous sense of well-being? For the great superiority he enjoys?

Does he owe it all to the rugby? Is it that ‘schoolboy rugby attitude’ the complainant in the Belfast rape trial described?

Is it the right school, the
lifetime ticket into the inner circle? Is the good start half the battle, even for the legends?

We have heard it said in recent weeks that rugby — our new national game — has helped the country shake off its traditional inferiority complex. That the game has shown us we can all be legends.

It is a testosterone-heavy brand of superiority. Of fronting up, and manning up. Of unlimited reserves of courage. Of going to war. Of digging into the trenches. Of fixing your bayonet before the battle of the Somme. Of heroes not being born in peacetime. Of bravery that doesn’t build character, but reveals it.

And with the help of legends, rugby has become, according to former Ireland international Neil Francis, a game women can appreciate. A game they can speak about with impressive authority, considering they are women. And not legends.

There is a lot to work with there as we piece together some explanation to satisfy the wonderment of our legend at his fine situation.

And yet, before we could put too much of this horrible business down to rugby, we were knocked over by the toxic flood of bile in the wake of this trial’s verdict.

Notably the stuff from the Twitter accounts of an inter-county Gaelic footballer and a League of Ireland footballer, or somebody with access to his account. Stuff that brought swift condemnation from the teams they play for. But a timely reminder that the Gah and the soccer have legends too.

The torrents of misogyny from many many accounts, the ranting about tramps and sluts, the celebration of a famous victory for the lads, would be notable enough.

Until you consider that these legends thought it the most natural thing in the world to broadcast their thoughts on a public forum. In the style of men confident they were among like-minded people. As if shooting the breeze in the dressing room.

When you look at it like that, you fear we are dealing with what the gurus like to call ‘culture’. That magical intangible when your legends are on the same page.

And when we detect something along those lines, we must all take a look in the mirror.

What contributions have we made? What has been our tolerance for our old friend, the bantz, when it veers into dangerous areas? How guilty are we of equating physical prowess to integrity and character?

How ready are we to make legends out of schoolboys? To put the minor match centre stage while grown women are shunted off broadway.

Before this verdict landed, I’d been all set to jump in two-footed on that front, heralding the achievements of Ireland’s U17 footballers this week, and what these fine players might be able to do, down the line, about our traditional inferiority complex at the football, which seems to have stuck around.

Instead, you can hear elsewhere from their level-headed manager Colin O’Brien, who cautioned against building up young men too soon.

We should hold off on making them legends. And we might even take our national inferiority complex back, if being legends brings with it this entitlement and contempt.

Though we should probably consider too the role of the eight cans of Carlsberg, the four pints of Guinness, the two gins, the five vodka and lemonades and the three shots of tequila and sambuca in the making of legends.

That was the rough estimate of Stuart Olding’s intake on the night that the Belfast trial investigated.

We might find some answers there too, in terms of our traditional way of throwing off an inferiority complex. Another culture.

That is one culture the sports pages can’t take all the heat for. Though rugby does cling on gamely to its alcohol sponsorships.

We must look in the mirror, but the bigger fear is that we can’t solve the culture of contempt either on the sports pages.

We are surrounded by legends. In the music business with its bitches and hoes. Hollywood with its casting couch. Gaming culture with its bizarre sexism. Industry with its glass ceiling.

Ultimately, maybe all the trial that gripped the land gave us is a snapshot of the age-old double-standard at the root of a lot of the contempt.

We saw how it become the central pillar of a legal defence that a young woman must have been so desperately ashamed of this legendary night. A night the men involved bragged about. The kind of night that made them legends.


Lifestyle

Frits Potgieter is General Manager with Muckross Park Hotel and Spa.You've Been Served: Frits Potgieter, Muckross Park Hotel and Spa

More From The Irish Examiner