LARRY RYAN: Pat Hickey farce a big deal but sorry tale was no Saipan

Paul Brady is often referred to as a musician’s musician, the implication being that his work is better appreciated within the trade than among those who take their music off the car radio. The Pat Hickey business last Wednesday had that feel.

On the sports desks and in the newsrooms, it was talked of as another Saipan. The heavy hitters filled pages of detail and comment. And across social media, journos could produce the writs they’ve accumulated, in chase of Pat, as badges of honour.

Sure it was big. An Irishman arrested in the nip during a world event. It taps in, fundamentally, to our traditional fascination with one of our own being made an absolute show of.

But of course it was no Saipan.

The first telltale was the raft of ‘Who is Pat Hickey’ profiles. Those weren’t needed for Roy. Or Mick. No emotional investment was being squandered here. And there was not much division of opinion.

Crucially, too, a certain shock factor was missing. We are hardwired not to expect a lot of our ‘blazers’, except maybe an ability to at least keep them on.

In the organs that revel in national disgrace, we were told the episode shamed us all, that we were a laughing stock.

But Richie McCormack of Newstalk probably put it best when he described, from Rio, the local view of the OCI boss: “A figure of high sporting office first and an Irishman distant second.”

It’s probably how Pat would see it himself, judging by his regard for the state’s offices and representatives, over the years.

And as the perks of a first-class lifestyle were pored over, this time nobody would try to convince us that we all partied.

No, we could lay off the flagellation on this one and taste the irony.

Chiefly, that someone inside the Olympic rings would run into strife over tickets, of all things, at a Games where the venues are half empty.

Sonia too, 20 years on from the indignity she was subjected to, might see, if she was that way inclined, some irony in Hickey being, as Paul Rouse aptly put it, undressed by farce. But no Saipan.

The Olympics had a stab at a Saint Denis, alright, in the Michael Conlan affair. If there is anything that interests us more than one of our being made a show of, it’s one of our own being done down.

But this indignation lacked a certain momentum.

When Thierry pushed our buttons, we probably hadn’t enough people to shrug and say ‘that’s football.’ But long before the AIBA expelled some referees and judges who might well have pushed a few wrong buttons, many shook their heads and said ‘that’s boxing’.

The ring, no different to any of the Olympic rings, is a place you swim with sharks.

Still, the Games, as it somehow always manages, hung in there.

Now and again, the cynicism would lift. Damp lino peeling off polished marble underneath.

We took great interest in the volume of Oliver Dingley’s splashes. The courage of Kieran Behan, in life and competition, was truly a challenge to us all.

Who knew we had a Ronaldo hidden away in our badminton halls? A showman, imprisoned by disinterest, longing for a stage.

Who cares if the O’Donovans milked the schteak schtick? In the po-faced sporting landscape, where we must always talk graveley of ‘the process’, it was marvellous to see lads, who had taken care of the process in minute detail, not take themselves too seriously. And just pulling hard.

Ordinarily, many of us might find it hard to get too worked up about the exploits of our sailors. But there was a worthy parable to admire in Annalise Murphy’s rebound from disappointment four years ago.

None of it will likely bring many closer to those minority interests. But it should fuel our disgruntlement that their rare spotlight is being dimmed.

Maybe Thomas Barr will coax a few more into spikes. In his epic surges for the line, many will have reconnected with athletics for the first time in an age, the Chariots of Fire music swelling in their heads.

Perhaps the loveliest moment of the Games came after the final, in RTÉ, as proud sister Jessie fought through the tears and agonised over where the five-hundredths of a second might have come from, to lift him onto that podium.

“I wish he would cut off all those smelly wristbands, literally a weight on his wrist.”

You couldn’t but wish every discussion of marginal gains had the levity of a sister’s teasing.

Alas, the reality is that, stripped of emotional investment, elsewhere in the world they will look at Thomas Barr’s dramatic improvements, and all they will do is wonder.

That is a what the IOC has done to undermine its own showpiece. Partly why the Olympics is no longer the hottest show in town, no matter how ‘hot’ the tickets turn out to be. But hey, don’t listen to me. This wasn’t meant to be no sad song.

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