There’s been a sharp reaction to some of the commentary on the Olympic Games in Rio, and I don’t mean the astonishment that people from Skibbereen speak like people... from Skibbereen.
I refer to some hopeless discussion of female athletes, with fertility, appearance, and spouses ranking high as points of reference.
Consider how many female Olympians are described as mothers, and how many male Olympians, Michael Phelps apart, who are described as fathers. (Seriously: Anyone else suffering from Boomer fatigue?)
We decided to report men’s sports the way some women’s sports have been reported. Exaggerated? We’ve helpfully included the real-life counterpart of our fictional suggestion...
The track and field events in the Olympics began Friday, and Irish eyes will be on several high-profile participants.
The Irish athlete who is married to athletics coach Marian Heffernan is expected to contend for medals when the walking begins.
Rob, a lithe 38, is the father of two kids and a veteran of several major tournaments (Chicago Tribune: ‘Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal in Rio Olympics today”).
Marian is an ambassador for the An Post Cycling Series; she competed in the women’s 4 x 400m relay in the 2012 Olympics and is fifth in the Irish record books for the women’s 400m.
With Annalise Murphy doing so well in the sailing, spare a thought for the husband of well-known athlete and Irish Examiner columnist Derval O’Rourke. O’Rourke’s spouse, a dark-haired father of one, sailed in recent Olympic Games but his sailing class was abolished from the Rio event.
Peter O’Leary tried to qualify for a lighter weight class but couldn’t make the weight. O’Rourke won gold in the 60m dash at the 2006 World Indoor championships in Moscow and recently published a cookery book. (After swimmer Katinka Hosszu broke the world record this week in Rio, CBS commentators said of her husband, ‘There’s the man responsible’.)
The Irish men’s hockey team had a tough outing earlier this week against one of the top sides in the competition, the Dutch.
Irish defender Conor Harte picked up a hip injury in that game and as he lay injured, his teammates flocked around him as though discussing where to go for pints after the match, (An NBC commentator on the American female gymnastics team: ‘They might as well be standing in the mall’).
Broadening scope, many observers will be disappointed to see the back of Michael Phelps after the US swimmer departs these Games with a sackful of gold medals once again, though truly he can be described as the Simone Biles of swimming. (Biles, the break-out American gymnastic star, was described by People magazine as the ‘Michael Jordan of athletics.)
In fairness, though, to this observer’s knowledge he has not been accused as yet of swimming like a woman (NBC’s Rowdy Gaines on gold medallist Katie Ledecky: ‘A lot of people say she swims like a man — she doesn’t swim like a man! She swims like Katie Ledecky!’)
The good news continues with the recovery of Dutch cyclist Annemiek Van Vleuten after a crash in which she was concussed and picked up three cracks in her spine. Hopefully she’ll pay due attention to the helpful advice being given to her on social media. (Twitter user to Van Vleuten: ‘First lesson in bicycling, keep your bike steady’.)
Finally, in the interests of balance, you may have been tracking the progress of men’s gymnasts such as Manrique Larduet, in which case a headline run by Slate may have caught your eye: ‘US male Olympic gymnasts want to compete topless: We say yes.’
Only four more years to the next instalment.
Time to tackle on-field incursions
Another day, another match, another stream of people running onto the field ...
Seriously, when will top end Gaelic games be regulated properly? All-Ireland semi-finals this weekend, next weekend, last weekend, yet along each sideline people meander in and out of dug-outs, up and down from chairs, in and out of the playing area.
The notion that individuals ‘must’ or ‘need’ to be on the sideline is a fallacy, pure and simple. Apart from being unsightly, it doesn’t aid the cause of match officials when they’re trying to keep order on skimpily policed sidelines to have this as a bad example in Croke Park.
One man and one man only should be allowed in a small area akin to a soccer manager’s technical area; if you accept the red and yellow cards as an idea worth nicking, nick this one.
As for the plaintive cry of ‘they need water’ - there’s no need to have someone legging it around the field with litre bottles under his arm.
In the marathon or the Tour de France there are feeding stations along the route; would it be so difficult to have a table at each of the four corners of the field, and a yellow card if you knocked your opponents’ water off it?
Wilson flying with Argentina’s angels
Only the other day someone asked me about getting something decent to read, so...
Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting The Pyramid is easily the best game about soccer I’ve ever read, a treatise on tactics that’s worth a hundred dismal ‘autobiographies’.
Now Wilson has turned his considerable powers to one country and its obsession with the game: Angels With Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina.
Note the subtitle. It’s a history of Argentina as reflected in the sport, and how life in Argentina has been reflected in the sport. Within a few pages of the start the references to movies like The Secret In Their Eyes and writers like Borges start to mount up.
This is the kind of book you don’t see too often, an attempt to use a broad canvas and to include detail far beyond team sheets and scorelines. It’s too early for this reader as yet to say it’s all a success — Juan Peron was only just arrested — but that’s beside the point.
Conceiving of and writing a book like this is an achievement in and of itself.
Silver lining for People’s Republic
Congrats to the O’Donovan brothers of Skibbereen on their silver medal at the Olympics.
Their particular mix of savage competitiveness and unstudied calmness had already made them cult heroes, and the Hairy Baby t-shirt can’t be far away (though the demise of Father Ted means, unfortunately, they won’t achieve that rarefied status of being mentioned in the cult sitcom; their predecessor Sean Drea was, though).
There was a rush to point out that the brothers’ achievement meant that Cork now led the rest of the country on the medals table: precisely the kind of cheap crack that this column would never stoop to.
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