MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Games we play aren’t just the obvious ones

Given the noses in the southwest which were put out of joint last Friday by Conor McCarthy’s piece in these pages, should we start with off-field competition?

McCarthy made the simple point last week that good teams in any sport seek to maximise their relationship with the referee, which seems more statement of fact than incendiary insult; we won’t get into the odd contradiction wherein people from a county priding itself on its cuteness get the hump when someone refers to its . . . cuteness.

Anyway, there are all sorts of other competitions which rumble along in the background of every championship summer, some of which don’t appear too closely connected to the sweeper system in hurling or long-range point-taking in Gaelic football.

Example one would refer to the county which recently put one of the main championship sponsors on notice about using its jerseys in promotions — more precisely, the county’s unhappiness with its association in those promotions with an organisation that does not sponsor its teams and actitivies.

Example two might include the All-Ireland contenders which have sought out polo shirts for their teams which have specific collar styles with their sponsors’ names on them. The reason? To make sure that any head-shot photographs or post-game TV interviews with close-in camerawork include those sponsors’ names.

The amount of small-arms fire deployed by and on behalf of sponsors is surprising, because one would presume that when deals are signed that most eventualities are covered, but apparently not.

The (relatively) high number of competition sponsors and team sponsors shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, particularly as other sports routinely have a suite of sponsors.

That doesn’t mean it all goes smoothly all the time, of course. I note that earlier this week one Formula One boss, Federico Gastaldi of Lotus, said: “We also need to be more open to help sponsors to understand how they can get return on investment and help the media improve the show for the viewers. And we need to be more generous with our time, including the drivers, to make it more accessible. I understand their job is stressful but it is good if we can find a way for them to be more available to fans. It is about educating the people.”

If those are views held in one of the most relentlessly monetised sport in the world, perhaps the GAA should have someone whose specific brief it is to smooth the relationships between county boards, sponsors, media and broadcasters, not to mention the individuals whose intellectual property rights are so important to the entire process.

That isn’t the beginning and end of the commercial reality, of course. Take the Munster final replay on Saturday. The merchants of Killarney were no doubt delighted with another big attendance in the town for the rematch, an unscheduled boost to the coffers with another one coming next year as Pairc Ui Chaoimh is refurbished.

Their equivalents in Cork will no doubt be looking forward to the following three years when those clashes between red and white and green and gold are played on Leeside.

A worthwhile dip into a work of genius on swimming

A week collecting someone from a swimming camp means an excuse to once again mention one of the greatest sports books of all time — Charles Sprawson’s study of the history and practice of swimming, Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer As Hero.

This is one of those books which is both all about sport and yet only tangentially attached to its subject. What other sports book namechecks Byron, Flaubert, Gide, Hugo, George Borrow, Stevenson, Coleridge, Swinburne, Rupert Brooke, DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, Walt Whitman, F Scott Fitzgerald and Yukio Mishima?

I hesitate to use the word ‘sprawl’, so we’ll go with meander to describe the way Sprawson backstrokes lazily from era to era, from swimmer to swimmer, from pool to ocean. Everywhere there are nuggets: “Almost all the [Roman] emperors built baths. Diocletian’s were built by Christians over seven years. Those that were still Christian on its completion were put to death.”

A few pages before: “In the middle of the Russian winter, Alexander Pushkin would rise early, run down to the river, break the ice with his fist and plunge into the freezing water.” If you’re going on holidays soon and expect to take a dip, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.

Sporty diplomat for One Day

Well, we’ve mentioned a couple of books already, why stop now... I recently picked up a book by Steve Kettman, called One Day At Fenway, which tracks the players, coaches, executives and fans attending an MLB game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

(Yes, I did think there might possibly be a transferable idea there — One Day At Semple? One Day At The Aviva?) Clearly Kettman couldn’t be in everyone’s pocket during the proceedings, so at the back of the book there’s a lengthy list of acknowledgements to those who did the legwork for him with the dramatis personae — such-and-such spoke to this executive, such-and-such spent the game with this coach.

George Mitchell, of Northern Ireland peace talks fame, was one of those attending the game — before he had to head to Belfast, as a matter of fact — and I was intrigued to see that the person who got Mitchell’s impressions of the game was Samantha Power, who is now the US ambassador to the United Nations. It’s no surprise that Power — who was born in Ireland and got married in Kerry a few years back — is interested in sport (she used to play basketball with George Clooney while discussing issues in Sudan, for instance).

What surprised me was that she’d give her time to this project, or have that time to spare in the first place, maybe. Which led me to surmise a) what Irish politician/diplomat would do the same, and b) what politician/diplomat you’d want to do so?

Numbers add up in Barca president race

Department of small things that you’d notice: the ever-excellent Sid Lowe wrote a very interesting piece in Saturday’s Guardian about the presidential elections at FC Barcelona, a full-blown political campaign to sway the thousands of club members who vote in such elections.

What caught my eye was the price of accessing the club’s database of mobile numbers for text-canvassing - a cool €8,000 for those running for the top job.

Mas que un club is right.

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