Every year, it happens. You hear comments spewed out without correction or clarification, and pretty soon they calcify into cliche.
“Sure Dublin are only waiting to collect the trophy.”
“That lad Munster signed was going to play for the Springboks.”
“How did Chief Hopper get into the secret lab so easily in Stranger Things anyway?”
(Re the last question: it was the 80s, man.)
I detected a few flat statements of fact, though, recently, that need addressing.
And none of them have anything to do with Netflix.
“It’ll all be fine when the Olympics starts.”
It will in my backside. The ongoing Russian mess is only one aspect of an Olympic Games at war with itself, and the taint of corruption and incompetence is seeping backwards as well as forwards in time, given the drip-feed of revelation about drugs tests in previous games.
The retrospective glow thrown over the London Games by the media across the water can’t quite hide the growing distrust of results from those Olympics.
As for Rio, the displacement and general mistreatment of the have-nots in the Brazilian city reduce one’s sympathy for the organisers.
But then any crowd of chancers who decide to name the main Olympic stadium after Joao Havelange deserve everything they get.
“The hurling is terrible this year.”
We could finesse this one a little, because the hurling was terrible last year as well, which means 2016 is more confirmation than outlier. The sterility of the encounters was thrown into sharp relief by the Munster U21 final last Wednesday, which was a treat of spontaneity and openness. Is there a causal link between abbreviated preparation time and the quality of the fare? Perhaps. Should we go back to straight knockout? Unlikely. Is this a phase or the future? The former.
“Sure it’s gone like the football, it’s desperate.”
With reference to this, cast an eye back to the hurling question, where one element we omitted was the grumbling about systems. Severe defensive structures in hurling have been a little slower in embedding, or perhaps a little slower to be recognised, but the defensive template is a starting point in Gaelic football.
Unlike hurling, however, where defending in numbers was motivated by confrontation with an all-conquering Kilkenny side, the deep-lying alignment in Gaelic football comes as an initiative with a Donegal stamp. The romance of Tyrconnell sweeping down from the north-west to carry off Sam overshadowed the underlying system, but its legacy is reminiscent of Flaubert’s comments on the artist’s influence on his or her own work: present everywhere but nowhere visible. Here the worry is that this is the new dispensation, not a phase.
“And the Premier League isn’t far away.”
Thanks a mil, I just got a little sick in my mouth.
Time to take nationality question out of Olympics
Before leaving the Olympics, a thought: is it really appropriate to have national teams participating in this competition anymore?
It’s been around since Hitler used the Olympics to push his political agenda in 1936, through the abuse through steroids of East German athletes to serve the communist cause. Nowadays you have state-sanctioned doping in Russia and dozens of athletes sailing under flags of convenience to maximise their chances of participation and earning power. Don’t start on the athletes representing questionable or oppressive regimes; we’ll never finish.
The complaints from athletes earlier this year about some of their competitors representing countries to which they have no allegiance have real substance, and push one to the obvious conclusion: why even have national teams when allowing individual sportspeople to operate as sole traders isn’t just the way of the future, but is already here?
Glitch hits FA’s gamble on Sam
Interesting to see the canonisation of Sam Allardyce as England manager hitting an unexpected speed bump.
Allardyce’s links to a betting company appear to be causing some dyspepsia among delicate tummies in the FA: in short, the game’s governing body in England is to discuss the appropriateness of Allardyce being a brand ambassador for My Club Betting, which creates betting websites for clubs that divert 20% of the net revenues back to that club.
Anyway. It’s an odd one for this observer. If gambling is inherently flawed, an activity which can induce susceptible people to get into financial problems, surely there should be no association between sportspeople and gambling industry?
Yet Gambling is also a legal business which is conducted openly, or as openly as anything can be in an era when you can conduct your entire life with a phone in your pocket. It’s not like big Sam is shilling for the Medellin cartel, after all.
Is the question whether a prominent sportsman should be associated with a potentially damaging activity or whether engaging in a legal activity something a prominent sportsman should be punished for? It’s hard to find an answer when you can’t settle on the question. The nuance one might miss here is the normalisation of gambling as an activity: the TV commercials which depict gambling as a harmless bit of craic, the gambling companies’ sponsorship of sporting coverage, the constant references to the odds... It’s striking, then, that there should be any question of the appropriateness of Allardyce’s connection to the gambling industry.
Whether it’s a last flick of conscience before the deluge — the kind of question we’ll be scratching our heads about in 10 years — is hard to work out. After all, there was a time cigarette companies sponsored excellence in sport and, contrary to the then social norms, that changed too.
Des master of freezing snapshots for all time
A word of appreciation for Des Barry, Irish Examiner photographer extraordinaire, who retires soon. Des is one of the legends of news and sport photography. One of his favourite gigs is the Sciath na Scoil finals, because it shows the true face of sport: kids having fun. I once spent a few minutes in a cryotherapy chamber for a story. I emerged from minus-140 degrees, colder than I’d ever been, to see Des struggling with a lens: “Mike, I missed you there. Could you go back in for a minute?”
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