Enjoying a new book from Anna Kessel at the moment, Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives, which examines, broadly speaking, how women can reclaim sport. As a sample, take this for a chapter title — What does a woman’s voice in sport sound like? (And when can we stop pretending to be blokes?)
Granted, on a scale of one to 10 for snappiness I’ve seen pithier, but I’ll return to this once I speak to the author in the coming days.
I see you rolling your eyes from here, by the way. Having written more than once about vaguely related matters, women in sport or female coaches or rancid sexism, I see the reaction always coming along recognised lines.
Often that response is, ‘you know, I read the sports pages for a bit of relief from the real stuff’, or words to that effect.
I recognise that impulse because I subscribe to it myself the odd time, but overdoing your commitment to escapism comes with a cost. It means you’re not equipped to deal with challenges to wilful ignorance, which tend to resemble volcanic eruptions rather than the ultimate and inevitable consequences of that ignorance.
(And please, no outraged e-mails from geologists pointing out that in fact volcanic eruptions are the ultimate and inevitable etc., etc.)
You needn’t look very far at all for a viable, recent case study: last weekend a referee was the subject of homophobic abuse at a Gaelic football game.
It wasn’t just any Gaelic football game, either, it was Dublin versus Kerry, which was played out in front of a packed Croke Park and, in its television incarnation, was probably one of the most-watched TV shows of the entire year. As David Gough left the field after the game, he appeared to have bottles thrown at him; he was also allegedly abused about his sexuality by supporters dissatisfied with his performance.
There has been a remarkable lack of attention paid to this aspect of last Sunday week’s proceedings. The focus has been on whether Gough got certain calls right or wrong, and what effect those calls had on the outcome, and how he saw those incidents. That’s just in the media where people put their name to their views.
In the wilder reaches of the internet, a good deal of detective work appears to have been put into working out Gough’s workplace, or his local club, or whether those matters have the potential to influence his...
Right. Because that’s the story.
For one thing, the calls Gough made or didn’t make aren’t the point. Not in the same townland as the point; not even in the same county, whatever county that was.
The point is the utter silence about the fact that Gough had people roaring homophobic abuse down at him at one of the biggest days of the GAA calendar.
Silence from the media, silence from the GAA itself, silence from the referees’ body.
If the GAA as an organisation is serious about being a body that is open and welcoming to all people, it should have come out strongly in support of Gough within 24 hours of the final whistle yesterday week. Likewise, if a county board wishes to attract participants from everywhere, it should distance itself from any abuse by people purporting to follow its team.
When you decide to unplug your political consciousness as soon as you turn to these pages, then such developments come as a surprise. That’s why you should maintain the healthy scepticism you usually reserve for other sections of the newspaper. It’ll serve you equally well in this neighbourhood.
Keane deserves the plaudits for epic journey
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