Around teatime last Sunday week a pal rang: “Well, what did you think?” He was referring to Cork-Tipperary, lately ended, and was clearly settling in for a long chat. I pointed out I was not only still working, but actually right in the middle .... “What, you’re still there? Still?” 

Explaining deadlines is tricky, mostly because of a tendency among people to guffaw at the notion what you’re doing is work at all, never mind convincing them about the seriousness of a looming cut-off for submission.

One size doesn’t fit all: a 4pm GAA game has a pretty forgiving deadline compared to an international soccer game which has drifted slightly beyond its intended evening conclusion due to injury time or an extended half-time.

Manageable as long as the game follows a predictable pattern, but . . . you may remember back in 2005, Ireland played France in a World Cup qualifier in Lansdowne Road and Thierry Henry struck late on for the decisive goal.

Drifting out of the stadium on the wind were the anguished cries of soccer hacks rejigging their reports from top to bottom: a last minute match-winner casts a retrospective shadow while also looming over medium-term conclusions to be drawn at the final whistle.

Time takes on a fluid quality when you’re up against the clock, as anyone who’s ever sat in a dentist’s chair will tell you. Seconds stretch to infinity, yet you can’t believe your last - absolutely last - chance to file is 20 minutes closer than it seemed a heartbeat ago.

You think to yourself objectively that 700 words, no bother, done in no time at all, how long would you be doing that - and yet quarter of an hour later you find yourself wondering if ‘inter county’ is acceptable in place of ‘intercounty’, putting you one word closer to your total.

And anyway, what’s the difference between 680 words and 700? 670? 650?

As for the all-time winners in the deadline wars . . . a few years ago I stumbled across a reference to John Updike’s magisterial farewell in the New Yorker magazine to baseball star Ted Williams (Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu) being composed “in a flash”, according to the magazine’s (current) editor, David Remnick.

Updike’s piece is magnificent, pure and simple, one of the greatest written on any sport (random highlight: the Boston-Williams relationship he divides into three stages, “Youth, Maturity, and Age; or Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis; or Jason, Achilles, and Nestor”).

And it was written on deadline?

Thanks, then, to Sheila O’Malley for pointing out the game Updike attended was played on September 28, 1960, and Updike’s piece ran the week of October 22, 1960.

You needn’t point out that if any of us mortals had had until October 22, 2060 we wouldn’t have come up with anything as good as Updike’s piece.

The take-away is that at least he didn’t file it directly from Fenway Park, lying to the office it’d be there “shortly”, batting away phone calls from friends who opened with a casual “well, what did you think?”

Celebrations in gridiron will no longer hit bum note

Fun and games in celebrating, part 402. The rulers of American football have handed down a decree on what exactly is appropriate in the immediate aftermath of scoring points in the NFL.

Making snow angels in the end zone to celebrate? Okay. Twerking and letting everyone focus on your backside? Not so much.

Before you sniff derisively and move on, consider this. The NFL is an organisation/sport that generates $14 billion in annual revenues but is not seeing its profits grow as fast as it would like. Hence a range of decisions taken recently to improve the game across the board: professional team owners have also voted to shorten over time in the context of games getting longer and longer — and more and more people switching those games off as a result.

A sport’s governing body moving proactively to change rules in order to improve the game’s image?

I’ll just leave that right here.

Oscar’s not so hidden agenda

It now looks more and more likely Conor McGregor will be taking on Floyd Mayweather in a fight, probably in Las Vegas, perhaps as early as this autumn. Your position on McGregor has fast become a litmus test of sorts, a human version of carbon dating. You out yourself age-wise as soon as you declare yourself a fan of the Dubliner or announce your bafflement at his rise to global stardom: down with the kids or harrumphing with the other grandpas.

I had to laugh, though, at an intervention last week by a former boxing superstar regarding McGregor-Mayweather.

Oscar De La Hoya, one of Mayweather’s old adversaries, all but pleaded for someone to think of the children in an open letter about this fight: “To my fellow boxing fans, I write in the hopes that together we can protect the sport of boxing . . . one group will eventually be left to make sure this farce doesn’t occur – we, the fans, who are the lifeblood of our sport ... Our sport might not ever recover.”

Fair point? Well, read on: “Now, I know critics will say I’m only writing this letter because my company is promoting what will be the culmination of an outstanding boxing year when Canelo Alvarez takes on Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin in September, and I don’t want anything to distract attention away from that fight . . .”

Ah relax, Oscar. I’m sure nobody thinks any such thing.

Terrific line-up for Croke Park Summer School

Kudos to the GAA Museum Summer School this year, which has a terrific programme based on the theme ‘sport and politics’.

Among the topics on offer: how the GAA suffered in the 1890s due to its support for Charles Stewart Parnell; the issues and divisions in Irish soccer that led to the establishment of two governing bodies in 1921; how the Irish republican movement has viewed sport since 1923, and the cultural trauma felt by the people of Liverpool in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy. A notable coup is the presence of Dr Harry Edwards, the US sociologist, who’ll speak on sport and racial segregation in the US: Edwards pioneered racial awareness and activism in US sport, going back to the late 60s in California, and remains a compelling presence to this day.

The terrific line-up also includes Katie Liston, Richard McElligott and Cormac Moore (more details here - https://crokepark.ie/summerschool) and it also offers a template for the new Pairc Ui Chaoimh to follow, maybe.

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