The gold-medal standard for finding the alternative view of an event suffering media overload remains Jimmy Breslin at the funeral of John Fitzgerald Kennedy 50 years ago.
With a thousand reporters wringing emotion from their typewriters, Breslin shadowed the man charged with digging the grave of the assassinated President.
Options for yesterday’s press conference from Roy Keane, then?
A word with the chair that cradled the Keane hindquarters (“Roy’s put on a couple of pounds,” nodded the red plastic foldable, “But he’s still as fit as when he squirmed around on top of me all those pressers long ago.”)
An exclusive with the microphones charged with conveying the Keane voice? We’ll stay with the substance. The man who fielded questions yesterday is sufficient in himself to launch a thousand opinions.
For instance, if you were minded to get all Tom Wolfe about it, maybe the principal impression the Corkman gave — admitting to past mistakes, playing down his career as a manager — was offering the nation a mirror to itself. Don’t roll your eyes.
The man in front of the cameras yesterday offered a fair echo of the good old bad old mad old days, the days of going to New York because the jeans were cheaper, that time when everyone thought that Bulgaria, not Budapest, was the optimum place to buy your holiday home.
Now, battered by a couple of sessions in management, Keane was back with us. Older and wiser, with a fleck of grey or two on the temples, though the eyebrows remain set at intimidating.
He said he’d learned, he was in a new environment, he wouldn’t be making the same mistakes.
He was different, and we were different, and the obvious inference that we’d all move on together having taken our lessons on board; It was like listening to Michael Noonan speaking in a Mayfield-Manchester voice.
(The other odd thing about listening to Keane yesterday was hearing the Gift Grub echoes in his comments. Having lived for so long in a devastating imitation, Keane’s voice sometimes merges with his imitator’s; if you closed your eyes you wondered if a punchline was coming, and you were surprised when it didn’t. Of course, then you opened your eyes and saw it was all for real, right down to the slight cracking of the voice in disbelief at some questions).
Which is not to say we moved far above the standard-issue cliches. We had your Germanys and your Swedens “of this world“, your standards and your name-of-the-games; the obligatory nicknames (“Robbie . . . Sheasy . . ”) popped up. Those in the market for the volcano to erupt saw the lava bubble once or twice, but nothing more than that.
One journalist drew a sting — “That’s a ridiculous question,” said Keane, but it was delivered with a smile, and you could tell that the journalist’s chest swelled as he anticipated the hearty banter of his newsroom the following day. The new number two could even poke fun at Saipan; asked about the last couple of days, Keane said they’d had footballs, bibs: “Major progress.”
Not many sports figures come from a hinterland where they can drop names and references which bounce and echo back through his back catalogue, or who can influence the national mood to the extent Keane does; if you want an example, as soon as TV3 cut away from his press conference the restaurant critic Paulo Tullio was co-opting Keane’s Mother Teresa reference.
Expect a few more outings for the comparison today.
It’s begun, and there’s something in it for everybody. You don’t need Jimmy Breslin to tell you that the fun is only beginning.
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