Monkeys, it turns out, have a highly developed understanding of the concept of fairness, writes Tommy Martin.
In one study, scientists trained capuchin monkeys to hand over a pebble in exchange for a slice of cucumber.
When one monkey was instead given a grape (capuchin monkeys love grapes, apparently) the rest went berserk, hopping up and down and chucking their slices of cucumber at the boffins, preferring to go hungry rather than partake in this fiasco.
The conclusion was that the ability to perceive unfairness is not some sort of sophisticated human trait, but rather a part of evolutionary hard-wiring even our primate cousins share.
So, complaints about the inequities of the new hurling structures are, as our hairier relatives have shown, only natural.
However, the fact that some counties have been stuck with cucumber when others munch on juicy grapes has been pretty much the only sticking point with the new championship system.
Is it fair that Leinster has relegation and Munster pretty much doesn’t? Is it fair that some counties have to play four games in four weeks and some don’t? Is it fair that everyone gets two home games except Waterford?
Clearly not, but once the cucumber has stopped flying, it’s fair to say that, fairness aside, the monkeys are actually pretty happy with their lot.
It doesn’t take much to get hurling folk excited at this time of year.
In summer, their normal smug satisfaction at the splendour of their beloved game develops into a sort of religious ecstasy, each championship weekend undeniable proof of the righteousness of their beliefs, but this year is almost too much.
The past four weekends have been an orgy of the small ball, a hurling bacchanal, an all-day bender turned early morning lock-in.
“This hurling championship just has me pumped,” wrote Anthony Daly in these pages on Monday last.
“I just can’t get enough of it,” he twitched, presumably in a cold sweat, Class A championship action still coursing through his veins.
So, with hurling people at an excitement level best described as ‘Five-Year-Old Birthday Party With Extra Sherbet Dip Dabs,’ where does that leave the football side of the house?
Flicking through this paper’s sports supplement on Monday, it felt as if we were talking about two different sports.
I mean, clearly we are talking about two different sports, but there was a sense that hurling is having a completely different conversation with itself compared to football right now.
They are like two school friends, one of whom has gone to university and returned wearing a scarf and quoting Kierkegaard; the other is still, like, just hanging out, getting pissed and stuff.
The new hurling structures have provoked all manner of vivid discussion. The intense period of action has put us up close and personal with the teams involved, and the familiarity has yielded endless fascination.
There’s so much that’s new and interesting to talk about.
How are these guys recovering after games? Who is learning most about themselves and others and is that tactical gold a more valuable currency than old-fashioned emotional heft?
Can Waterford’s luck turn? Can Tipperary, the lion in winter, raise themselves for another battle? Has the fickle schedule set up Clare nicely for the final group games?
Are Cork and Limerick justifiably top of the Munster pile? Could relegation actually turn out to be the best thing for Offaly? Do Wexford and Kilkenny really want to face Galway in a Leinster final?
Does anybody really want to face Galway anytime?
Turn the page to the football and it feels like the same old story.
Not that it’s been a particularly bad football championship so far: #CarlowRising, the rest of the Leinster upstarts and Fermanagh have made things interesting.
How good are the Kerry kids and will Galway leave the shackles off? Is there a handy Ulster title there for Donegal or will there be redemption for Rory Gallagher?
However, none of these themes are as new and interesting as what is happening in hurling and many of football’s conversations are pretty stale and well-rehearsed.
Is Gaelic football dead... again? What is the point of the one-sided provincial hammerings inflicted by Kerry, Galway and Dublin? Why do The Sunday Game panellists dress up like 1970s game show hosts?
To use the analogy of Bob Dylan abandoning the folk music scene: Hurling has gone electric, while football still thrums away on a banjo singing protest songs.
In this paper’s championship preview supplement, I wrote that this summer’s changes would stress test the GAA to an unprecedented degree and, right now, the pressure points are showing in the hurling championships.
If you want to see the exact point where the GAA’s future is fracturing with its past, look in the face of the umpire who awarded Tipperary’s ghost goal on Sunday.
Should referees be allowed to appoint their pals as umpires or is it time for a national panel for the men in white coats? Whither goal-line technology? Mistakes happen, but these days can they be allowed to?
Standards rise, elitism rules and natural selection takes hold. There has been sympathy for Offaly, but it has been brief and businesslike: it’s a shame, but shape up or ship out.
The scheduling of fixtures may be unfair, but has resulted in quite literally, a survival of the fittest.
In fact, the only area that football gets a look in is in criticism of inadequate TV coverage, and that is because TV, besotted with the compelling hurling, has been pretty much ignoring football altogether.
However, while the football folk are flinging their measly cucumbers at the unfairness of it all right now, they can be consoled with the knowledge that all will surely change come July and the Super 8s.
Football’s time in the sun will come and they, or at least those counties lucky enough to make it that far, will get to enjoy the shock of new that is electrifying hurling right now.
Also, the good news for football fans and monkeys alike, is that the evolution will be televised.
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