An insight into my definition of hell on earth

Much obliged to the pal who boosted my spirits during the week.

An insight into my definition of hell on earth

Much obliged to the pal who boosted my spirits during the week.

“Sure the inter-county season is over, you’re laughing now, it must be a holiday altogether at this stage just those long interviews...“ I laughed merrily as I crowned him with a coffee table. What he missed — what everyone misses — is the misery associated with a long interview.


A few days I noted a wag in the States saying that Donald Trump would have all of us media on his side if he said that he was writing up his infamous phone call to the President of Ukraine himself, such is the pain associated with transcribing.

The reasons?

Listen to yourself talking and you’ll get a sense of it. Who likes to hear their own voice, pure and simple?

Now factor in elements peculiar to the transcription of sports interviews and you get some appreciation of this hell on earth.

The repeated verbal tics: ‘In terms of’. ‘I suppose’. ‘Well lookit’. ‘I’ve loads there’.

These are the nonsensical tags and expressions which make up around 33% of any interview I have ever conducted: if the timer on the voice recorder shows 15 minutes 12 seconds, I know a good six minutes consists of my voice droning ‘right, right, right’. Over and over again.

The roads not taken: something that always forces your columnist to count to 10 (very slowly) is the opening that the interview subject offers but which the interviewer ignores.

I still come out in a cold sweat at the memory of a chat with an Irish rugby international which rolled over familiar hills and dales, with little of note until I replayed the recording hours later.

I then realised the player had referred to his ongoing contract negotiations, which had not yet been resolved . . . only for the interviewer (me) to blithely ignore the invitation to discuss his professional future in favour of some tone-deaf query about the thickness of his jersey or some such matter.

This happens more often than you might imagine, and my own private theory is that the interviewer sabotages himself in this way as a means of soothing his own guilt about exploiting another human being’s honesty.

The sycophantic laughter: every time I play a tape back and hear myself croak like an ass-kissing frog at some pathetic line from a sportsperson I feel a little bit more of my self-worth circle the plughole and then disappear.

This may shock and amaze many sportspeople, but the truth must be told.

They are not comic geniuses, despite the reaction of journalists to their humorous sallies.

When I hear a joke or pun from a sportsperson it’s bad enough, but when I hear my own craven approval trumpeting falsely . . . is ‘vomiting a little into your own mouth’ an over the top description? Or just right on the money?

These and other reasons fuel the desire among journalists for some kind of online instant-transcription tool.

Every time one such app or site appears it’s tried with enthusiasm, then (usually) jettisoned with enthusiasm. Most of them seem to work only with someone speaking like an unemotional android, with no audible effect (no jokes, please).

Until such time as every sportsperson does that, or the software improves, though, sycophantic laughter is the order of the day.

Outrage goes hand in hand with All-Star seasons

The All-Star nominations emerged last week, accompanied by candidates for Hurler and Footballer of the Year.

Some of the latter suggestions appeared to anger people, which is hardlysurprising.

Drawing breath is enough to get many people outraged, as we all know.

Can I offer some friendly advice? Hold onto some outrage for the night itself, for the actual awarding of the trophies.

Inevitably something will happen to set your teeth on edge and you need to pace yourself.

Exhibit A? Look at what happened at the Fifa equivalent last week, when Lionel Messi won the Zurich-based governing body’s equivalent of left-corner-forward of the year.

This victory did not go down well in some quarters, with delegates claiming the voting didn’t reflect the ballots they cast.

You know the situation is bad when the organisers have to issue a press release saying.

“Both Fifa and the independent observer can demonstrate that all the votes submitted in accordance with the rules and within the deadlines were taken into account. Consequently, there is no doubt whatsoever as to the authenticity of the result.” So knock yourself out about last week’s nominations, but when it comes to overreacting it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Some tips for GAA presidential contenders

Jerry O’Sullivan of Cork declared his candidacy early enough, as did Jarlath Burns of Armagh and Mick Rock of Roscommon.

Over the weekend another Cork native joined them, though Larry McCarthy has a long-time association with New York GAA.

My own position is a long-standing one — I’m more than willing to support any candidate who will promise not to deliver any pro forma statement about ‘the club being the cornerstone of this great Association’.

Any statement along those lines, from any candidate, is a disqualifying matter for this observer. I see my stance as harsh at first glance, but fair and consistent.

Which is how a GAA president should operate.

I could go further, though, and advocate strongly along the lines of that government is best which governs least. It might stick in the craw a little to push an American-libertarian line when it comes to amateur sport here, but in general terms the less we see of the President of the GAA the better.

You know I’m right.

A chance to remind you ‘I told you so’

I don’t like to say ‘I told you so’ — sorry, this is not actually true.

I love saying ‘I told you so’. Everybody does.

This particular case relates to a book I mentioned here a few weeks ago. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power is a mouthful as a title, but Shoshana Zuboff’s book has been drawing the plaudits recently.

“It’s really this generation’s Das Kapital. Or should be,” Zadie Smith recently wrote about it.

“The whole argument is that there’s nothing inevitable about the ways in which the technology has been exploited.” Zuboff was also awarded the 2019 Axel Springer Award for The Age of Surveillance Capitalism just last week.

Read it.

For transcription and nominations alike,

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up