Forget the snobs, to dismiss one sport as worthless is to dismiss them all

For Irish followers, American football fandom ranks near the summit for sports most likely to provoke derision from the non-inclined
Forget the snobs, to dismiss one sport as worthless is to dismiss them all

MAGICIAN: Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend. Picture: David Eulitt/Getty Images

You know a film is rewatchable when the film podcast of the same name, The Rewatchables, dedicates three separate episodes to it. Almost three decades later, Heat still holds up as a crime drama masterpiece. A beat-for-beat thrill. Last year we were afforded a welcomed opportunity to dive back into the land of Neil McAuley and Vincent Hanna.

Bear with us. In the latest fundamentally bizarre twist, director Michael Mann teamed up with Meg Gardiner to revisit his magnum opus and tap into a prized well once more. Finally, a sequel. Strangely, it was a literary sequel. It sounded convoluted. A novel? Really? More concerningly, it threatened to exploit the escapism offered by this first-class heist movie and make it cheap.

But it worked. Because it is set in the story world of the film, spending time with the same characters proves immensely satisfying. In actual fact, it is the only way the story could have been told. Vincent Hanna is quintessentially portrayed in the film by Al Pacino. A movie sequel means the same actor 30 years later, completely out of whack with the timeline, or an inexcusable recasting.

Prime Pacino is the perfect Hanna. They are one and the same. Iconic in the movie and in the book.

You can’t imagine our joy when in Heat 2, Hanna is making an arrest a few years before starring in that LA shootout and it is Pacino who we hear. His inflection and delivery define every piece of dialogue. Just read it for yourself. Hear it. Hear him.

The suspect is concerned that the neighbours are going to talk if he is arrested in public.

“They’ve been talking about you since you were six and stealing Hula-Hoops from the kid up the street.” 

He doesn’t want to double-cross his allies.

“This crew will assume you rolled over, whether you did or not. That means turning out your lights. Pop.” 


This weekend is the NFL Conference Championships, or semi-finals. What the hell does that have to do with Heat? Lookit, from the moment you read that opening you knew this article would take some unexpected bends and turns. And still you drove on knowing there was a chance it could get weird. It was coming. A wise man once said, ‘it rains… you get wet.’ 

For Irish followers, American football fandom ranks near the summit for sports most likely to provoke derision from the non-inclined. Only Australian Rules really trumps it. ‘A terrible sport, how can anyone watch that muck?’ With the pads and the pageantry and the constant pauses. Iterations of a refrain most will receive at some point during the September to February window.

It happens all over. Some hurling folk look down on Gaelic football. Rugby does it to soccer and vice versa. Everybody likes an occasional cut off basketball. Various golf pests like a cut off everybody else.

Everyone is entitled to not like a sport. It veers into the worst form of snobbery when they decide no one else should like it either. AFL? Not for me. In fact, why is it for anyone?

“I don’t know why you’d want to play that sport because it’s dreadful stuff to watch. I can’t understand it. There’s no skill at all," declared Meath All-Ireland winner Eamonn Murray during his infamous, and as it turns out premature, lamentation of Vikki Wall’s loss.

It didn’t help that the sport was already getting it from its own as well.

“If you leave an AFLW match thinking you've seen a great game you're kidding yourself, because even high school boys are better to watch,” declared media personality Steve Price in Murdoch’s Herald Sun. Not only do I not like it. No one else can either.

As was pointed out to this writer by one attentive party Down Under in the week after Murray’s comments, watching Meath muster one single point in the first half of the Leinster final shortly after wasn’t exactly the most skilful endeavour the sporting public has witnessed. But they did what it takes to win back-to-back All-Irelands and bring immeasurable joy to an entire county. If it’s not for you, at least make way and leave it for them.

The alternative is both insufferable and a fundamental misunderstanding of the point. When so much of modern life feels bleak, sport is an enduring and simple indulgence. We’re all chasing the same high only the substances are different.

Even within sports, there are different ways of attaining your fix. I rarely watch cricket. I did not grow up with the game and struggle to understand it. Due to the abundance of exceptional beat journalists and rich writing, I love reading about cricket. Consider Gideon Haigh’s piece in The Times from 2012 on Shane Warne.

“Warne rotated the ball from hand to hand languidly, voluptuously, like somebody feeling warm sand run through their fingers. It was as amiable and intimate as a friendly handshake.

“As Warne rounded his disc, his demeanour began to change. He did not switch on — Warne was always “on”. No, he switched the rest of the game off, brought all the activity on the field into himself. There was a pause. It was the best pause cricket has known: pregnant, predatory.” 

The most enjoyable form for my entertainment. Just Like Heat 2. I mean, do descriptions get more magnificent? Is there a better way to articulate magic? And it went on and on.

“Mike Tyson once said that he visualised his punches coming out the other side of his opponent’s head; I used to feel that Warne did something similar as he stood at the end of his approach, looking at the batsman but also past and through them, as though they were already out.” 

The reason a cohort of committed gridiron enthusiasts dive headfirst into Scott Hanson’s enchanted Redzone land every Sunday night is because of what is coming around the corner on Monday morning. We get our kicks however we can to endure the inevitable slog that comes after. Win or lose, Patrick Mahomes makes us feel something. The same way Leo Messi, Katie Taylor and David Clifford do for others. That is a good thing. To dismiss one sport as worthless is to dismiss them all.

Anyone engaging in that carry-on just doesn’t get it. To those that care their game is great. For us, the action is the juice.

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