COLM O'REGAN: They Are Families

I’m exhausted just watching it.

And that’s just the bit where the families introduce themselves.

It’s easy for the rest of us to sneer about Ireland’s Fittest Families. By the rest of us I mean Ireland’s Average-est, Not That Bothered-est, and I’ve Enough To Be Doing Keeping Ye In Shoes-est Families.

Hearing them talk about how they exercise and work out together it strikes me it must be nice for a family to share the same interest. Of course, we don’t know if this is every member. There could be a Goth child off-camera sighing about how no one understands him. By and large though, the families seem well-adjusted with low body fat.

I don’t think our family had as strong a unity of purpose. Not that we weren’t exercising together. While we didn’t do biathlons we did have cattlathlons. Farmland with road frontage wasn’t always the white-thorned gold it became during the Great Insanity. There was a time when it was a strategic weakness in man’s battle against the itchy-hooved bullock.

On a hitherto peaceful summer’s evening, someone would call to the door to ask the rhetorical question of “Is it yere cattle that are eating my dahlias?” Matlock would be switched off and Ireland’s Fedup-est Family swung into action.

It wasn’t too dissimilar to IFF. Although my father didn’t gather us together in a group and spout meaningless sports-isms like “If ye give 110%, then that’s all ye can do,” he did encourage us to “get them bastarding cattle out of there quick” or they would make “a lubán of [insert neighbour’s name]’s hedge”.

We also didn’t have the crying at the end. From Big Brother to Celebrity Bainisteoir, tears are the Castrol GTX of Reality TV. They are the lubricant which helps the repetitive moving parts work smoothly (apart from Tallafornia, where they applied actual Castrol to their torsos).

The people on IFF seem to be decent skins. They deal quite gracefully with one of life’s big quandaries: what to do when one member of the family messes up.

We fail at work and then come home and cry on the shoulders of our families. You can blame forces external to the family unit. The wagons can be circled. But if you are climbing up the Devil’s Ramp and you just can’t move another inch ... and your family loses as a result, it’s very clear whose fault it was. Especially if you’re the father. It must be a singular moment for a child to watch a father being defeated publicly. Hearteningly, the rest of the family just rallies around. Hugging breaks out.

If I had one suggestion for IFF, it would be to make events more relatable for the rest of us. While trying to climb over a shipping container, perhaps a parent should have to stop the others from fighting about a top that was borrowed. During the bog snorkelling bit, a teenager should get a text from a friend saying “OMIGOD EVERYONE is going to town” and just leave straight away.

Or maybe we should leave them be. They’ve been through a lot together.


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