Header Random

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Podcast - No. 3

I do these sometimes, albeit not enough.

Still, for your ears, here are my thoughts on Ireland v. Italy this Sunday, why Ronan O'Gara is the right man to start...but only for now.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ireland Must Keep Cool After Oz Wizardry

There’s no doubting that Ireland’s Rugby World Cup win over Australia on Saturday was a monumental event in Irish sporting history.  The first victory over a Southern Hemisphere side in the global competition is the latest in about 6 matches which shower our ‘wonder generation’ of stars in the glory they deserve, and it also has fantastic consequences for the remainder of the competition.

However, is there a danger that Ireland’s sporting media over-stating the win?  Today’s Irish Independent, to cite one example, ranked it at the top of a ‘Top-Five Ireland Rugby Wins of All-Time’ list.  Our grand slam clinching wins of 2009 and 1948 were second and third, ahead of a win over Australia in Dublin in 2006 and the Five Nations win at Twickenham in 1994.  However, in my opinion it doesn’t belong there.

To look at another sport, as an example, the Republic of Ireland’s greatest soccer win, in a World Cup at least, was against Italy at Giants Stadium in 1994.  The 1-0 win in our opening group game could have set up a fantastic odyssey in the USA, but it did not, and now that World Cup is a failure.  If our rugby stars do not capitalise on the win in Auckland Saturday, then the 2011 Rugby World Cup will also be a failure.

We need this win to be a springboard, and not the finished article: a step in the road, and not the destination.  A quarter-final loss to Wales, when we have already proven ourselves to be above their level, would be worse than an insipid defeat to Holland in Orlando in 1994 as it would come in a game where we would rightly be favourites.  And that’s before we even consider a potential defeat against Italy.  Our media need to realise this, and while we rightly celebrate Saturday’s achievement, we must move on, look forward, and dare to dream of more.

The one thing that does please me in all of this, however, is the reaction of the players.  There were scenes of joy following the final whistle, but it was not unbridled.  It was controlled, and refined, and in the interviews the players struck the right tone.  One even called it ‘the start of our World Cup.’  Ronan O’Gara aside (and his situation is unique), emotions were in check.  It was a job done, a column ticked, and there are many more to follow, or so we hope.  And dream.  And pray.  And, just a little, expect. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Life Lesson Learned Through Sport - No. 48513

As is the case in sport, life is full of dilemmas, without having the merest iota as to which road to take.  We take risks and gambles, even when the fate of such decisions lies out of our hands, and their ‘correct-ness’ is in the hands of others.

Take two football stars, decades apart, who made similar decisions with opposite results.  While not in the same league as players, I would argue that Pele of 1975 and David Beckham of 2007 were stars of equal regard in the USA.  They were famous enough to permeate through American society in a market where football is not a leading sport.  Both tried to change that; one was moderately successful, the other not so much.

When he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy four years ago, David Beckham was looking to use his stardom to make the MLS a modern-day NASL.  The extinguished league of the 1970s and 1980s made soccer big in the US, particularly in New York, because of one team – the Cosmos – and their main man.  With Pele starting up front, the Cosmos sold out large stadiums across the country.  Their games were live on network television in a time when even the World Cup Final was.  Warner Brothers, who owned the team, assembled a plethora of stars but it was Pele, who mattered and who put bums in seats.

Beckham tried to emulate him, but despite their best efforts the Galaxy were not to be a twenty-first century Cosmos.  There are many reasons for this – he didn’t score as many goals, he was playing in a time when US fans could easily see that Major League Soccer was not the best league in the world.  However, his move could have worked.  He took a gamble (in spite of circumstances which perhaps meant he had to) which failed, while Pele’s gamble succeeded.  Pele will always be remembered for his success with Santos and Brazil, but unlike David Beckham, his American foray put a pleasant postscript onto his career.  I suspect the same will happen to Robbie Keane.

Both decisions could have been successful.  Both could have failed.  They’re similar gambles, though in different eras.  However, Beckham’s career (while never that of an all-time elite player) is now tarnished because his decision was the wrong one, at least in a sporting sense.

These are the decisions we all face, all the time.  Some are big, some small, but all have consequences, many of which are out of our control.  I can understand why David Beckham’s motives in going L.A.  Money aside, he wished to leave a mark and wanted to be remembered as more than just another very good footballer.  Would he have been better off staying in Europe?  No one will ever know, but that’s the thing about these decisions.  We never know.  We never know if they are right or wrong.  They are what they are.  Dilemmas, confusing, frustrating. 

When faced with these options, when you have no way of knowing what is the right thing to do and what will ultimately be wrong, it’s tough.  It’s difficult, and there are no right answers, at least not now.

That doubt is the worst bit of all.  Trust me.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Moment Of Malaise

I wish I could write.

That’s a tough admission for someone who writes for a living, and wants to do so for some time to come.

I am a journalist, for radio, and if you want a four-sentence, 100-word summary of a news story then I’m your man.  Short, punchy sentences are no problem, but eloquence, verbose paragraphs and general flair are beyond me.

I’m not looking to be Shakespeare, or Norman Mailer or Hunter S. Thompson or even Bill Simmons.  I just want to be good enough to do what I want to do, what I want to be, what I always thought I was good enough to do.

I’m lazy – this blog hasn’t been updated since Jesus was in shorts.  That’s a bad habit.  It’s so long since I visited here that Google Chrome doesn’t know the URL to my own blog.  For shame Gavin, for shame.  Writers write, they work on their craft, they practice and they improve.  They learn from mistakes by making them.  I shy away from those errors.

I’m reluctant – I self-disparage.  I want myself to be the best and become disheartened by the fact that I know I’m not, and that I’m not close.  As a journalist, I don’t ‘get the story’ and as a columnist or someone who adds opinion, I make few points of worth.  It also, I imagine, is not a good sign that my first post of note in months (I’ve had a few false starts in the last while) is one in which I slate myself.  Nonetheless, I go on.

I’m inarticulate, at times – my command of the English language is not as it should be.  Where I wrote ‘disparage’ in the last sentence, I initially wrote defecate which, let’s be frank, is a lot worse than the truth.  I know I was looking for another word, I just don’t know what it was.

I’m plain – as a writer I lack humour, or wit.  I don’t believe that I provoke discussion.  I make good points at time, on twitter for example, or in general conversation, but find it difficult to expand these beyond 140 characters or an initial sentence.

I get distracted – I’m off to play Football Manager now before continuing this article.  And in the middle of that I’ll watch a field goal attempt from the NFL in 2008. True story.

I’m a poor manager – I lost 3-1 at home to Wigan.  Then again, I am Banbury United, and it is the Championship, so I might give myself a pass there.

I have a horrible attitude – that much is obvious though, huh?

I have other negative qualities, I’m sure, but you get the idea.  I also have some strong points.  I type quickly.  I’m an above-average speller too.  I even have a strong knowledge of things I write about (mainly sports, but other things too) and I can spot a story.  I also have to acknowledge that unlike a lot of people who get into this business, I’m working in a job so I must have some other qualities I am unaware of.

Despite that, and despite a number of other reasons to be happy like a loving family and relative financial comfort and a woman who loves me and a woman that I love (thankfully they are the same person), recently I find myself at a low.  I’m negative.  I’m chirpy, but I don’t mean it mostly and I become downbeat far too regularly.  Part of my life,the professional side, I would describe as being in a rut, and I see no way out of it.  I have a reasonable existence at the moment but I want more, and have no idea of how to make that a reality.

Metaphorically, I have A and B and C, but I want D, E, F and a whole lot more too.  That’s not greed, it’s ambition.  It’s a drive for more, that I have, yet that drive is something on which I do not act.  Or can not act.  I’m not sure. 

I want to be better.  I want to be happy, and to have everything.  Everyone does, of course, but I’m at one of those points in my life where I don’t know if it will ever happen, when at the same stage I should believe that anything can happen.

I want to be the writer that I want to be; I want to cover the big events, and make the points that people discuss.  I want to express my passion, and get paid for it because I’m damn good at it and because I’m worth listening to.  I want that to be true.  I don’t know if it ever will be, and while I have something not a million miles away from that now, I don’t know if it’s enough to satisfy me, and I don’t have the confidence to be sure that more will come.

I wish I could write.


As this is a personal comments, I am disabling the comments section for this post only.  It will return.