It is not just politics that is local
The greatest autobiography I’ve ever read is former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip O’Neill. It’s entitled Man of the House. It is a superbly crafted book and although published in 1987 it gives a brilliant insight on how the body politics works in the world’s largest democracy.
The first chapter is called “All Politics is Local”. This was the advice O’Neill’s father gave him on the night he decided to run for the Cambridge City Council in New Hampshire way back in 1932. Nearly 90 years on that advice is still relevant but it applies to sport too.
No it’s not I hear you cry, but for me and many others it is, well the best parts of sport are. I don’t want to turn this piece into another rant about the European Super League and greed. Sadly greed is as old as Methuselah and modern professional sport is no exception. Also we have all been bought off, yes you have. How much are you paying for your Sky Sports and BT subscription, the very thing you swore in 1992 you wouldn’t pay for. Get this, Virgin Media and RTÉ have lost out on all but one of the Champions League packages from next season.
So if you want to watch Champions League football on a Wednesday night, get ready to dig again into those deep pockets. For many, sport is now just another TV entertainment show. We watch but don’t really concentrate as we Snapchat, WhatsApp and Tweet in the name of “banter”. When sport became the business of shareholders, agents and billion pound deals, the supporter’s role changed with it. We went from the Showgrounds to the fireplace and 50 inch television. The flat cap sports stars of yesterday who walked amongst us, were now tattooed or inked hidden from sight, except of course on a Saturday at 3pm or Super Sunday as it’s now called. The prawn sandwich fan is far more important than the long suffering Bovril drinking one.
Everything is spoon fed to us. It’s more important to hear what the various pundits have to say than the actual result. The days of making up our own minds or indeed just watching sport for the sheer enjoyment appear to be gone. We actually appear to enjoy sport less the more of it that is available on TV.
I still prefer to watch my sport under the sky, out in the fresh air. One friend wisely put it to me that it is all in 3D-remember that failed TV project? I will concede that every generation feels sport was better and more wholesome when they were growing up. Chips were nicer in newspaper and summers were hotter too. In the weeks to come I’m not going to assume that you the reader has the attention span of babies, or assume you’d rather be watching TV. No I’m going to assume that you still want to see your sport out in the open air, in the fields and grounds where all sportspeople began to learn their trade.
This summer we will be treated to the TV spectacular that is the Olympic Games. This is when, every four years us armchair fans take a sudden interest in so-called obscure sports. Will the exploits of Deng Wei the young Chinese Olympic and five times world weightlifting champion actually inspire young girls to take up the sport and if it does, will we as a society support those dreams with the financial costs involved? Will we get behind local power lifters like Luke Kelly and Sinead O’Donnell?
The last year has been tough, very tough but we will overcome it. My biggest miss is local sport. I’m a not a soccer man, rugby man or GAA man, I am a sportsman or to put it correctly a sports fan. Yes I have my favourite teams, who doesn’t? but I just love local soccer and local club GAA matches. Meeting friends and talking about and solving the problems of the world are almost as important as the result. The great sporting memories we have aren’t all experienced through the TV. No, it’s the ones where we got up off the couch and followed our local team, the ones where we said “I was there.”
I will endeavour to keep this piece local, write about local sport. ‘Behind the Goal’ is a reference to where many of us who enjoy rubbing shoulders stand and watch. It’s where as a child I saw and wanted to be the next “Coxy” Hally, Marty Hogan, PJ O’Reilly, Billy Byrne, Johnny Matthews, Al Finucane, Frank “Sniffer” O’Neill, JBM, Frank Cummins, Gerald McCarthy, Tommy Butler, Babs Keating and John Egan.
Once local sport comes back out of this bleak pandemic, take the opportunity to leave the house and head to your local sports ground. I find local sport a retreat for the heart and soul, the perfect way to unwind and reconnect. The bonus will be to witness a moment like Kevin Blanche’s goal for Clonmel Town in the 1994 FAI Junior Cup Final or Declan Browne’s point to level the south final v Fethard. Moments, wonderful moments. The goal, point or try takes a second to score but the memory lasts a lifetime.
See you behind the goal.