Monday, August 22, 2005

TWTWTW: No Comparison, Please

We touched upon it last week, when looking at how the English nation had, in its enthusiasm for the Ashes series, elevated cricket and all its charms in a favourable comparison with the vulgarity of modern English football, and how the sports in question were being used as bullet points in a broader and regular soul-searching debate. The desire to compare and champion a sport over another is something that TSA finds as worthwhile as a Blur v Oasis debate, and indeed, it tends to reveal more about the prejudices of the speaker than any fundamental truths about the sports in question.

A football person will present with confidence Brazil's 1970 World Cup winners as examples of a sporting entity which transcended mere excellence, and reached into the realms of beauty and art, in a way that no other could begin to match, as concusive proof of his sport's innate superiority. A rugby man will point to the heaving atmosphere of a great six nations victory, and see in the courage, strength and resolve values unsurpassable elsewhere. A hurling fanatic will simply lay down his sport's breathtaking combination of sheer artistry, speed and bravery and feel the need to say no more. The cricket buff will take you patiently through the four days of the recent second Ashes test happy that the gradually unfolding drama, the grit and flair, the strategic complexity, will make his truth self evident.

Of course they are all right. Just why sport colours the human soul the way it does, and has done since antiquity, is a subject for greater minds than this one to ponder. But the expression and fulfilment in sport of the values and virtues that one holds most dear partially explains why the characters in the paragraph above hold these views so strongly. More than that though, sport in its most valuable role inculcates those values into the person from their earliest involvement in it. The sport maketh the man, as much as the man maketh his sport.


Anyway what was the point of this wooly rumination? Oh yes. So poor old football's been getting it in the neck this week again. Many of you will have spent the afternoon in a hostelry with two sports displaying showpiece occasions. On one forty-two inch plasma screen the Premiership's two top dogs, Chelsea and Arsenal, met in the season's first heavyweight clash, and presented a tense, cagey and uninspiring contest decided by the most valueless of fluke goals. On another, the All-Ireland Hurling semi-final between Galway and Kilkenny was unfolding itself and revealing its credentials for inclusion in the annals of the sport.

In a summer of 'greats' and 'bests ever' yesterday's match at Croke Park sits easily, the resurgence of Galway to the top table and the belief and desire they displayed, accompanied by the majesty of the hurling ensuring that. Over in Stamford Bridge Chelsea brought £75 million of talent OFF THEIR BENCH, and still the overarching impression of the contest was of a dripping, damp squib.

But so what? Football's international pre-eminence and financial hegemony in sport mean it is an obvious target for those speaking for other codes who wish to use its many blemishes as sticks to beat it with as well as buttresses for their own games. GAA followers are perhaps most guilty of this, the heady confection of cultural and post-colonial baggage, the shiny sword of amateurism and fierce parochial pride causing many to feel the need use its many glorious high-days as anti-soccer propoganda.

I think it was Pat Spillane, when arguing several years ago for the relaxation of rule 42, who contradicted this tendency best when calling on fellow Gaels to express their confidence in their sports, and their singular ability to rouse the Irish soul by dispensing of the unflattering chip on their shoulder about the foreign game. Gaelic games as sports, rather than vehicles for culture wars, will truly come of age when they are allowed to exist as such. I believe this day is not far away.

Very many would argue that the decommissioning of Gaelic games from the cultural weapon arsenal would be impossible and indeed abhorrent. But it is TSA's contention, as someone whose sporting identity, like many of my countrymen, is equally represented at Lansdowne Road as at Croke Park, that the sooner prejudices in sport, whether its the bog-man Gah player, the rich boy rugger bugger or the flash mercenary soccer man, are dispensed with, the sooner we can get on with the game.


Blogger DrCelt said...

what about ultimate frisbee?

2:56 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

Ah, the great game of the gods is of course above the petty debates of mortals

3:07 p.m.  

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