20 November 2009

Thoughts on a Hand and Foot

I have been somewhat distracted these last few days, or rather, I have been somewhat more distracted than normal. Has it been the latest "seriously lads, why do we keep letting them get away with this and why have we not yet sharpened a few sticks on both ends outside the Dail" salary revelations from AIB? Nope.

Is it the "43% of Americans don't believe in Climate Change so there's no real point trying to accomplish anything in Copenhagen, why don't we all go and see '2012' to take our mind off all these hysterical doom-mongers and their laughable claims" floods that seem to have wiped most of Cork, Clonmel and Galway off the map in the last 24 hours? Nope.

Is it the "Ah Jaysus, and to think that you were all worried about the Lisbon Treaty facilitating a few dodgy back-room deals that bring into power a group of faceless, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. Well at least it's not Tony Blair" coronation of Belgium's Prime-Minister-for-a-day Herman van Rompuy and Baroness Catherine Ashton (who even her own country has never heard of) as the new EU President and Foreign Minister? Nope.

In fact for the last 48 hours I have been somewhat distracted by, deep breath, football.

That's right, football. (or sah-khah, as the Americans might say).

I am not a sporting man*, or rather, I do not follow or express any sort of interest in competitive team sports. I have been known to watch Formula One on a semi-regular basis, but that has more to do with my secret infatuation with the automobile**, despite actually being against the private ownership of cars in an urban environment. However beyond this I have never been able to join with the rest of my gender and generate any sort of passion, even feigned, for watching, following or supporting in any manner the practitioners of a competitive field sport***.

Except football (sah-khah), specifically Irish international games.

It all stems back (as it does for most Irish folk of my generation) to the glory days of Italia 90, where a heady stream of wins and draws fueled by numerous pints in the salubrious environment of the Summit Inn in Howth helped to forge a genuine sense of community spirit with friends and complete strangers that I would never, ever speak to again once I escaped the insular and parochial bounds of my youth and, upon hitting the decadent and cosmopolitan flatland of Rathmines somewhere around my 20th year on this earth, never ever looked back on.

However every now and then when a match is on, somewhere deep inside of me some spark flickers and bursts again into flame, powered by the memory of those few heady nights almost twenty years ago when for one brief moment in time it seemed like literally anything was possible****. Every time the World Cup roles around again, this spark is reignited. While living in the US during Japan/Korea 2002 I would get up at 5am to watch the match on a local Spanish language channel, or listen to it in work at 8am streamed on the internet, it was a direct connection back to those glory days in 1990 as a 17-year old with my whole future in front of me.

Thus on Wednesday night I, along with almost everyone else in the country, sat down and watched the best game that Ireland had played in a generation, beating the French at home in the Stade de France, with the hopes and dreams of a nation riding on their shoulders all the way to South Africa and the World Cup Finals next year.

Then Thierry Henry handled the ball, twice, a goal was scored, and we went home empty handed.

Back to a nation riddled with injustice and inequality, massive fraud perpetrated by bankers and supported by the Government, a devastated economy, 10% unemployment, vaccine-resistant swine flu, oh, and torrential rains caused by climate change that have destroyed half the country.

Welcome home.

Perhaps this is why I follow no sport, the crushing depression brought on by defeat is too much to bear even once every four years. The thought of feeling this way every week is too much to even contemplate, for the highs of winning surely cannot compensate for the lows of losing. Perhaps this is why sports fans follow so many teams and so many sports, like a junkie that tries crack when their heroin no longer delivers a big enough kick, or knocks back a few pills when the trip becomes too intense.

But oh, to feel the invulnerability of being 17 again*****. Roll on Euro 2012.

* Given the opportunity by Lance Henriksen to place a series of wagers on the likelihood of Jean-Claude Van Damme escaping the clutches of a team of mercenaries hunting him through the streets and backwaters of New Orleans, I would almost certainly bet on Van Damme. No doubt Lance would be upset by this, which is why I tend not to place too many sporting wagers.

** See also my hidden shame of Top Gear viewership. They're smug Tories who are actively out to destroy the world through the glorification of oil, and I can't seem to stop watching.

*** Except The Green Bay Packers. Damn you Mr Tim and all the bottles of Mountain Dew you enticed me with. Why did you make me care? Why are the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I cursed to be the only people in Ireland who take the transfer of Brett Favre to Minnesota as a personal slight that can only be redressed with the depositing of an animal's head in a bed, preferably a big one. The animal that is, not the bed. I never thought I would have anything in common with the US Military Police in Baghdad, but now I do. Thanks for that Mr Tim, really, thanks. Why, Mr Tim, why did you make us feel this pain?

**** And then we lost, and it wasn't.

***** Not really. Being 17 sucked, big time. I would never wish that upon anyone, ever.

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