I was slowly winding my way down the country on the bus today. The view out the window of fragile, crystallised landscapes was beautiful and I spent much time gazing outward and mulling over what I might write about when I got home. The last week had seen the country tottering from one meteorological calamity to another and tomorrow we ’re going to be forcibly fed an ‘austerity budget’ that should ensure we we’re once again on the road towards an event horizon. All we can do is hope we never reach it.
After having mulled to no avail I picked up the paper and began reading. It was brimming with impending doom and fatalistic mutterings about this and that, everything and nothing and it took me all of 5 minutes to get to the back page and find an article worth reading, worth thinking about.
It was written by Tom Humphries, a fine sports journalist and commentator who has kept himself out of the ‘rush to be right/prophetic’ like so many other columnists/commentators have over the last number of months. The stampede to cash in on wisdom in the ‘I told you so’ melodrama has become, in my mind, nauseating and dull. Tom Humphries on the other hand took a different view. He proclaimed that the central pillar of Irish life and society was not economic, political, religious, intellectual, social or artistic, it was sport.
He went on to question our intellectual life and artistic community claiming that sporting life is ‘a cussed wild flower clinging to the bare rock. A sort of national obsession which keeps us permanently (thank your god) from growing up. It keeps the imagination lithe and nimble. Pretty much the only ones that don’t get it are those who spend their time agonising about their standing within the Lilliputian intellectual and cultural spheres’.
He wondered where the great artistic/intellectual work was that reflected the centrality of sport in Irish life. He wrote about hurling as a sport that is so much more than a game of two sides. It was he argued a social and cultural glue that tied communities together, encouraged volunteerism, boosted identity as well as being a beautiful game to play and watch.
He laid out his argument succinctly towards the end of his piece.
‘[about sport] Does anybody else literally ache for its distraction, for its comforting presence as a reason for coming together, as a topic of conversation which courses through every conversation, as an obsession so satisfying that it makes the fringe shows of Irish intellectual and artistic life seem like minor diversions and not the other way around’.
And to end;
‘We should learn to value our sport for the quality of friendship it has given us in good times and bad. We are the people. It is our opium. Riddle us the dialectics of that’
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