Tuesday 22 August 2017

Stress-inducing Breda in a league of her own

European football fan Declan Lynch begs the stop-relaxing brigade to take some time off

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

TELEVISION

IT IS hard to describe to a general audience the profound sense of relaxation that men feel on a Champions League night. But it's a bit like those ads you see for a destination spa, where they talk in soothing tones about wonderful things like Thai

massage, and they show scenes of clients stretched out on treatment tables with smooth, warm stones being applied to the vital zones. And on a big screen they might be watching shapes and designs of the yin-yang variety, which are known to the mystics to have special powers to heal the troubled soul.

A Champions League night is a bit like that, except there's something good on the big screen. There may even be eight different matches on the screen to choose from, due to the Sky facility which allows you to skip from one match to the other just by pressing the numbers on the remote. Indeed it is all so deeply relaxing, there are times when the only bit of trouble you can perceive in the whole world, is the fact that it takes so bloody long for the eight-match choice to be activated -- it can be loading for up to eight seconds, which on a match night can seem like an eternity.

For a moment you are agitated, wondering why they can arrange it for eight games to be viewed at the same time, but they can't work out a way to load it up instantly on the screen. But then you remember that riff by funnyman Louis CK about how we are so demanding of technologies that didn't even exist about five minutes ago, railing against the difficulty of sending emails while you're on a plane and so forth. And you relax again, maybe even more deeply than before.

And yet the magic can so easily be broken, and suddenly you have stopped relaxing and your back has straightened and you are on high alert. Last Tuesday night, all it took was an appearance by Breda O'Brien on the Vincent Browne show, and suddenly some of us who had been utterly at ease with ourselves and with all things, were out of our seats jabbering and blaspheming. O'Brien, the teacher and Irish Times columnist, was debating the Prime Time scandal. And while hers is never a relaxing voice, particularly, when she is speaking about the media's bias against religion, on a Champions League night it is all too much. Certainly by the time I reached my bed I was so unrelaxed, I had developed a terrible facial twitch, like one of those deranged medieval monks in the film version of Umberto Eco's The Name Of the Rose.

And I suspect that all men felt at one with O'Brien's fellow panellist Patsy McGarry, religious affairs correspondent of the Irish Times, when he said the wrong thing (it sounded wrong to Breda anyway) and she lit on him -- O'Brien, as I said, is a teacher. Which itself makes me unhappy, because I wonder why she doesn't just work full time in RTE, which is full of teachers, so to speak, who have had highly successful careers in broadcasting without needing to lose any of their teacherly ways.

So I would say to Vincent Browne, that I understand his programme is a natural home for all members of the stop-relaxing brigade, but please ... not on these beautiful European nights.

Nor was it relaxing to hear Gerry Adams talking in German. He slipped into it from the Irish, and it was clear that we were witnessing one of those famous moments of Dail Humour. Which is a unique form, because humour is supposed to be good for the nerves, whereas Dail Humour, and all the unearned laughter that follows, merely makes us feel sad.

Strange too, to hear Tom Savage on the RTE News speaking on behalf of the RTE Board, and to realise that Savage, who is married to Terry Prone, sounds exactly like Terry Prone -- the same speech patterns and rhythms and tone of voice. I would even say he sounds like a Prone Clone.

And if he's wondering what is wrong with RTE, he might start as I have done with the sports department. There they like to speak of all these "individual errors", when there is clearly an institutional malaise. And last week it spread to RTE Aertel, which had Chelsea beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1, when in fact Chelsea had been beaten by Bayer 2-1.

The last words I wrote on this contagion now carry an added chill: if they can get the football results wrong, they are capable of anything.

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