Thursday 21 September 2017

Could it be I'm better off without football?

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Wimbledon (BBC)

The Ashes (Sky Sports)

Tour De France (Eurosport)As we contemplated this summer without a World Cup or a European Championship or even a London Olympics, many of us felt a deep anxiety.

Yet we have been adjusting to this harsh regime of television without football, partly because we have no choice, and you can get used to any form of deprivation.

But partly too, because it has been a fine summer for sport that is not football.

Yes there have been tough patches – the early days of last week, between the end of the tennis and the start of the Ashes, were almost unbearable. But we came through it somehow, galvanised by Andy Murray becoming the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry won it in 1934.

They kept saying 1936, but in that year Perry beat Baron Gottfried Von Cramm in the final. Indeed he also beat the Baron in the final of 1935, and unfortunately, victories against barons don't count in my book.

Indeed the 1936 final lasted for only 45 minutes, which was the average length of a rally in the Murray v Djokovic final. Von Cramm was nursing a groin strain – or perhaps the Baron just needed to get back quickly to his club, where he may well have picked up his groin strain in the first place.

This makes the achievement of Murray all the more startling. And as with Perry in '34, it has taken the tennis classes quite a while to warm to Murray. Such men tend not to join in the suburban laughter which fills the arena when a pigeon flies over the court, or when a ball nearly hits one of the line-judges.

In fact, if Murray wasn't playing Wimbledon, you get the impression that he wouldn't want to be there. He refuses to be a 'character', and eejitry in general seems to repel him.

We recall that at this year's event he declined to autograph the label of a bottle of wine proffered to him by some joker.

But then Murray has always been sound on the eejitry question – there is said to be film of him completely ignoring some chap trying to get his attention by wearing an orange wig and a tam o' shanter and singing Flower of Scotland.

Now it seems that the genteel folk of England are trying to claim him, but he is alien to them too – no more alien, though, than we in the Republic are to Rory McIlroy, wanting him to be something he is not, and never will be.

Like that Home Counties crowd trying to understand Murray, we just don't see it.

***

These sports-that-aren't-football are in luck, too, with the hot, dry spell. As we know, the great advantage of this, is that you can draw the curtains and watch the tennis or the golf or the cricket all the way through without interruptions due to bad weather.

For those of you who like to holiday in France, there is now no need – you can watch the Tour de France on Eurosport, and the journey is better in every way.

And perhaps I've been unduly influenced by all this exceptional fare, but a terrible question formed in my mind – would it actually be better not to have a World Cup next summer?

You see, at the moment, many of us would say that our condition is surprisingly stable. We are getting on with these sports-that-aren't-football, just getting on with life. Whereas if there was a World Cup on now, it would be at the semi-final stage, even heading for the final, and we would be starting to feel the most profound sadness because it would all be over soon.

Indeed, so intense is that feeling of grief, a case can be made that it is better not to be happy in the first place, watching three matches a day, then two a day, then one ... .and then ... .nothing.

I realise that this is a major philosophical challenge, but I'll put it out there anyway, in defiance of those who would claim that they reserve such energies for the 'real world.'

And in that world, which they would like us all to join, they do things like 'following their conscience' on abortion, apparently unaware that that is not the problem – the problem is that they expect me to follow their conscience, too.

I'll stay where I am, thanks.

Irish Independent

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