Sunday 25 September 2016

Our leaders fight shy of The Notorious

Something is happening but they don't know what it is - they just know that it disturbs them, writes Declan Lynch

Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

I know that these are busy times in the higher echelons of politics, but you'd think that a few of them might have sought to associate themselves in some way with the fact that Conor 'The Notorious' McGregor is now a superstar.

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I mean, there's no argument here, The Notorious has become utterly huge, in a way that hardly any other Irish person has been, or perhaps ever will be again.

About three years ago, he was essentially a failed plumber from Crumlin, now he has ascended to that high and holy place in which his achievements are being noted by Hollywood figures such as Mark Wahlberg, who say they have no doubt that beyond the octagon, there's a place for McGregor in the movies, should he ever deign to position himself that area.

Three years, from the plumbing to the promised land.

It took U2 longer to break America, and there were four of them. It took Padraig Harrington even longer than that. And looking back, it would have taken John McCormack a long time, too, what with all the singing lessons, and the fact that he had to get out of Athlone first.

And yet a week has gone by since The Notorious made his latest statement to the world, and the world listened, and apart from the promise of a civic reception we have seen none of our leaders hailing this astonishing thing.

It's just not like them.

One is reminded to a certain extent of the Bob Dylan line, "something is happening, and you don't know what it is, do you Mr Jones?"

But in matters of sport, our friend 'Mr Jones' rarely knows what is happening, and that doesn't stop him going on the Marian Finucane Show to pretend that he does.

So in some way they are clearly afraid of McGregor, and of the ungovernable energies which he represents.

And it's not just because they figure those people don't vote. It's not just because McGregor has declared "f**k politics and f**k religion", in response to criticism directed at him recently by republicans when he wore a poppy - again, that would have escaped the attention of the busy Mr Joneses.

It's something else that disturbs them, something to do with their general estrangement from people like McGregor, people who have absolutely no chance of making it unless they are both insanely talented and insanely lucky.

Official Ireland knows nothing about those people, and by the same token, a goodly proportion of McGregor's followers at the MGM Grand would have spent very little of their precious time considering the merits of Fine Gael or wondering what Eamon Gilmore is doing these days.

In fact, both of the Government parties may feel that it would actually damage them in the eyes of their more prosperous supporters if they were to link themselves in any way with these weird and terrifying obsessions of the tattooed class.

And they have the get-out that the octagon of which McGregor is now the emperor, is a place of the most disgraceful violence - which doesn't bother them at all when they're planning a lovely day around the rugby, and which fails to appreciate that the UFC may be utterly primitive, but it is also tremendously modern.

In our culture in which the boring bits are ruthlessly cut, this is professional boxing with all the "sweet science" taken out, leaving just the hype and the knockout. Indeed it makes boxing seem like something out of a Merchant Ivory film, a courtly thing full of old-fashioned rituals, favoured by men, some of whom must seem to the viewer of today like insufferable ponces - a game in which, for example, you are not allowed to keep beating the shit out of your opponent when you put him down.

When we look back at the great moments of boxing, we tend to see an excerpt from the build-up, maybe some spectacular episode of trash-talking at the weigh-in, and then the decisive blow. With McGregor's game we see roughly the same thing, except in the octagon there is very little except the decisive blow. There is none of that 15 rounds of Ali and Frazier pawing at one another, it seems that people just don't have the time for that any more.

They have loads of time for the preliminaries, the weeks or even the months of anticipation, the bullshit, if you like. And then they just want the result, the money-shot.

Traditionally, boxing allocated about 97pc to the bullshit, and about 3pc to the money-shot and to all the other shape-throwing in the ring which now seems so unnecessary. UFC gives about 99.9999pc to the bullshit, and about .0001pc to the money-shot, and the quicker it comes the better.

Of course, many of us are looking at the UFC with an untutored eye, but then the eye of the aficionado, though tutored to begin with, after about five days enjoying the finest that the Strip can provide, may itself become a tad untutored.

The only thing we know for sure, is that none of them was paying attention to minister Alex White on Morning Ireland last week urging every adult to read the Government white paper on energy conservation, leading to a carbon-free Ireland by the year 2100.

They'd find more truth in 13 seconds in Las Vegas.

Sunday Independent

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