Tuesday 27 September 2016

Off The Ball: Language matters when it comes to triumph and disasters

Ger Gilroy

Published 18/11/2015 | 02:30

As sports fans stand for a minute of silence outside the Stade de France stadium in the wake of the Paris terror attacks we all need to use words like catastrophe carefully
As sports fans stand for a minute of silence outside the Stade de France stadium in the wake of the Paris terror attacks we all need to use words like catastrophe carefully

Chances are you love your sport, you're reading this. It's an amazing thing, teaching us all sorts from how to handle success and failure, to learning that we're not alone.

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I often wonder what life is like for someone who really has no proper connection to any form of sport - even if that's a casual bike ride or a brisk stroll where you're trying to go that one step faster than the day before.

You hear tell of the incredible productivity of the sports agnostics, but would I sacrifice my NFL addiction or the fact that I could name the 1989 Antrim hurling team way past my 30th birthday or watching my folks scream at the telly on match day? No. It's a way of life. We love it.

It doesn't mean though that we don't all need to re-evaluate a few things in the wake of events like the terrorist attack in Paris.

This isn't an attack on sport or a demand we contextualise it or anything. It's a simple reminder that words matter.

The only tragedy that happens in sport always has a name - Heysel, Hillsbrough, Ibrox, Munich and so on.

Ireland potentially not qualifying for France was being described before the second leg as a catastrophe in a couple of places and that's wrong.

We were playing Bosnia, a pace where genuine catastrophic events are in living memory, where their players were refugees from an actual tragedy.

Words matter, we're all clever enough to understand that.

Otherwise meaning fades from the vernacular and we're left with an unfixable inarticulacy.

Irish Independent

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