Tuesday 21 November 2017

Stop talking balls before it's too late, lads

George Hook
George Hook

Eilis O'Hanlon

George Hook created quite a stir after his appearance on TV's Saturday Night Show last weekend for his view that parents should think twice about letting their children play rugby because of the dangers of concussion.

Surprisingly, though, this story was not picked up by RTE radio during the week.

Downtown Radio's Daytime in Belfast did speak to George, and the man himself also revisited the topic on Monday's Right Hook in an interview with Dr Barry O'Driscoll, former medical adviser to the Irish Rugby Board, who was scathing about the way the danger of head knocks is handled by sports bodies.

That evening on 2FM, Game On mentioned the issue in passing when discussing the decision to keep Welsh player George North on the pitch after suffering concussion in the first Six Nations game against England; but there was far more attention paid to the physical injuries facing the Irish squad as they prepared to take on France.

The jocular exchange from the lads in studio about the knocks suffered by jockey AP McCoy in his career - all his ribs broken at various times, as well as "several vertebrae"; a punctured lung; every single one of his teeth needing to be replaced after falls - only confirmed the impression that fans and players alike still see injury as an obstacle to be heroically overcome rather than a warning to be heeded.

Men are not machines, as BBC Radio Four's Spoilsports: Science Stops Play made clear in its own report on the issue of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is now known to have killed "alarming numbers" of athletes prematurely. Doctors are even seeing advanced cases of brain damage in twentysomethings.

The mysteries of space were the subject of Thursday's Today With Sean Rourke, though it raised again the question of whether much of what passes for talk radio in Ireland is capable of dealing intelligently and non-sardonically with any subject other than politics. "Tell me more about the search for extra-terrestrial life," Sean began with a chuckle, as if afraid he'd lose listeners if he didn't raise a metaphoric eyebrow.

That uber-ironic tone is best exemplified by Sean Moncrieff, for whom every word sounds like the lead-in to a joke; though to be fair, he did have a great interview on Thursday's Moncrieff with author Dylan Evans, who, in his own words, had a mid-life crisis and, instead of buying a fast car, went off to start a "post-apocalyptic commune in the Highlands of Scotland", where he started to believe that civilisation was indeed under threat, and ended up being sectioned. He was engaging and admirably droll about the whole experience.

On the other side, The Ray D'Arcy Show was not only interviewing the owner of Riley, a rescue dog that "wants" (er, really?) to go to Crufts, but had the shamelessness to follow it up next day by bringing said pooch into the studio and making the dog's dreams come true. Two weeks in, and Ray has already jumped the shark. That has to be a record.

Sunday Independent

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