Thursday 20 June 2019

Terrifying people can themselves be terrified

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

We have spent a considerable portion of the last few weeks discussing the anger management issues of Serena Williams and Roy Keane, until the similarities seem to be screaming at us.

I guess these most recent incidents involved Serena shouting at an umpire, whereas Roy was not shouting at an umpire - but there was a time when he was most certainly shouting at an umpire, as such. And it had a kind of happy ending, for him at least.

It was at Old Trafford in 2000, United and Middlesbrough were scoreless with about 10 minutes to go, when referee Andy D'Urso made the mistake of giving Middlesbrough a penalty.

The decision itself wasn't a mistake, in that it was obviously a penalty - but it meant that he drew the furies of several United players upon himself, most prominently a skin-headed Keane at his most intimidating.

As D'Urso backed away, he was no longer a figure of authority, just some insignificant little man being put in his place. Surrounded by these players roaring at him, he probably couldn't appreciate that this might be terrifying in a certain way for them, too. That they seemed so afraid of the thought of losing, so incapable of dealing with it, D'Urso for a moment might have imagined himself making the journey home in the boot of a car, Wicklow GAA-style.

But what a lot of people forget about that atrocious scene is that Middlesbrough missed the penalty. And United won the game with a goal from Beckham a few minutes later. Moreover it had understandably taken so much out of D'Urso to stick by his decision and to give the penalty, he had apparently forgotten to send off Jaap Stam, as he probably should have done, for committing the foul. As he almost certainly would have done, in peacetime.

So when they had calmed down, as they were bound to do when they got what they wanted, United players could figure that in exchange for their leaders making a total disgrace of themselves, they had caused a ruckus which may well have distracted the penalty-taker for long enough to make a different kind of disgrace of himself. And their ultimate victory was greatly assisted by the presence on the field of their full 11, rather than the 10 it should have been.

That is what you would call A Result.

And that is all that such people are looking for. In fact, it amounts to almost standard practice at a certain level, to cause some kind of disturbance if it's all going wrong for you. You will even hear the odd GAA supremo admitting that he started a fight on the touchline deliberately, in order to "shake things up" a bit, when that terror of losing was starting to get into him.

Not that there wouldn't be a lot of heartfelt emotion in it too - I mean, we're not saying here that these belligerent types are cunningly plotting these outrages, that they're always in control even when they're out of control. No, they really are out of control.

But as a natural consequence of their pathological need not to be beaten, they always seem to be able to run with that, to take it further than most other people - as if they have this calculator built into them, this device that they don't even know about, telling them that the worst that can happen, is they'll be penalised or sent off or disqualified.

And since it looks like they're going to lose anyway, and since there is nothing worse than that, sometimes they are prepared to let themselves go, to call on the forces of Chaos. And maybe it also rids them of this terrible feeling of powerlessness that descends, when it is all going down the tubes. Powerlessness is an awful thing, if you can't accept it. There are many drinkers, for example, who can't accept that they are powerless over alcohol, and it can destroy them.

But if they can accept it... then it can be a wonderful and a liberating thing. But of course, it also means that they are retiring from the game, as such.

And that is when a Serena Williams will accept that she is powerless - when she retires. Otherwise while she is still standing in the final of a US Open, she will do whatever she can, up to and including the declaration of war on another of those insignificant little men.

She would know that a game can change in a moment, that her young opponent Naomi Osaka had never been anywhere near this situation, that she only needed to choke for one game, for one point even, to change everything - remember Middlesbrough, missing the goddamn penalty. Indeed, on balance, the "weaker" player is always more likely to choke than not to choke.

And funnily enough, you hardly ever see a Serena Williams type up against a Roy Keane type, the two of them shouting simultaneously at the referee - because it mainly happens when you're losing. And since only one of you can be losing, at any given time...

As for why that terror of losing can be so great in some people - so infinite it can make them utterly indifferent to what any other human being thinks of them - no doubt we'll be returning to that soon.

'Notes From A Lost Tribe: The Poor Ould Fellas' by Declan Lynch and Arthur Mathews is just published

Pay Paul and destroy internet - win, win

When I first interviewed my great mate Paul Cleary and the other Blades in a pub in Ringsend circa 1980, it seemed at one point unlikely that we would all last the night, let alone that most of us would still be alive today and that The Blades would have a new single out.

On first hearing You’ve A Broken Heart, I felt it was the Dusty Springfield song that Dusty never did. But with better singing, of course.

As a songwriter, Paul will be a beneficiary of the passing of the EU Copyright Directive last week, which may mean that instead of the $2 a year or thereabouts that he gets from YouTube, he could now be getting anything up to $3. And more…

But it was tricky enough with the old copyright directive, trying to work out which side you should be on, because the usual indicators didn’t seem to be working.

Fine Gael were in favour of it, which should be a bad sign, as they know nothing of art, but then campaigning artists such as Eleanor McEvoy were also in favour of it. Which was good enough for me.

Then again, Neasa Childers, who would be of the Left, and thus broadly in favour of artists getting paid occasionally, was against it. And Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan was also against it, feeling that it was essentially another ploy to take power away from “ordinary people”.

Though perhaps Ming didn’t help his cause when he made a short film describing his objections to this copyright directive “that could destroy the internet in the European Union”.

Frankly, anything that can give Paul Cleary what he is due for his beautiful work, and that can also destroy the internet, is for me a win-win.

But the matter was resolved once and for all when word came through that Sinn Fein MEPs were against it. Here was the definitive test, saving us all a lot of time trying to untangle these esoteric issues.

Next!

Those guys - they'll do it again

Speaking on the 10th anniversary of the great meltdown of 2008, Gordon Brown - who was the UK prime minister at the time - feels that "we're sleepwalking into the next crisis".

I would question only his use of the word "sleepwalking" here, since another crash would hardly come as a surprise to those of us who have formed a certain view of the financial services sector, and who say to ourselves almost every day: "They're going to do it again, aren't they? There is just no way those guys are not going to do it again."

Brown says that more bankers should have gone to jail the last time, and that we are now in a leaderless world, at which point we note a spokesperson for Theresa May dismissing Brown's warnings with the line that "we have put in place an incredibly robust system, while at the same time making sure it's globally competitive".

Yeah, they're going to do it again, aren't they?

Brown believes that the global co-operation which would be needed just couldn't happen with the likes of Trump and other such blackguards in power - people whose only instinct would be to find someone else to blame.

But how poignant it is too, when we recall that one of the great embarrassments visited on Brown himself was the time that he was caught complaining on a live TV microphone about a "bigoted woman". As he was being excoriated for this, we did not realise that soon the western world would have a leader caught in a similar way talking about women that he would grab by the pussy.

Not only would you find it almost impossible to explain this to a young person, I can hardly even believe that I am writing this, and that it is true: that there was once this prime minister who was forced to apologise for calling out bigotry.

A long, long time ago…

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