Tuesday 21 November 2017

Don't talk to me about silent men of sports world


Sean Diffley

Stephen Cluxton, the strong, silent type, is the reluctant hero, but as 1920s American personality Will Rogers put it: "We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by."

And my colleagues, sitting alone on that curb in Melbourne, are feeling less than heroic as they look to share the thoughts of the Ireland International Rules captain with the Irish public. They have my sympathy.

And my curiosity. I'm baffled, bewildered and flummoxed -- the Irish reporters ensconced in Australia went there as sports writers but now they have taken on the guise of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson and the enthralling mystery of 'The Great Silence'.

What's it all about? Is it a clever ploy, an ingenious way of achieving lasting notoriety? A bit like the actor and writer Robert Benchley, who quipped: "Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing."

Captains and sportsmen of international repute -- Brian O'Driscoll, Robbie Keane, Rory McIlroy, Ruby Walsh, Padraig Harrington and Aidan O'Brien -- comfortably transmit their views via press conferences, so Cluxton's dead-opposite gambit is guaranteed a triumph if there is a certain ambition.

After all, remember Greta Garbo and the famous quote: "I want to be alone." The svelte Swede was the first legendary Hollywood star, appearing in such films as 'Anna Karenina' and 'Ninotchka'.

She died in 1990 aged 85, but after she said the phrase "I want to be alone", she never gave another interview.

The only one to beat Garbo's phrase for popular usage is Clark Gable's response in 'Gone with the Wind' to Scarlett O'Hara of "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn". So Cluxton wants to be alone and doesn't give a damn and will assuredly be remembered for his silence long after the International Rules matches are forgotten. As GK Chesterton said: "Silence -- the unbearable repartee."

As for other events Down Under, it was a great set-up for the All Blacks to win the World Cup, wasn't it? The tendency of some of our rugby analysts to proclaim the southern hemisphere well ahead of us was shown up as the nonsense it is.

France should have won but the referee, Craig Joubert, was another silent character when New Zealand presented goalkicking opportunities for illegalities. As for our small country, the team did well and deserve plaudits -- not brickbats.

The GAA has 464,000 members registered in 2,300 clubs. That number would match the number of rugby players in New Zealand, give or take a few.

Rugby in Ireland is progressing well but its player base would be no more than about 30,000. Then we see English rugby which is in major trouble despite its playing population of more than a million people. But frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn.

Irish Independent

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