Saturday 26 May 2018

Joe Brolly on the 'vicious backlash' he received for his MMA column last weekend

McGregor and Diaz in action
McGregor and Diaz in action

Joe Brolly

My column last Sunday caused a surprisingly vicious backlash on social media from the MMA brigade. A lot of Chelsea FC supporters and teenagers and tattooed young men who talk like boyz in the hood and dream of owning a pet tiger. And who call their hero "Conor", as though they were close friends.

When McGregor retired on Tuesday, MMA fans went to DEFCON 1, and I was deluged with abuse, including this gem: "This is your fault, you one kidney prick."

Here's another exchange on Twitter with someone calling themselves Steepheno:

@Steepheno: Prick.

Me: An interesting well crafted argument Stephen. Tourette's isn't an easy condition to cope with in fairness.

@Steepheno: What are you going to do about it?

Me: Sorry, I didn't realise you were only 15.

Was @Steepheno seriously thinking of coming North to beat me up? Maybe he imagines life like a scene from The Sopranos? In his version of reality, he sees me lying on the footpath, missing teeth, spitting out blood as he walks away shouting, "You ever talk about Conor like that again, I'll kill you."

For two days, I toyed with the delightful notion I had developed a mysterious ability to jinx my enemies. Imagine having the power to impose the sort of Croke Park curse that prevents Mayo defenders from seeing the Dublin corner-forward completely unmarked on the edge of the square.

The Brolly curse. Who would be safe?

Sadly, it has turned out like the Milligan curse. When Spike Milligan was stationed in Africa during the Second World War, on his first morning he and his platoon were awakened in their tents by a warplane circling loudly overhead. Milligan came out, shook his fist in the air and shouted, "I hope you bloody well crash, you noisy bastard." He and his mates watched in amazement as the airplane immediately stalled, shot out a puff of black smoke, then plummeted to earth before exploding in flames. They stood there dumbfounded. For the next while, every time they spotted a German plane his comrades shouted for Spike to come out and curse it. "I hope you bloody well crash, you noisy bastard," Milligan would roar at the sky, shaking his fist. Lucky for the German pilots, it never worked again.

What I have noticed is that these McGregor supporters live in a sort of video game reality. A young man dies in the ring. They say RIP solemnly, write clichés about respecting him and his family, and that "he died doing what he loved". Then it is time to move on to the next rumble. They live in awe of this white rap culture, where greed is good, violence is worshipped, and conspicuous shows of wealth are the ultimate drug.

When McGregor posts a photo of himself wearing a jewelled crown, perched on a gold-plated urinal, they become dizzy with excitement. They tweet each other in near ecstasy about the money McGregor has made and his gangsta turn of phrase. They glory in the ­conspicuous spending. A "nice tiger"; a fleet of ­supercars; next up, a Waterford Crystal Bentley with a miniature grand piano in the rear, played by Mr Scaramanga's butler from The Man with the Golden Gun.

McGregor's ghastly gospel is straight from the Jay Z's songbook.

Knock knock I'm at ya neighbour's house

Straight cash I bought ya neighbour out

You should come to the housewarming

Come and see what your new ­neighbour 'bout

Yellow Lambo in the driveway.

He is encouraged by an awe-stricken media. On Friday morning, a breathless piece in the normally sane Irish Times started with the line: "Breathe out. The champion has not retired." Breathe out? Like we were holding it in? The piece went on: "Sometimes we can forget there is more to McGregor than how he spends his money." That same day, McGregor begged to differ, tweeting: "I've got my bills paid, my money made. And the entire game slayed." He makes Ali's doggerel sound like Shakespeare. And he likes to talk about killing people. "I would kill him in less than 30 seconds," he said recently of Floyd Mayweather.

What a bore.

It says something very depressing about Irish society that this is our most celebrated sportsman. In response to my column, another worshipper, @karlt187 tweeted: "Never read such a pile of s***e in all my life, be thankful Conor doesn't turn your house into a dump." The only person I know who could turn a house into rubble with his bare hands is Popeye the Sailor Man, and as far as I'm aware he's retired. You any idea how hard it is these days to find good quality tinned spinach?

I couldn't resist tweeting @karlt187 back.

"Turn my house into a dump? You're living in a video game fantasy kiddo. The terminator isn't real."

His next tweet was thoughtful, even philosophical. "They should nuke northern Ireland full of loyalist and republican scum as bad as each other."

I sent back: "Why would you need a nuclear weapon? Your friend Conor the terminator can do that job himself. Kill everybody in the North then beat his chest and high five you and your mates. Then wreck my house with his bare hands."

@karlt187 never responded. He probably has his hands full plotting the destruction of the six counties.

Now that Conor is unretired, everyone else may be able to breathe again, but spare a thought for me. Living in fear, never knowing the day nor the hour when a keyboard warrior will drive to Belfast in an armour-plated Mercedes S-Class, meet me on the street, deliver a few kicks to the head, then punch me in the head eight or nine times when I'm defenceless on the ground.

Then feed my remaining kidney to his pet tiger.

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