Wednesday 22 November 2017

Game's up for surplus hacks

Members of the Irish press corps wonder what they are going to do with their lives after they are replaced by a computer programme
Members of the Irish press corps wonder what they are going to do with their lives after they are replaced by a computer programme

Eamonn Sweeney

I 'm afraid I won't be around here for much longer. Thanks a million, Robbie Allen of Durham, North Carolina.

Robbie, a curse be upon him, is an American boffin who has devised a piece of computer software which writes sports reports, a mechanical journo already advanced enough to write the copy for 345 college basketball websites.

If there's one thing the last century has taught us, it is that whatever happens in America today, whether it's rock'n'roll, Twitter, McDonalds or shrieking 'oh my God' like a panicky drag queen, will happen here tomorrow. Or at least the day after that.

So it appears inevitable that within a few years Robbie's RoboWriter, or its successors will have rendered the likes of me superfluous to requirements. Sports journalists will be unceremoniously deposited in the dole queue where, given their lack of transferable skills, they will languish for the remainder of their lives.

There's only one course for a sensible man to follow when faced with inevitable defeat. Treachery. So, if you're listening Robbie, I hereby declare my intention to join the winning side. As proof of my good faith, I'm including the necessary information, all those appropriate clichés and gobbets of conventional wisdom, you'll need to programme an Irish sports reporting gizmo.

1 A team which wins the All-Ireland has been destined to win it from the start of the season and has done everything right along the way. Its success is based around an incident which happened in either (a) a training session in January or (b) a National League game in March.

2 Any incidence of bad sportsmanship, sexual licentiousness or financial cupidity on the part of a soccer player should always be compared unfavourably to the saint-like behaviour of Gaelic footballers and hurlers. It should be stressed that these highly paid professionals could 'learn a lesson or two from their amateur brethren'.

3 An attempt by Wayne Rooney to decapitate an opponent or bite the ref on the face should elicit the observation that 'if you take that part out of his game, you take away something important from him as a player'.

4 If a referee makes a mistake in a big GAA match, suggest that Pat McEnaney should have been in charge of the game because he is 'the best referee in Ireland' and 'adopts a common-sense approach'. If Pat McEnaney makes a mistake in a big GAA match, say that 'he fell slightly below his own high standards,' even if this is the third game in a row where this has happened.

5 After any loss, draw or unimpressive victory by the Irish soccer team, observe that 'John Delaney has questions to answer,' even though he wasn't playing or managing the team.

6 If Alex Ferguson is ranting and raving and slagging off the opposition and the referee, he is playing 'mind games,' as part of a cunning master plan. If Arsene Wenger is ranting and raving and slagging off the opposition and the referee, he has 'lost the plot' and proved that he is a whiny foreigner who will never win anything.

7 Even though Tyrone and Armagh have won it every year since 1999, the Ulster football championship is wide open and every team in the province has a chance of winning it even though Cavan was in Ulster last time I checked.

8 A player who is out injured is a TALISMAN.

9 An ineffective lightweight sparrow fart of a wing-forward who always gets subbed in the second half is MERCURIAL.

10 All Munster rugby players are hard-nosed, horny-handed members of the proletariat, eg Ronan O'Gara and David Wallace. All Leinster players are effete wine-sipping middle-class Hugh Grant lookalikes, eg Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien.

11 A petulant wanker with a chip on his shoulder should always be described as a MUCH MISUNDERSTOOD FIGURE.

12 A petulant wanker with a chip on his shoulder and a third level education should always be described as a COMPLEX CHARACTER.

13 A player who keeps getting selected on his reputation even though he hasn't played well in years is a team's SPIRITUAL LEADER.

14 Roy Keane is a driven man and what he has to say about Saipan remains of great interest to everybody. If we'd listened to him back then, we'd probably have won the 2002 World Cup.

15 If Cork hurlers win a game, mention the fact that they are spurred on by the solidarity engendered during the players' strike. If they lose, say that these players owe Cork nothing.

16 It's always a poor football championship if Kerry don't win it.

17 Soccer has been ruined by theatrical diving continentals, a category which includes South Americans. English players never dive. Yes RoboWriter, Michael Owen is English. If an English team play a continental team in European football, the English team do not play-act or dive even if most of the players, and their manager, are continental.

18 Asian players are only there for the purpose of shirt sales.

19 Manly physical contact has been rooted out of soccer by fussy referees. Things were much better when savages like Ron Harris, Tommy Smith and Peter Storey could tackle George Best from behind and try to cripple him. That Nigel de Jong is a disgrace by the way.

20 A '70s sportsman who got his leg over with many different women was a 'playboy' or 'the kind of character we don't have in these politically correct times'. A contemporary sportsman who behaves in the same way is a 'disgraceful role model to young people' whose morals have been corroded by having too much money.

21 A brawl in a soccer match is 'soccer's shame,' a brawl in a rugby match is 'a bit of sorting out,' a brawl in a GAA match is 'sickening scenes' if it happens in an obscure club game and 'handbags' if it happens in Croke Park.

22 There are too many referees from obscure countries with little footballing pedigree in the World Cup. There should be more refs from the Premier League who would shine like Graham Poll did in 2006 and Howard Webb did in this year's World Cup final.

23 The death of anyone puts sport 'into perspective'.

24 Managers are far too sporting to complain about decisions just because they've gone against their own team. All they want is 'a bit of consistency.'

25 Everyone in Ireland is filled with delight when some millionaire's horse wins in Cheltenham.

26 Most Irish racehorses are owned by 'The Ordinary Joe Soap'.

27 Ted Walsh is as wise as Buddha and as funny as Richard Pryor. He is a 'national treasure'.

28 And so is Micheál ó Muircheartaigh. Use the one about the Rabbitte and the Fox in Croke Park. No one has ever heard it before. People turn the television off and plug themselves into the radio to listen to Micheál's commentaries.

29 The Railway Cup is in decline. Once upon a time many people went to see it. Packie McGarty of Leitrim. Iggy Jones of Armagh. It remains very important to the players.

30 Bertie Ahern is a fanatical fan of the Dubs. How else can you explain his willingness to make the long trek from Drumcondra to Croke Park at least three or four times a year?

31 Americans have no interest in sports other than their own ones, games like basketball, which nobody else in the world plays. A survey showed that, even though there are more registered soccer players in the US than anywhere else in the world, the game is less popular there than a man putting a pig in a hole in Tennessee.

32 A player who has been rubbish all year and keeps getting picked is BELIEVED TO BE FLYING IN TRAINING.

33 A player who has been rubbish for a couple of years and keeps getting picked GETS THROUGH A LOT OF UNSEEN WORK.


35 Kilkenny's training games are more competitive than any match the team plays against other opposition. Except perhaps the 2010 hurling final.

36 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in football. Which should mean that a team should be delighted to get pegged back to 2-1, but doesn't somehow.

37 Inter-county players HAVE PUT THEIR LIVES ON HOLD. They have made more sacrifices than an Aztec priest.

38 A player being interviewed should always 'gaze across' at the immediate vicinity, giving you the chance to indulge in a bit of fancy geographical description.

39 Features should conclude with a short ominous sentence. 'He does now.' 'It is his.' 'A man alone,' 'Love me tender,' 'Stairway to Heaven,' something like that.

40 A player who should have been picked in the first place and proves this when he comes on is an IMPACT SUB.

41 Players do not mind being criticised at all. It is the impact on their families which worries them.

42 The first International Rules test always 'casts doubt over the future of the series'. The second 'answers the doubters'.

43 A player with more than three All-Stars is 'THE GREAT MAN'.

44 There's a special magic about the FA Cup. That's why most of the Premier League's top players vanish from their teams during the competition.

45 The GAA needs Dublin to win an All-Ireland, thus preventing young people in the capital from taking up heroin or, even worse, soccer.

46 Black players on the South African rugby team owe their places to 'political correctness,' a phenomenon most rugby commentators find infinitely more disturbing than they did apartheid.

47 Donegal are over-indulging in the short passing game.

48 The African teams in the World Cup are 'defensively naive'.

49 RTE's soccer coverage is the best in the world, no one else was insightful enough to notice that Cristiano Ronaldo is a fraud who can't play football.

50 He gazed across the desk at his computer in a macho fashion. A man under threat. Determined to keep his job. West Cork, fields and the sea and cattle and men named Finbarr playing road bowls while eating farmhouse cheese made by German hippies. Would he survive? He would see. Born To Run. Blonde on Blonde.

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