Sunday 19 November 2017

No excuse for this litany of grimness

Eamonn Sweeney

There's a great and much loved moment in Led Zeppelin's live version of 'Stairway To Heaven' from The Song Remains The Same when Robert Plant shrieks, "Does anybody remember laughter?" and the crowd goes wild.

The same question often occurs to me when I'm watching tv sports coverage. Because, not to put a tooth in it, the way sport is covered has become as unremittingly serious as a Lars von Trier box-set. Whether lamenting the mortal sin of excessive handpassing or dissecting the shape of Ireland's midfield or back row in the style of forensic pathologists examining a murder victim, too many TV panellists make sport seem a grim business.

All the talk of moral courage and defining moments, of work ethic and local pride, of passion and tragedy, tends to obscure the fact that most people follow sport because it's fun.

This unearned seriousness isn't just the preserve of television. Newspapers are just as bad. We're forever reading that someone is 'slamming' somebody or 'blasting' something. The question of who is going to shake hands with who and why is accorded the gravity of the peace negotiations in some Balkan civil war, tweets are given the kind of concentrated attention once reserved for theological ruminations on the nature of God.

I'm as bad as anyone else but it's started to give me an almighty pain in the butt. If you're a sportsman who's put in the extraordinary amount of work necessary to progress to elite status, you're entitled to believe your chosen calling is the be all and end all of life. The rest of us have no excuse.

A great summer of sport lies ahead and we'll enjoy it far more if we watch with a smile. Last year LeBron James observed after his team lost the NBA finals that worse things could happen. He received a severe pillorying for this piece of common sense. To misquote Bill Shankly, who was probably joking anyway, sport isn't a matter of life and death. It's less important than that.

Let's all lighten up a little bit.

Sunday Indo Sport

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