Friday 24 November 2017

Superstars of today no match for Superbrat

This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of one of the iconic Wimbledon moments, John McEnroe's famous outburst against umpiring injustice during his match against Tim Gullikson. This particular tantrum has been parodied so often that, when watching it on YouTube, it's hard to shake the impression that you're watching a comedian doing an impression.

But you're not. McEnroe really does say, "you can't be serious man. You CANNOT be serious," and follows up with, "You guys are the absolute pits of the world."

There was much tut-tutting at the time and since and there is undoubtedly something ludicrous about the levels of juvenile outrage McEnroe would manage to reach during these diatribes.

Yet for a whole generation of casual tennis fans Superbrat throwing the head was as essential a part of Wimbledon as the covers coming on and BBC replaying the Stan Smith-Ilie Nastase final of 1972 as the rain poured down.

If your attention had drifted after the first hour of one of his matches and you were tempted to wander away from the box, you stayed there all the same because of the prospect of McEnroe throwing his racket out of the pram. He obliged on a regular basis.

Nadal and Federer might be all-time greats but can either of them do such a great impression of Violet Elizabeth Bott from Just William?

* * * * *

It's a bit bizarre to see inter-county players claiming that they're put off playing because people are saying nasty things about them on internet forums. Because surely one of the distinguishing features of such forums is that you actually have to make the effort to enter the site to see what's going on there.

Anyone silly enough to go seeking his own name in such insalubrious surroundings shouldn't be surprised to find that they've come in for personal abuse.

After all, personal abuse is up there with pornography as one of the chief purposes of the internet. No matter how posh the publication or how high-minded the subject, sooner or later a forum will attract name-calling and ad hominem sniping. GAA forums are no different.

Young players worried about what gets said about them online should remember (a) that no matter who you are there's always somebody giving out about you somewhere, and (b) that disheartening as it might be to be the subject of anonymous internet abuse, imagine how soul-destroying it is to be someone who gets their kicks doing this sort of thing. You'll always be an inter-county player. They'll always be a cowardly gobshite.

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The decision of Australian back Berrick Barnes, who has played flyhalf and centre in his 31 Tests for the Wallabies, to take a break from the game after a series of head injuries comes just a couple of weeks after the International Rugby Board announced a tightening up of the rules on concussion.

Barnes's decision also follows the recent retirement of 21-year-old Sale Sharks and Scotland under 21 centre Jonny Kennedy after repeated concussions. Ten years ago a study at the University of North Carolina suggested that there might be a 'hidden epidemic' of concussion in rugby.

The epidemic of concussion in American football is no longer hidden and the sport is reeling from recent revelations of the seriousness of the problem.

Former NFL players have 19 times the normal rate of Alzheimer's and related diseases while former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who last month committed suicide at the age of 50, was one of at several former NFL stars suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a condition previously associated with brain-damaged boxers. NFL players who have suffered concussions are more likely to suffer problems with memory, concentration, speech and headaches than the general population.

It remains to be seen if similar problems will be uncovered in rugby as American football is perhaps unparalleled in the ferocity of its physical contact. Twenty-six high school players have died of head injuries since 1998.

Eamonn Sweeney

ssport@independent.ie

Sunday Indo Sport

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