Tuesday 24 October 2017

Vintage sporting year a welcome relief from doom and gloom

saturday view

Sean Diffley

Ring Lardner, the distinguished American literary personality and sportswriter of a bygone age, came up with the statement that there isn't anything on earth as depressing as an old sportswriter.

He was, it is generally conceded, speaking about himself. I hope. He was, you see, writing mostly about baseball. Also, he tended to hit the bottle a bit liberally. Not that a responsible swig or two, or even three, is all that wrong; don't decent drink companies sponsor most of our sports anyway.

As you know, Americans can be strange people. Sam Snead, for instance, never won golf's US Open but he did manage three Masters and told us that the only reason he played golf was to help pay for the odd jar "and give me time to go off fishing".

He must have found it a bit depressing, too, at golf I mean. No, the most apposite American quote -- (come to think of it, a classic oxymoron?) -- in the current Irish sporting climate is surely that famous remark by the late US Chief Justice, Earl Warren, who said: "I always turn to the sports pages first, which record people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures".

The front pages chronicle bailouts, defaults, murderous suicide bombings, banks, Greeks meeting Greeks, the people who invented democracy and then forgot how to use it, etcetera.

Then, the contrast, as our back pages in these glorious and immortal days are narrating the Golden Days of Irish sport, the most incredibly successful in the annals of our sports.

And, of course, it's not just golf, with Padraig Harrington, two Majors in three seasons, and Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy and those successive US Opens.

That's the kind of success that makes you wake in the morning and wonder if you haven't had a wonderful dream of unlikely achievements, something only possible in the hallucinations of dreamland.

We've always been conscious that we inhabit a small island of some five million inhabitants and such success astonishes not only ourselves but the wider world.

The population of the United States in the 2002 census was 288 million and quite a few golfers.

And take rugby, hitherto dominated by the big, physical, nations with Brian 0'Driscoll and his Leinster team-mates proving the best at least in Europe, but, in the opinion of many, the best in the world game.

And all four provinces now qualified for next season's Heineken Cup; even Connacht, where once Oliver Cromwell used the place for waste disposal. Ireland now, a major rugby power.

And horseracing. Aidan 0'Brien and the Ballydoyle Stables and the Coolmore Stud, the envy of the world.

The jockeys, especially those bravest of the brave, the Ruby Walshes, his sister Katie, Barry Geraghty, Nina Carberry and the showjumpers performing so well around the equestrian world. The Irish boxers, Katie Taylor, the best in the world.

This year of 2011 is registered as Ireland's greatest time ever in world sport and, note this Ring Lardner, wherever you are, that at least one old sportswriter is very far from depressed. And sober.

Irish Independent

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