Monday 22 January 2018

David Kelly: Mob venting fury at Keane for who he is, not for what he said

We're not great at dealing with honesty in this country. We must only look at the duplicity of authority figures to whom we were supposed to always dutifully defer to illustrate the point.

The legacy of so much withdrawal of honesty, of so much deceit, is awkward to comfortably bear. Emotions become too rampant. And so anger now dominates our debate.

Emotion and sport are interlinked; they must be. It is what drives the magnificent triviality of sport, as the great Hugh McIlvanney called it, even when sport is supposed to be a wonderful escape from the depressing realities of real life.

But there can be too much emotion. Too much anger.

Roy Keane is merely guilty of essaying an opinion on an unalterable fact – the sending off of Nani – but now must run the gauntlet of being guilty of being Roy Keane.

It is an inescapable bind; for Roy Keane cannot be Roy Keane without expressing his opinion, whether on the field, in a press conference or in a TV studio.

Regardless of whether he was right or wrong – and a brief assertion of the facts that was seemingly beyond too many other one-eyed members of the official and unofficial experts could have only deemed that he was, in fact, correct – his opinion was delivered with utterly emotional detachment.

That much can be gleaned from the outrageously personal response he has engendered, with so many willing to indiscriminately attack the messenger, not the message.

That this has been bound up with Keane's difficult history with Manchester United, not to mention his divisive legacy in this country, has clearly prompted such outrage.

But that does not mean the loud majority should hold sway.

Pat Crerand, hardly a voice of impartiality himself, demeaned himself by declaring that his opinion was better weighted for having played in a European Cup final while, with barbarous and pointed fury, as he reminded us, Keane did not.

So who is guilty here of being personal and outrageously seeking to leverage emotion over opinion?

Did Alex Ferguson's refusal to engage with the controversial refereeing decision also not indicate a commitment to professional duty or a retreat into partiality?

Keane has paid the price for his opinion before, most famously when ultimately being ejected from Old Trafford after his withering assessment of team-mates ended up on the cutting room floor of his own club's in-house TV station.

But the image of someone wandering around the many rooms of his mansion bitterly ranting to himself at the injustice of it all and, worse, seeking any manner of means to avenge it, are so distant from the truth as to be laughable.

"I was disappointed the way I was treated at the end, nobody will change that," Keane said last year. "But that doesn't mean to say I'm bitter and twisted towards Man Utd. Far from it."

We have learned nothing new about Keane the person from his latest sortie into telling it as it is, once more shaking up the cosy, gentle world of punditry and lazy cliches emanating daily from the mouths of supposedly intelligent players and managers, regardless of sporting code.

It does seem, though, that we have learned so much more about those who feel so emotionally wounded by such views, so much irrational anger and illogical, personal affront are taken.

Incidentally, it appears that while Keane was delivering his assessment of the referee's decision – now fully backed by the UEFA authorities, not that that will alter the rages of the public mob – Brian Kerr was also offering a similar point of view on another channel.

Clear evidence that it was necessarily not the opinion expressed which caused such grave offence to so many, rather the person who deigned to express it.

But then, when your name is Roy Keane, it doesn't take long for people to blind themselves to reason when dissecting your words. They clearly just want to dissect him.

If they're really being honest with themselves, that is.

Irish Independent

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