Own goal

It’s that time of year again. The annual pilgrimage to the sold-out Springsteen shows. Relax. It’s just the sun giving me jip and having me mix up my religious rituals as the summers fade into one another. I mean graveyard mass, of course. Then there’s the monster raving Ulsterman cracking open the apoplexy, as is tradition. Or Joe Brolly, for short. Bruce and Joe. Imagine them trading birth places, if you will. Joey and Wee Brucie.

Not a porch door for any of Brucie’s average-looking women to slam. Maybe a broken lift to curse, or the person who was born in a hospital with swinging doors who left one wide open. Meanwhile, Joey’s giving it Red Sox knocking himself out commentating on the baseball league with Patty Spillane. Awesome.

There’s really not a whole lot that separates these two men from their traded places in terms of the people that inspire and drive them. It’s just that Jersey skylines go better with the universal theme of disenchantment and broken blue collar dreams than Tesco car-parks and doughnut tracks from twin-cams. Baseball is the unifying game that helps them forget about life for a while. Sort of like The GAA. Or the Grab All Association. Or the what’s-the-point and the anachronistic eye-rolls scornfully mocking the parochial game. Or its failure to compare with the beautiful game. Delete as you see appropriate.

It’s that time of year again. When the city/rural divisions rear their jerseys online, and the self-regarding antipathy breaks out on messageboards like a prickly heat rash. I’m no devotee, or apologist for The GAA. No sport has claimed to be the panacea for all societal ills, except maybe democracy. But it takes a certain blinkered snobbery to wilfully ignore the unifying power the GAA has in carrying communities through good and bad.

One of the more heartening developments in recent years has been the emergence of rugby as a more reachable sport for all the nation. Men and women getting stuck in on the great debate throughout the country (“O’Gara’s better looking” “No BO’D is”).

Plenty of sporting enthusiasts love both, some play both. Even so, it’s past time the minority of whingers paused the eyeroll and threw out the stale sweat smelling questions on the point of it all. Go listen to Badlands. It’s about living in Leitrim. Except it’s not, but it is. And Carlow. And Donegal. And Armagh. And Louth. And Tipperary. And even Dublin. Where the game breathes energy into connections between folk, and helps them forget about life for a while.

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