“You seem to be doing a bit more in the line of news lately,” a friend of mine was recently moved to comment.
“Really,” said I, with a questioning lilt in my voice. “I can’t say I’ve noticed that myself.” After all, I’m in the best position of all to make such a judgement!
During this recent yet brief line of questioning, my friend added: “it’s like you’re becoming a more serious journalist,” as if to suggest that my sports writing pursuits didn’t matter as much as ‘hard news’.
Well, there’s absolutely no doubt that sportswriting isn’t as daunting an area of the trade as, say, business or local authority reporting. Thank the stars for that.
If trawling through chief economists’ press releases or the ‘Any Other Business’ minutiae of a Monday night spent in City Hall was all there was to journalism, this gig of mine would be a dull one indeed.
For me, sportswriting is a pleasure. My work regularly leads me to draw from a deep well of memories – pleasant hours spent talking, observing and reading about the Mullanes, Sonias and Keanes of this world.
These men and women, no physically bigger than most of us in reality, take on mythical dimensions in our mind’s eye. Most of Christy Ring’s hurling prowess is recalled only from the memories of elders, which in turn makes Ring’s legend even greater.
That so little footage exists of the Munster rugby team’s 1978 win over the All Blacks makes that special sporting moment all the more wondrous.
‘Seeing is believing’ so the saying goes, but there are few doubting Toms to be found among those who believe in the joy of sport without witnessing every magical moment themselves. It’s escapist, it’s romantic and it’s magical.
I’ve never concealed the fact that sport is top of the tree when it comes to ranking my past times, containing under its mighty span so many different codes, characters and charms.
But what’s the point of it all, the non-sporty type often queries. Fellas running around a field after a ball hardly ranks as one of humanity’s greatest intellectual advances, they’ll add.
Grown men (as it is in most cases) venting bile towards some player who’s just missed an open goal from six yards is surely nothing more than an unnecessary increase in blood pressure.
Witnessing sportspeople weep following a defeat is about as ludicrous as watching an X-Factor contestant blubbing once they’ve been voted off our weekend television screens.
Needless to say, I don’t agree with the Devil’s Advocate sentiments I’ve just thrown in there. Not even for a single syllable.
However, not ‘getting’ sport doesn’t make anyone silly, diminished or ill-informed, in my view. Anyone that dismisses non-sporty types as fools are fools themselves. If it ain’t your cup of tea, fair enough – sure where would be without opinions and their many varieties?
As someone with a fairly wide range of interests, a seat in Croke Park is as cherished a spot as a seat in the Theatre Royal (when it opens again).
To see 15 men in red charge into the mighty All Blacks a few weeks’ back was up uplifting as witnessing Colm Wilkinson bring an audience to his feet when singing ‘Bring Him Home’.
To see the unbridled joy on the faces of the young and old alike through Waterford’s great hurling endeavours of the past decade merely re-enforces the assertion that this passion of mine is so worthwhile.
In a country currently beset by doom and gloom, the joyous intoxication sport provides the masses with becomes increasingly relevant. That it happens to be a field of journalism that I love to write in is also one of the great pleasures of my life.
But in saying all that, there is no escaping the truism immortalised in print by Mr Samuel Johnson. “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” he wrote. Guilty as charged? Yes. Happy to admit that? Absolutely!