Monday, January 29, 2007

Take That, Backwoodsman!

A backwoodsman, yesterdayAn Spailpín’s little head is ringing this morning. The Backwoodsmen of the GAA, those people that are deeply unhappy to see Croke Park turned over to competing codes, got a very severe lash of Tom Humphries’ crozier in the Irish Times this morning and, as your faithful correspondent is a card-carrying member of that strange church, he too is withered under the blow.

Big Tom sums up his argument in two paragraphs in about the middle of this morning’s Locker-Room column. (The rest of the column is shadow-boxing and pontificating about Dublin’s chances of winning the All-Ireland, which makes An Spailpín less guilty about blathering on about Mayo all the time in this forum – after all, An Spailpín Fánach is only a weblog, whereas The Irish Times is, famously, the Paper of Record). Anyway, Tom sums up the pro-opening argument:

The rest of us (barring the iconic Michael Greenan) are just happy to see the back of that dark period of time and to be on the cusp of an era where the GAA's achievement at Croke Park is highlighted and talked about and welcomed and respected.

For the next few months we might still be backward-looking, swamp-dwelling stickballing Neanderthals but we are the ones opening up the grand house and taking the rent from our professional friends. Only a churl would be, well, churlish about it.

Now your diligent quillsman does not number “psychologist” under his many titles and banners of honour, but even to an amateur opinion do those pars suggest to you that someone may be nursing an inferiority complex?

“We might still be backward-looking, swamp-dwelling stickballing Neanderthals.”

As well as not being a psychologist, your constant chronicler does not consider himself a Neanderthal either, neither the swamp-dwelling nor backward-looking variety. And even if things were so low that he did, it’d take more than a pat on the head from Nige and Darren, over in Dublin to support the English rugger XV, to change my status. An Spailpín Fánach is an Irishman. You can take him or leave him, but you' won't change him. It's up to you how you deal with that.

This notion about Croke Park being “highlighted and talked about and welcomed and respected” – what’s going on there, exactly? Does anybody really think that Pierre or Freddie give a rooty-toot-toot about any of the stadia in which games are played? How many people came back from the World Cup talking about the stadia? Let’s play a little game – which stadium was considered so gosh-darned wonderful in the last World Cup that FIFA would have given it six stars, rather than the regular five, if only they could?

Exactly. The answer is at the bottom, as your steadfast scrivener hates leaving people guessing. But anyone that thinks anybody is coming for those two rugby games to hear about Michaels Hogan or Cusack would want to think again. If Big Tom and his ilk are looking for some sort of legitimacy from the visitors they’ll be waiting. Maybe the soccer boys will be more grateful. Let’s hope so.

Finally, unpleasant as it is, An Spailpín can’t help but worry about what may be another Freudian slip – what rich pickings those two paragraphs are! The phrase that concerns is “we are the ones opening up the grand house and taking the rent from our professional friends.”

If you make one substitution in that sentence you will realise instantly why we benighted backwoodsmen, we knuckle-dragging, shirt-under-geansaí wearing, Smithwick-drinking, country-loving hicks, are so desperately concerned about competing codes in Croke Park. Read “we are the ones opening up the grand house and taking the rent from our professional friends” again, this time substituting the word “wife” for “house,” and you’ll see in all its sordid glory just what Seán Kelly and the other appeasers, from the innocent to the ignorant to the downright cynical, have wrought.

The German stadium? Gelsenkirchen, of course. Where else?

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