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3 December 1998 Edition

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Television: Better than lovin'

Fever Pitch (Channel 4)
It's Only a Game (Channel 4)
How Others See Us (UTV)
An Lasar Ceilteach (TnaG)
The characters featured on Channel 4's ``Fever Pitch'' and ``It's Only a Game'', which both basically addressed the issue of sports fanatics, reminded me of myself before I discovered politics or romance and all those other bad things that you encounter ``above in Dublin''.

There was Diana, who has a six foot cardboard cutout of the English soccer hero Stuart Pearce in her kitchen, which she talks to after each game, washes with TCP every day and rubs his thigh Tiger Balm if the real life Stuart gets injured; Gary the Leeds fan who has such a passionate dislike of Man Utd that he removes red paint from customers' walls for free; Hans the Dutch Sunderland fan who emigrated to be closer to his heroes and Mick who last missed a Derby FC match when he was involved in a motorcycle accident twenty five years ago!

These are all real people who fit in with the professor's hypothesis - ``when something is so important to so many people you can no longer regard it as just a game''.

My father once told me in a very earnest manner that hurling was ``better than lovin'' - as an eight year old I wasn't too keen on the old ``lovin'' and though I had intellect enough not to tell my mother, I quickly donned my Dublin jersey, chip bag on my head, and glass milk bottles with stones and danced up and down outside my neighbours homes, which wasn't appreciated as they were from Kerry and were very keen ``to flush the Jacks''.

I quickly progressed to learning by rote the scores of every All Ireland Final as far back as 1887 (Tipperary 1-1, Galway 0-0, Attendance 2,345) and pasting pictures of Jimmy Keaveney to my ceiling, where my friends pinned ABBA.

Like the star of Nick Hornby's ``Fever Pitch'', which was based on the novel of the same name, I lived my life by the football season, and Christmas was but a nuisance, when we had to watch the Queen talking balderdash, while we waited for Clare hurlers to return - being a Clare hurling and Dublin football supporter is a bit strange but no dafter than the thousands of boobys from Ireland who follow West Ham or Arsenal.

Nick had little to fill his life in London, bar a mundane teaching job and a Hillman Hunter so he didn't care much about losing a job or a mortgage as long as the Gunners won at home to Derby.

There's not much to do in Clare as a spotty teenager, unless you like bustops, cornbeef sandwiches or rain, so I took Nick's subbuteo passion a step further, taking up sport on an almost professional level, training seven nights a week, with bruised shins and ``jesus boy we hammered those mucksavages'' and a two litre bottle of TK and custard creams to compensate for the lack of showers.

``Fever Pitch'' highlights the practical side of many women compared to the childish obsessions of men. Nick's relationship declines, not surprisingly when his bedtime passions included Arsenal underpants - for my own sins I once took my manager's advice too seriously about living with your hurley and took it to bed for the night.

Keith, a keen Plymouth Argyle fan who featured in the documentary that followed, forsook two wives for the sake of ``the club''. He wasn't too upset on the day of his second wife's departure as ``we won away from home that day''.

Both programmes ask why sport is such a consuming passion - is it to compensate for lack of religion, love, or belief in society or maybe there's just millions of saddo's out there?

Fortunately for Nick, who describes his relationship with Arsenal as ``a bad marriage that you can never divorce from'', is saved from Armageddon as Arsenal win the league in the dying seconds and Alice joins the Loonies in red: similar to my own emotional climax on the day after my wedding as tears ran down my cheeks as I realised listening to the radio in Donegal - where no one even knew what a hurley looked like, except the Gardai and I wasn't going drinking with them - that Clare had finally reached the promised land with a Munster Final win, the first since the year Dev came to power.

It's great to be such ``a tragic human being' - then again the normal people say, ``sure it's only a game''.

An Lasar Ceilteach (The Celtic Flame) is another TnaG gem, which centres on the fight against oppression in the Celtic nations. This week it featured the unsung Michael Davitt, whose international socialist views (he campaigned politically on Russia, South Africa, the Jews, Scotland and England) were ahead of his time. His belief in people power led to the successes of The Land League and his radical energies were used by the opportunist Parnell, who got all the streets named after him.

Also highlighted is Davitt's colleague Keir Hardie, founder of the Scottish Labour Party in 1888 and their first MP, which ultimately led to the formation and victory of the British Labour Party.

Hardie, like Davitt, faded with age and died of a broken heart in 1916 after witnessing so many working class men being sacrificed for the war games of whiskered generals. Next Tuesday (10.00pm) features Jim Larkin - never mind that old Brookside rubbish!

Back with the intellectuals, UTV's How Others See Us gave us journalistic opinions of our own troubles - Nuala O Faolain of The Irish Times was being a cliched stater with the insulting view that ``no southerner would ever voluntarily go to live in ``Northern Ireland'' - Dublin 4 martyr that she was, spending six months in Belfast.

Toby from The Daily Telegraph put his finger on the mindset of the Conservative readership - ``oh God, this is just awful, will those Irish ever stop fighting''.

Probably the most positive contributions came strangely enough from a Yank, Jim Dee of The Boston Hearld who spoke of witnessing ``history in the making, as the people went through a thirty year period of gut wrenching change''.

He pinpointed the classic international misconception of the war ``as two religious tribes'' and editors doctoring his articles to fit this notion and simplify the story for their readers, many of whom don't have a baloney what's happening due to the constant stream of garbage fed to them by a consensus establishment based media.

The people were generally perceived as ``friendly and helpful folk'' but soppy Silka from Germany opined ``that you could see the tough life in their eyes'' - pass the Kleenex.

Dee, again, accurately sees the people as ``incredibly politically sophisticated'' and ``well able to read between the lines and challenge the media''.

A mixture of accurate commentary and nonsense followed, concluding with martyr Nuala, who after battling it out on the Malone Road for six months realises, ``this isn't my place, I want to go home to my own country''

By Sean O Donaile

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
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