Wednesday, January 12, 2005

You'll Never Walk Alone

First, this article by economist David McWilliams is an excellent, concise exploration of why relieving third world debt (especially in Asia) is not as straightforward as people make it out to be. Basically a lot of the debt was bought by private concerns and western pension funds, i.e. the nest eggs of the First World middle classes, and our pension funds are, as such, partially reliant on the proceeds. So it's not necessarily a case of G8 nations cancelling debt but ordinary Joe Soaps, to a degree. I wonder, would that knowledge, if it were widespread, soften the clamour? My own problem with debt cancellation is that a) might it encourage other nations to default? And b) is it too much of a reward for bad governance where money was embezzled, spent on arms or spent on ridiculously unnecessary capital projects? I've linked David McWilliams under my list of Blogs, but his site isn't really a blog at all. However I do admire the man and found him to be excellent at both TV and Radio broadcasting and a fine opinion journalist with Ireland's Sunday Business Post.

Second, I hate Rugby (or Egg Chasing, to give it its proper name). Now hate is a strong word but I don't care - I'm that shallow. I'd like to be just indifferent to it but it's just so pervasive in Ireland right now that I can't. The popularity of the sport among the masses has exploded in recent years for one reason - we have been moderately successful and there's nothing that Irish people like more than a good band-wagon to jump on. Ignore the fact that it's played competitively in only six to ten countries (and that it's a minority sport in all of them) and ignore the fact that the European club structure has allowed virtually the whole Irish national team be split across two clubs (Leinster and Munster) to play in complete mismatches against small Italian villages and ignore the fact that the Six-Nations is a repetitive slog fest where at least three of the six are whipping boys for the rest (usually four whipping boys while France and England contest the Grand Slam); because we beat England, because we won a trophy-less competition in 2004 (the Triple Crown), because the south-Dublin elite running the State broadcaster (RTE) love it and because the south-Dublin wannabes in Cork and Limerick see their team win the vast majority of their matches against the afore-mentioned villages, the sport is reaching ever higher levels of exposure.

So what's my problem with Egg Chasing? Well it's hard to articulate but it grew out of the dislike of seeing people, men and women, in pubs watching a game on television and, kind-of, gritting their teeth and grunting "c'mon" as men fought and struggled over yardage - it's as if they're urging on the troops in a quasi-World War 1 battle to cross No Man's Land and kill the enemy. Football fans simply do not behave that way watching their teams (for all the hooliganism, racism and the rest) because football is not, normally, a game where you have to grind out territory incessantly to succeed. Now, when I look at a game or talk to those who play it, I see men getting off on some kind of modern-day man-to-man combat, "the glory of the warrior" trip. The people who watch the game are far more excited by the physical contest, the big hits and the barely restrained violence than any skill or tactics (whatever they're meant to be). In fact it's almost sexual for some people, I think. Lastly, in the Scrum and Lineout, we have perhaps the two most ridiculous set-pieces ever devised in popular team sport.

And so I look on as ROG (Ronan O' Gara) is lionised for being able to sky an egg into the terraces while standing empty in acres...

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