Yours truly traveled from Cork to Limerick several times last week for press calls. A few weeks ago it was Dublin, and before that Waterford.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Galway, probably for a hurling league game a few years ago. It was a few years before that I had last seen Derry, and it must have been a decade or more since I found myself in Belfast.
Why am I listing cities in Ireland? I admit it’s partly related to an article I saw in Michael Walker’s The Athletic: the title said it all: “Is Paris, host of the Champions League, a city of football? ” Walker’s article is well worth a read – it begins by finding the neglected grave of Jules Rimet of World Cup fame – but of course it got me thinking.
Is Dublin/Cork/Waterford/Limerick/Galway a football/hurling/soccer/rugby city?
There are naturally inherent flaws in the process. To take the original of the species, Paris has a metropolitan population of over two million people with diverse interests, but more specifically, the city is a recognized leader in the arts, fashion, cuisine and tourism, among other areas. Sport is perhaps the least of his worries.
Likewise Dublin, which in an Irish context is so large – with a population of 1.1 million – that it is hard to narrow it down to one interest.
It’s been the dominant force in Gaelic football for the last decade, but it’s also been the power of Irish rugby across Leinster (I almost said the power of the continent until one of our colleagues here from the sports office decides otherwise last Saturday). And half of the teams in the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland come from Dublin, so there’s that to consider as well.
Go to the other extreme and it’s much easier to isolate a single sporting focus: Kilkenny’s sporting appeal is known across the country, but with a population of just under 27,000, it’s an entire urban area that would be engulfed in one of Dublin’s discrete neighborhoods.
The Kilkenny-Dublin comparison bears fruit, as one of the areas of the capital that approximates the population of Kilkenny could truly be called a one-sport suburb.
Residents around Dalymount Park would no doubt claim their area as Bohemiantown, while a few miles to the east, residents of Marino might call their place of origin Vincentville. It’s a model that could be applied to other sections of other cities, but Dublin is the one with a large enough population to max out the comparison.
Curiously, there seems to be a slight reluctance among some sports when it comes to planting their flag in a particular territory. The designation of – well, the whole island, it seems – as Rugby Country a few years ago did not meet with universal approval, for example, and I say that with an understatement.
Admittedly, this antipathy may have more to do with the commercial force behind the idea of Rugby Country – the same organisation, need I remind you, that attempted to create a new party based on its founder’s name. (This is all so whimsical I’m lost – reader. What’s Google for, just parking lot closing times? Work a little – me.)
Then there is the simple effect of demographics. As the population ages in one part of a city, does the connection to a particular sport wither and fade? Or do the new people find a new passion and convert the area to a different faith?
Many thanks to Michael Walker for starting the conversation. If you have any ideas on this subject, do not hesitate to contact us.
The horrific shooting in Texas during the week grabbed headlines, but for reasons of seriousness rather than novelty: Nineteen children and two adults were killed by a gunman in Uvalde, Texas.
It was noted that one of the main contributors to the horrific news came from a sportsman – Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, was emotional when discussing the shooting during a press conference regular, prefacing his remarks by saying he was I’m not going to talk about basketball.
“When are we going to do something? Kerr said, slamming his hand down on the table. “I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering my condolences to the devastated families out there. I’m so tired of the, excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough !”
Viewers of the documentary The Last Dance will know that Kerr’s father was murdered by terrorists in Beirut in 1984, which may make an event like Uvalde even more resonant for him, but he’s long been outspoken on social issues, like several other basketball coaches such as Gregg Popovitch.
What is it about basketball coaches in the United States that makes them so vocal compared to other sports and other coaches?
I realize this could lead to long and winding conversations about the levels of social awareness of coaches and managers, with a focus on the long and winding, but it’s an interesting way to approach your assessment of personalities sports and might reveal more than you might think.
In the old German military academies there was a long-standing debate about what was best for future officers – to concentrate entirely on military theory and tactics to the exclusion of all other subjects, or to give them a full education in several subjects and not only military matters?
Likewise, do you prefer your sports figureheads to be totally focused on the sport or have a broader context for their opinions? I know what I prefer.
Lester Piggott died this weekend at the age of 86. Oddly, I would have imagined the tall jockey to be much older – he already seemed like a gnarly veteran when I first became vaguely aware of him in the late seventies and early eighties. .
Even then, he was synonymous with his sport. In recent days, racing experts have pointed out that he was the first great jockey of the television age, a recognizable figure even in a crowded field, a man whose wrinkled face expressed the strain of making weight at five foot eight.
Those hawk traits meant horse racing for a generation of us, or for those, like me, who knew no more about horse racing than its name. What other athlete can say the same?
The holidays are on the horizon – maybe closer, depending on your 9 to 5 – and I think I’ve found one that will have to make the trip. The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bull Durham: Home Runs, Bad Calls, Crazy Fights, Big Swings, and a Hit is director Ron Shelton’s account of the making of the film Bull Durham.
It’s a baseball movie, but don’t be discouraged. As Shelton himself says, “The biggest mistake a sports movie can make is having too much sport,” and that’s not the case with Bull Durham. Recommend.