Isn’t schadenfreude an awful thing?
Of course it is, so why did I find it that hard to wipe the evil little grin off my face as I thought about Pat Hickey’s reality TV arrest? After all, the man is innocent. He hasn’t been tried or convicted of anything. He hasn’t even had formal charges laid against him in the way we’d understand here, but still I found myself chuckling even though I know that’s not a good thing. I’m a bad man for doing it. A bad, bad man. It’s true!
Perhaps it has something to do with Pat Hickey’s combative history, issuing writs against anyone brave enough to write about him, taking delight in humiliating one sports minister after another, crowing in public at every defeat inflicted on an opponent.
It’s probably no coincidence that Hickey’s personal sporting origins lie in judo. A man so driven to defeat his opponents rather than persuading them would do well in the martial arts and Pat Hickey was all about winning, no matter who he came up against. Apart from the Brazilian police, that is, who didn’t give a rat’s arse who Pat Hickey was as long as they got headlines for being tough on touting.
Was Hickey involved in the ticket scandal? Nobody knows and nobody will know until the Rio police bring forward whatever evidence they think they have, so for now we must all assume that Pat Hickey is blameless, but that doesn’t stop us having a quiet chuckle at the plight of a man who is, to be blunt about it, not especially likeable.
That isn’t his fault. I’m not especially likeable myself, but I wasn’t flapping my wings about putting an Irish government minister back in his box just hours before being arrested in the most embarrassing circumstances.
Hubris is an even worse thing than schadenfreude because it leads people to believe they’re bulletproof and Hickey can’t have been immune to its seductive powers. After all, he came a long way from flogging second-rate houses in Phibsborough to rubbing shoulders with Vladimir Putin. It was all very well nodding at Bertie Ahern in the chipper, but what was that compared to the oil-rich dictator of Azerbaijan begging him for favours?
When you’re the top dog in European Olympic circles, a mover and a shaker in world Olympics, it must be very easy to forget about the little people, even if you came from the little people yourself.
When you can command a first-class air ticket to Brazil, and a suite of rooms for yourself and your family in a top-class Rio hotel, along with €900 a day walking-around money in case you’re stuck, it must be easy enough to imagine that you’re above sanction and beyond reach.
Thus, when Romario was beating the anti-corruption drum in Brazil four years ago, our homegrown Olympic Ozymandias must have wondered who this upstart was.
Well, he knows now.
Did the cops read Hickey the Rio Act?