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Muhammad Ali — the Greatest

Muhammad AliTell me the name of another boxer your grandmother stayed up all night to watch.

Tell me of another boxer your grandmother could even name.

Tell me the name of one boxer your grandmother wanted to run away with no matter how beloved your Grandad was.

That was Muhammad Ali, or Cassius Clay as your granny probably still calls him. Cassius Clay who rejected his slave name. Muhammad Ali, the man who captivated everyone’s hearts and minds except of course those Southern crackers who wanted to see that black boy whupped so bad they poured their redneck dollars into the sport and made him a rich man, at least for the moment, though it’s questionable if The Greatest died with a single penny in his pocket.

He was The Greatest on so many levels it has become impossible to talk about him because everything you say has already been said by others and said better, and that’s why talking about Muhammad Ali / Cassius Clay is such a hard thing to do.

This was a man who sacrificed his finest years, between the ages of 25 and 28, a time when he would have been at the peak of his athletic career, yet it’s hard to differ with his logic.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape or kill my mother and father…. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.[/dropshadowbox]

It’s impossible to justify America’s invasion and subjugation of a small country at the other side of the globe, a country that had never done anything to America, but Muhammad Ali identified the essential problem, he articulated it and he stood by his principles in doing so.

Not only that, but he was subsequently vindicated in his stance.

He sacrificed the magnificent years when he could have bestrode the world like a Colossus, when he could have stamped his authority on the title to end all titles, simply because he didn’t see why he should kill some man who had done him no harm.

What a man.

Everything he achieved after that rests in the shadow of his wonderful principled stance and yet he went on to reaffirm his greatness time after time, though perhaps he prolonged it too much.

Such is boxing and such are the leeches who run it but if there ever existed a most-loved sporting hero, there would be few enough to compete for the title.

Muhammad Ali would be one. Perhaps Pelé would be another. I struggle to think of a third but it doesn’t matter because Muhammmad Ali is undoubtedly The Greatest.

Today we lost the finest sportsman the world has ever known.

 

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Tennis Uncategorized

Maria Sharapova and the Meldonium doping scandal

Maria SharapovaWho doesn’t admire Maria Sharapova? All the girls want to be her and all the boys want to be, well, with her.

A fine tennis player indeed. A fine athlete and yet it turns out that all these years she was struggling with a severe heart condition necessitating the use of an unapproved drug that just happens to increase oxygen uptake and stamina. Not that Ms Sharapova was taking it for those reasons of course because that would be cheating. That would be like using EPO. That would turn Maria Sharapova into as big a cheat as Lance Armstrong, and everyone knows that tennis is far cleaner than cycling.

Still, who could have guessed that Maria Sharapova suffered from chronic heart failure requiring constant use of the drug Meldonium for the last decade?

What an achievement for a person with such a serious illness to win the Australian Open, the French Open (twice) and the US Open in the last ten years. It makes all our little petty concerns seem so small compared to the obstacles Sharapova overcame on her way to greatness, battling heart failure to become one of the legendary figures of modern tennis.

The dedication of this great champion was so intense that she didn’t even stick with the recommendations of the drug’s manufacturers that it should be used for no more than four to six weeks at a time, and no more than two or three times in a year. But perhaps that was because she was using it in America where no guidance exists, since the drug is not licensed for use there. And how brave of her personal physician to prescribe the unlicensed drug, risking disbarment and perhaps worse in the intolerant world of US federal drug regulation, though of course, since it can be bought over the counter in Latvia where it’s produced, it is possible that adoring fans simply purchased it and posted it to their idol.

Tennis, it’s fair to say, is a clean sport. There’s no need for all that drug-testing that happens in other codes, and while it’s true that the elite male tennis stars can play five gruelling sets lasting an entire day and yet rebound within hours to play another equally-hard match without obvious ill effects, that’s due to their extreme fitness. Like golfers, tennis players simply do not cheat.

I suppose we can blame Sharapova’s heart condition for her failure to read the email from WADA last September warning her that Meldonium was now included in their official list of banned drugs. It’s hard to concentrate when you might drop dead of an ischaemic attack at any second, staved off only by the life-saving medication your doctor has risked his licence to prescribe.

But what a pity she didn’t open that email and read what it said. What a shame Maria Sharapova, famous for her attention to detail, simply didn’t notice that the drug she had been using for the previous decade was now banned, and continued to take it. Naturally, that would have nothing to do with the fact that testing of professional tennis players is almost unheard-of.

She just didn’t notice the email and that’s why Maria Sharapova is now out of tennis.

Petty bureaucracy.

 

 

 

 

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21 years since Cantona’s kung-fu kick

Let’s get something clear from the start. I think Eric Cantona was dead right to kick Matthew Simmons in the chest and I’m only sorry he didn’t get over the barrier and kick him some more because Simmons was a scumbag who deserved every bit of the kicking he got from the volatile and hugely-talented Frenchman.

How do I know Simmons was a scumbag? Simple. At the subsequent court hearing where he was found guilty of threatening behaviour, Simmons jumped over a table and attacked the prosecuting counsel, but luckily for him Eric Cantona wasn’t present. He just had to deal with ordinary policemen.

eric cantona matthew simmons manchester united crystal palace

Cantona was right to attack the horrible little scumbag, who scurried down from his ninth-row seat to hurl abuse at the player and he was right for many reasons. There was too much of that going on and nobody was doing anything about it.

So yes. I’m on Eric’s side. I was on his side then and I’m still on his side. Let’s leave it in no doubt.

Unlike many Irish people, however, I’m not a fervent supporter of any UK club, except our little group’s fun-filled adventures following Scunthorpe United, but that’s a story for another day. I’m not a true believer, but I’ll never forget the day I watched that game on TV, and that’s for many reasons.

Manchester had just bought Andy Cole from Newcastle (cue all the jokes) for huge money. I think it was £9 million plus a Keith Gillespie swap. Cole, in theory a striker, was terrible that season while at the same time Cantona, who cost only £2 million, was magnificent in midfield and scored most of United’s goals. It was all useful ammunition for torturing my Man Utd friends, but I was never an ABU since I’ve always regarded such attitudes as deeply anti-sport and that’s why I found myself watching the United-Palace game in my neighbour’s house. We’d watch anything.

Cantona’s red card for a questionable foul perhaps wasn’t a huge surprise, given the bite-yer-ankles attention he was getting from Richard Shaw. Niggled beyond his trigger-point, when Cantona finally lashed out at Shaw, nobody was surprised. Job done. United were down to ten men. Result.

The problem came with the walk of shame as Eric made his way to the tunnel and had to walk past the Palace supporters, including Simmons who deliberately ran to the edge of the pitch in order to fling abuse.

Cantona wasn’t having it, and launched himself over the barrier, making a very satisfying impact on the ratbag. Not long after that, you could buy a t-shirt with two footprints on the chest. I bought one.

You might think I’m wrong in defending Eric Cantona for this action. Some people think he was a disgrace to his club and a disgrace to soccer, but I felt at the time he was standing up for all decent people in sport when the authorities were failing to deal with lowlifes who were dragging it down. And I think history has been much kinder to Eric Cantona than it has been to Matthew Simmons.

He won’t be shouting abuse at any player any time soon.

The game was a 1-1 draw, incidentally.

 

 

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What would be wrong with ignoring the Haka?

Why exactly does every other team in the world have to stand and face the New Zealand players doing the Haka in front of them? This is something I’ve never been able to fathom. It has never been obvious to me, and I know you’ll probably call me a fool for it, but I have never been able to grasp why one particular rugby team should be afforded the special privilege of cavorting in front of all the others before a match. And yes, before you say it, I know that the Islanders do it too, but we’re talking here about serious contenders for the Cup.

haka Would world rugby be happy with Ireland performing a Riverdance in front of all their opponents?

Would it be all right if Argentina played keepy-uppy while the All Blacks were sticking their tongues out?

Would it be acceptable if the Scots played bagpipes at everyone, on the basis that this is their culture?

Of course it wouldn’t, and yet we seem happy to accept the Haka, a relatively recent phenomenon compared to New Zealand teams of former years who engaged in a half-hearted hand-waving slightly embarrassed demi-dance.

Why?

Why should anyone have to stand in front of a pumped-up display of aggression with no right of reply?  When exactly did New Zealand become the owners of world rugby? Who do they think they are?

Forget this nonsense. No team is more important than any other and no team is entitled to a psychological advantage, so why precisely is New Zealand afforded such an advantage?

There’s no logic to it, unless everyone is afforded the same opportunity.

So let me repeat the question. What would be wrong with ignoring the Haka? What would be wrong with our players continuing to warm up while the New Zealand players make fools of themselves?

 

 

 

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When is cyber-bullying not cyber-bullying?

When is cyber-bullying not cyber-bullying?

Simple: when it’s an excuse to avoid answering a question.

Here’s an interesting Twitter exchange I had yesterday with a reasonably-well-known artist, best remembered for modifying a photograph to produce an iconic revolutionary image that adorned many a bedsit wall.  I won’t name him.

Reasonably-well-known artist: #FineGael absolutely no clue about #WebSummit or importance to Ireland. Donohoe defends Govt engagement with Summit

Me: What reasonable requests did the government refuse?

Reasonably-well-known artist: Eh….the ‘Wiffy’ did not work last year at all. I could not contact anyone once there. That might be a good place to start.

Me: Why is the government responsible for WiFi in a private trade show?

Reasonably-well-known artist: There was no water the previous year. It just got silly.

Me: Could you answer the previous question please?

Reasonably-well-known artist: GFY

Me:  I don’t know what GFY means. Can you explain that please?

Reasonably-well-known artist: My way of letting you know I won’t be bullied.

Me: How are you being bullied?

So far, the reasonably-well-known artist hasn’t explained how being asked a relevant question constituted bullying, though I might hazard one or two guesses.

It could be that people surrounded by uncritical sycophants are simply unable to cope with being asked hard questions.

It could be a certain fragility of ego.

It could be thundering arrogance.

Who knows?

In an interesting Freudian slip, the reasonably-well-known artist used the word Wiffy, perhaps without realising that it has become a term of derision for the unelected Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames who has ridden the cyber-bullying bandwagon into the ground, much like her unelected senatorial colleague, Lorraine Higgins.

Bullying, it seems, is the new Wolf. Sooner or later, when enough unelected senators cry Bullying at the mere sight of an Irish Rail ticket inspector, we will have lost yet another useful word, reduced to meaninglessness by people who simply can’t stand being challenged.

I still haven’t worked out what the reasonably-well-known artist intended by GFY, but I think he probably meant Good for you.

_____________

Update

Unfortunately, Jim threw his toys out of the pram.  What a shame.  I suppose that’s ego for you.

jimfitz blocked

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Irish government plans air-drops to resupply Denis O’Brien’s pram with toys

In an unprecedented move, the Irish government has withdrawn all ships and aircraft from the seas between Libya and Italy to deal with a domestic problem that threatens to destabilise the State. As news began to filter out earlier today, it became apparent that Denis O’Brien’s pram was running critically low on toys for the multi-billionaire to throw out and a decision was made at an incorporeal cabinet meeting to resupply him as a matter of urgency.

minions denis o brien

Sources close to government suggested that the move was an unpalatable but necessary measure to avoid complete hissy-fits possibly followed by nappy-throwing and fainting.

According to a spokesman, This is a temporary move, designed to supply Mr O’Brien with sufficient toys to throw out of his pram for at least six  months. Following completion of the operation, we’ll return to the Mediterranean to save lives.

It is understood that only one toy is considered suitable for Mr O’Brien’s plan, and a large order has been placed for disposable minions.

 

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Sexuality Uncategorized

Appeals against equality referendum kicked out on the grounds of utter stupidity

Hint.  If you’re going to the High Court, it’s a good idea to arrange your thoughts so that you don’t come across like a complete idiot.

Yes?

Wouldn’t that seem to be a basic precaution? Do not be a fool.

It seems obvious, and yet so many lay litigants overlook this simple basic point. If you are an idiot with no logical arguments, you will be told to fuck off and you will be liable for all costs. Even if you claim that your point is in the public interest, you will be stuck for all the costs, if the judge thinks you’ve been talking bullshit.

That might seem tough, but it’s what happened today after two lay litigants took cases to the High Court, opposing the decision of the Irish people in the Marriage Equality referendum.

The first of them, Mr Walshe from Clare, was careful to point out that he wasn’t anti-gay, even though his case affected nobody else and only had the effect of depriving gay people of their rights.  Fair enough.  Definitely not anti-gay, then.

Mr Walshe made the point that public money was used to pay for Yes posters. He personally noticed more Yes posters than No posters in his local supermarket car-park.  In his opinion, this was evidence that he was being oppressed.

His opinion received short shrift in court, sadly for him.

Mr Walshe also pointed out that copies of the referendum bill were not available in post offices.  When the judge pointed out that this was not a requirement in the law and that he could have easily checked this before coming to the court, Mr Walshe said that he didn’t have good internet coverage where he lived.

At this point, to his eternal credit the judge didn’t interject to call Mr Walshe a thundering fool.

Meanwhile the other litigant, Mr Lyons, claimed that the question posed to the electorate was incompatible with the Christian preamble to the constitution.

The judge explained, as patiently as he could, that the court had no jurisdiction in regard to the wording of constitutional amendments.

Both cases were kicked out and since neither man had made any significant point in the public interest, the judge found that they were responsible for costs arising from their actions, or to put it another way, they have to pay everyone.

To summarise: two men with no understanding of the law, went to the High Court demanding that their ignorant, uninformed understanding of the constitution should be imposed on the rest of us.  The High Court told them to fuck off and now they have to pay the price of their arrogance.

As it should be.

Put up or shut up.

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Fuck Blogging

I’ve been pondering this quite a lot in recent times.

Why am I writing shit every day?

I think I might just pack it in.  What do you think?

Doesn’t that sound like a plan?

I’m getting very bored with this whole scene.

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Boll Weevil Monument — Honouring an Insect

There’s only one town I ever heard of that erected  a monument to an insect, and I’d probably never have heard of it if I hadn’t been talking to somebody who passed through Enterprise, Alabama.

Enterprise, you see, is a town that understands and appreciates the value of beneficial change.  Indeed, it understands these things so well that it put up a statue to a beetle.

boll weevil enterprise

The boll weevil attacks cotton plants, and appeared in the United States at the end of the 19th century.  You’d imagine that the last thing any Alabama farmers would welcome is a little insect that destroys their cash crop, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.  These guys understood immediately that cotton was dead, so they started growing peanuts, and guess what?  The peanuts made them a fortune.

What did they do?  They had a statue constructed in Italy, at a cost of €1,800 comprising a female figure, and they duly erected the Boll Weevil Monument in the middle of the city.  It was Bon Fleming’s idea, apparently, a local businessman.  He helped to pay for the thing, and they put it up at the corner of College and Main Street in December 1919, where it remained for thirty years until Luther Baker decided that it should have an actual boll weevil as part of the tableau.  Luther made the boll weevil and mounted it on the statue.

I did not make this up.

Tragically, the boll weevil has often been stolen, as has the entire statue, but things came to a head in 1998 when anti-beetle vandals ripped the weevil out of the statue’s hands, causing permanent damage.  The city leaders decided that it would be too expensive to repair the statue once again, and so they decided to replace the original boll weevil with a plastic replica.  This is the weevil that the female figure now holds aloft.

A tragedy.

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2014 on Bock the Robber

It’s been a funny old year, hasn’t it?  A year of three halves, you might say.

Ireland won the Six Nations in a fitting finale to BOD’s career and the women’s rugby team beat New Zealand. Katie Taylor won a fifth consecutive world boxing title while Andy Lee won his first.

Ivor Callely went to jail, which is always good for a little schadenfreude chuckle, but the country sighed a collective groan of disappointment that Seanie Fitz didn’t follow him to the slammer.

To our credit, we told Garth Brooks to fuck off, despite his cringe-inducing country ‘n’ western speech about crawling and begging , but Bono somehow crawled through the net, entering your head from your newly-bought Apple product, like an insipid, lecturing little chest-burster with less personality.  A self-righteous ear-worm sans pareil.  He surfaced again later in the year with a badly-received reprise of his 1985 shared ego-wank with Geldof, Do They Know It’s Christmas?  which went down like a bag of Ebola with Africans everywhere.  Not that I’m suggesting all this karma threw Bono off his bike in Central Park or anything like that, but sometimes it’s nice to fantasize.

We had Pantigate, in which a self-important bunch of ultra-right Catholics huffed and puffed at RTE after Rory O’Neill, aka Miss Panti, spoke the truth about how he felt.   And RTE caved in under their vacuous legal threats, handing out a huge pile of licence-payers’ cash to people who would never have sued if they had been challenged by a broadcasting company with any backbone.  Many among us speculated that there might be something rotten at the heart of our national broadcaster, but in the end, the real loser was the absurd Iona Institute which came out of the whole debacle looking even more ridiculous than when it went in, even if it was a few bob better off.

Not only did Iona provide a masterclass in bad PR, but they also exposed the fact that they don’t qualify for tax relief as a legitimate charity.

Meanwhile, Rory went on to international acclaim for his magnificent Noble Call as the entire world acknowledged his experience of homophobia.

It probably wasn’t David Quinn’s greatest triumph as a PR mastermind.

It wasn’t a great year for the Guards, or Ministers for Justice.   Surprisingly, the formerly socially-aware Alan Shatter allowed himself to be drawn into a petty row, revealing a small-minded side to his character few of us suspected when he tried to score a political point against independent TD Mick Wallace by revealing private information he could only have received from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.  It reminded the nation yet again that committed radical campaigners become embedded in the establishment when they move over to the dark side.

Unfortunately for Shatter and for Callinan, both of them would be gone in the blink of an eye.  Callinan could hardly have suspected that his gung-ho performance before a Dáil committee would provoke such a public outcry and he certainly would never have foreseen the dreadful moment when he had to decommission himself, but that’s what happened.  Likewise, Shatter could hardly have imagined, in his ultimate hubris, that he too would be dragged down.   In many ways it was unfortunate, since Shatter was the first ever justice minister prepared to take on the vested interests of the legal professions and break the monopoly that has prevented so many citizens from obtaining justice.

But one way or another, it’s still time to reform the Garda following the Guerin report and the Garda Inspectorate report on our national police force revealing deep problems.

It was the year of the CRC scandal, in which all charities were unfairly tainted   A spin-off of the Fianna Fáil Drumcondra Mafia, the Central Remedial Clinic damaged the fundraising efforts of every legitimate charity in the country.

And it was the year of Rehab, when the entire country recoiled at the snout-in-the-trough attitude of certain organisations.  As a by-product, the well-intentioned report into the CRC gave us a world-beating example of Hiberno-officialese, the local and even more impenetrable variant of a worldwide barrier to understanding.

Meanwhile, here in Limerick, things were hotting up on the cultural front, with a ludicrous confrontation in a local hotel.  A farce within a farce, wherein the usual local sectoral interests jockeyed for position in a parochial power-play.  A joke in which a local impresario tried vainly to exclude the press.  A comedy in which the same impresario vainly wandered around the crowded room with the roving microphone in search of the plant who was supposed to speak out on his behalf but who found himself on the wrong  end of a pint down in the bar and forgot to turn up.

Hilarious.

As things worked out, the popular uprising made for a far better year in Limerick, with the apparatchiks and the opportunists talking a back seat for the time being.  It was an event that not only vindicated Karl Wallace’s vision, but provoked profound questions.  Naturally, of course, those who had sneered at the idea of Royal DeLuxe were the first to march in the public parade when the iconic Granny strode the streets of Limerick.  I thought Pat Cox looked very fetching in his t-shirt as he waved at the crowds.

In the end, we emerged stronger from it, with new connections, new entanglements and new collaborations that we’ll carry into the future thanks to our new friendships.

Louise O’Keeffe won a groundbreaking decision in the European Court of Human Rights, forcing the State to accept responsibility for abusive teachers in Irish primary schools.   It was a hugely-significant decision, since it forced the State to accept responsibility for schools that for years had been regarded as owned by the Catholic church.

Sadly, the government offered a deeply inadequate settlement to the victims of teachers in these schools, leading Louise O’Keeffe to describe the offer as discrimination of the highest order.  This case hasn’t gone away, by the look of things.

This was the year of the local elections, when candidates sought your vote to do things they had no authority over.  This was the year when anti-everything candidates asked you to vote them into office even though what they claimed they’d do had no connection whatever with the role of a councillor.   Here in Limerick, we decided to put forward a proper local candidate, John Steele.

To quote from his literature

Unlike the council candidates who fraudulently claim to have some role in education, policing, agriculture, fisheries, employment, social welfare or water supplies, John Steele admits that a councillor has no power, no authority and no influence.

Steele’s challenging campaign poster pushed a simple message.  Vote for John Steele.  He’ll do fuck-all.

It touched a chord among the public and the candidate would have swept the boards if it hadn’t been for his drunken indifference.

Next time, a decision has been taken to put forward a sober candidate with no policies who promises to do nothing.

Sadly, 2014 continued Ireland’s disgraceful treatment of women.  A young pregnant rape victim seeking asylum was prevented from travelling for abortion and instead was detained, force fed until the foetus was viable and then the girl was forcibly cut open against her will to deliver the child of her rapist.

That was because doctors were terrified of the 8th amendment to the constitution, just as they were when later they kept a decomposing dead woman on a ventilator as a human incubator.

This is the year when we discover that 800 babies were dumped into a hole in the ground by nuns at Tuam and as the year ends, Irish people are beginning to realise that the constitutional imperatives imposed on them by extreme religious ideologues have failed to serve the country well.

Internationally, the Israeli murder of Gaza citizens was as usual misrepresented as a war.  The  continued genocide was accompanied by an unrelenting propaganda assault by the Hasbara, denying what was obvious to anyone with eyes in their head: defenceless people were being killed by an overwhelming military force.  It all depended on selling the Big Lie, which Israel is quite adept at doing, but ultimately the Liar’s Manual was inadvertently released, to the disgust of the Israeli Authorities.  Taking a dispassionate view, the Global Language Dictionary was a masterpiece of doublespeak, even if it meant dismembering innocent children in the name of Israeli nationalism.  It appeared on BTR here.

On a personal level, I buried the hatchet with Freddie White and I went to Nomshtock. .

In the world of insanity, Spain awarded a medal to the Virgin Mary, Psychic Sally sacked her husband and North Korea attacked a film company for laughing at their ludicrous Dear Leader.

Lots more happened besides this, but this is a random selection from Bock the Robber and you know what?  If you think I should have written some more, why don’t you do it yourself?