What is it about sport on TV that turns even the most mild mannered person into an aggressive expert who could singlehandedly replace every team member AND coach them from the sideline? As I write this my Ban Cheile is roaring “Oh you stupid, stupid…” at a player on a pitch miles away and in the full knowledge that only the TV can actually hear her (and me – although I’m upstairs cowering in the bedroom) and the offending ‘stupid’ sportsman is oblivious to her disapproval.

I suppose in the interest of openness I should declare that I am one of those males who, much to the surprise of everyone who discovers it, cannot stand sport of any persuasion. I don’t necessarily try to make out there is anything inherently bad about it, just that I don’t get it and in the scheme of things that doesn’t mean much (although if you were to listen to those people who have bored me stiff trying to convert me over the years you’d think my disinterest was the single most important obstruction to homo sapiens evolving into a godlike state!). I’ve always felt that way about sport, in fact one of my earliest memories is of my father taking me to a park and bringing a ball with him for us to kick about. He kicked the ball and I watched it sail by my feet with barely hidden disinterest. Dad smiled and nodded toward the rolling ball for me to chase it and it was at that point I realised it was neither a girl or a boy he was hoping for but a Jack Russell to chase his damn ball. I wasn’t even three years old and that pretty much formed the basis for our relationship for the next forty years.

When I was a younger man I used to get a kick out of winding people up about their chosen sport. I got into trouble many times by asking how macho men queued up and paid to watch young men in their underwear chase each other around a field while one of them tried to keep them from playing with a ball (and usually in the rain because instead of playing these games over the summer they held them during the Autumn and Winter). Other than flushing out the homophobes it was an argument that only served to cause more sport related aggression and did little for my popularity. Being an unapologetic smartass I had a similar nonsensical statement prepared for every sport known to man or woman for that matter. Now I think I get the attraction to sport if not the concept. To paraphrase Marx, I think sport has replaced religion as the opiate of the people, and there’s big money in it too.

The one thing I don’t get about it still though is the partisan aggression that seems to almost be a prerequisite of even showing an occasional interest in sport. If it’s such a good influence on people, as all sporting organisations will espouse, then why do even armchair athletes feel the urge to yell at the goggle box?

By the way my Ban Cheile’s beloved Cork team lost the hurling match – an important end of season All-Ireland replay – which only goes to show living room coaching still leaves a lot to be desired.

* Ban-Cheile┬ámeans Wife/Spouse/Life Partner in the Irish Language. A literal translation would be “woman I’m together with” or thereabouts. SWMBO = She Who Must Be Obeyed ­čÖé

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