The incessant chatter of armchair managers is hard to take

It’s been a tough year for people who have no interest at all in sport

The last Manchester United players I can still really remember are the likes of Jesper Olsen, Norman Whiteside, Bryan Robson and Peter Schmeichel, who is still playing – I think. Photograph: Shaun Botterill /Allsport

The last Manchester United players I can still really remember are the likes of Jesper Olsen, Norman Whiteside, Bryan Robson and Peter Schmeichel, who is still playing – I think. Photograph: Shaun Botterill /Allsport

 

It has been a tough year for me and my ilk: men who detest having to listen to incessant chatter about sport.

With the European Championships and the Olympics falling in the same year, and now that the qualifiers for the next World Cup have started again, there is much fodder for those armchair managers intent on these endless discussions.

Let me tell you, everyone’s an expert on the vagaries of amateur boxing scoring now. Give me strength.

I remember when I was a kid we used to dress up in cycling gear and pelt up and down the road when the Tour De France was on. I’m King of the Mountains; No, I’m King of the Mountains. We used to set up little fences in the back garden and pretend to be horses when the Horse Show was taking place in Dublin and we’d often play football and commentate on ourselves as the games went on.

We Sellotaped torches to trees and pretended they were flood lights. But, in fairness, we were children so childish pursuits were appropriate. We were not big oafs of men who’d be better employed doing a jigsaw or reading a book.

Does the sight of a 39-year-old man poured into a fitted football jersey designed for a 19-year-old professional Spanish waif not haunt anyone else’s thoughts?

At one point in my childhood I did declare myself to be a Manchester United fan; Call it peer pressure, a yearning to fit in, indoctrination, bullying by my older brother, I don’t know. But I got the jersey for Christmas one time. The last Manchester United players I can still really remember are the likes of Jesper Olsen, Norman Whiteside, Bryan Robson and Peter Schmeichel, who is still playing I think.

I know Chris Hughton played for Ireland and also for Tottenham, and Bruce Grobbelaar played for Liverpool when they had yellow away jerseys.

I know the names of other modern-day players, admittedly, but to be honest I wouldn’t really know any of them if they fell on top of me on a lonely street or even if they came up and autographed my face.

On the contrary, I’m the guy with the blank stare into the middle distance when the lads start talking about football or boxing or curling or whatever the sport du jour happens to be. It may be in the pub, in the office, walking down the street, on a train or just about anywhere.

In fact, nowhere is safe. Some of my friends, and indeed kids, despair at the sheer cluelessness that I display and what they would see as downright pig ignorance in all matters sporting.

Did you see that cracker by Van Ludvar on Saturday blah blah blah rasper blah blah he’s back on form isn’t he blah blah blah dee blah Villa blah blah United blah dee bloody blah. “We” are having a great “season”. We? We? Who? Give me more strength.

I may be just slightly bitter because my knowledge of the comings and goings of soccer, or GAA for that matter, ended some time in the 1990s shortly after Meath stopped winning the All Ireland and back when Man United were a decent outfit (as the lads say). So I can be left twiddling the aul thumbs when the sporting chit chat starts.

The Olympics took the biscuit completely. I walked into the newsroom here in The Irish Times some time in August to find the whole place (on a sanctioned and authorised break from hunting down stories and upholding democracy) whooping and yelping at the telly as the O’Donovan brothers romped home in second place in the rowing and collected their silver medals.

There were press releases of congratulation flooding inboxes from every two-bit councillor around the country and the on-the-spot analysis of this great achievement which was parsed, analysed and then the next race considered in great detail.

We love a wee bit of victory for anybody wearing a green jersey – and why the hell not – but the O’Donovans may wonder where their supporters are the other 364 days and 23 ¾ hours of the year. (In the boozer giving pointers to Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rogers, of course.)

All of this makes me unusual in a lads’ world and can make life difficult at times as sport is still so male dominated and, more to the point, maleness is still so sport dominated.

Don’t get me wrong, I can shout at the telly as much as anybody when Ireland or Meath or even Louth are in battle. But just as soon as the final whistle goes, I don’t really give a damn who had a good game or even a great game. I could give this many hoots: zero.

Surely there are more of us out there. Support group, anybody?

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