Are celebrities the new fall guys for our powerless society?

I am not an apologist for the words of Andy Gray and Richard Keys, but it seems that Gray’s dismissal was unusually swift. I wonder how much of this was down to the public “outcry” over what was said, or down to the Sky Empire’s desire to be seen to have a softer side as the proposed buyout from Murdoch gathers pace.

Recently we have seen a number of unpopular policy decisions suggested and then acted upon by our politicians:
-the bailout of the banks
– the cuts agenda
-the rise in tuition fees
..as well as other actions which have been out of the hands of the public such as the award of sky-high bankers bonuses this month. All of these measures have seen massive public demonstrations and protests, but they’ve led to no changes in policy so far. It’s all been allowed to just happen.

Because of this failure by the public to influence and change Government policy…are we now switching our attention to everything said and done by public figures as a way of venting this frustration and anger? I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to make. Major names in the BBC, figures in the world of sport, Daily Mail columnists, women who put cats in bins, and politicians’ private lives have all been the subject of media campaigns of some sort…usually ending with a resignation or apology. And you could say this triviality then distracts our attention from more serious news.

Thinking of NI v Slovakia

Old man predicts the future – this is old but a good one. Has it really been four years since we beat England?

Northern Ireland take on Poland and Slovenia

ifaTwo big matches coming up over the next few days for Northern Ireland: Poland on Saturday and Slovenia on Wednesday – both at home. Given our chronic away form, six points from these two matches is crucial if we’re to have any chance of qualifying for South Africa.

I’m looking forward to the atmosphere at Saturday’s game. The Polish FA took their full ticket allocation unsurprisingly, so Windsor should be rocking, and hats off to the IFA for arranging some pre-match activities for both sets of fans at Seaview.

Community representatives in Sandy Row also deserve praise for acting quickly to remove the disgusting sectarian graffiti in the area about the provocative Polish Goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who also happens to play for Celtic. At a time when recent events have refocussed media attention on NI for all the wrong reasons, the actions of mindless idiots like this will be blown out of all proportion.

Hopefully the Grand Slam success last weekend will inspire Norn Iron (and the Republic) to victory tomorrow and Wednesday!

What a sporting weekend!

I’m pretty much a casual rugby fan but it was hard not to get swept up in the hype of Saturday’s game. Last few times NI have played Wales their fans have been really annoying so I was hoping Ireland would roll over their Welsh counterparts. I don’t know why but I dislike Welsh teams in the same way that I dislike the English.

Anyway back to the game, it was great to see Ireland north and south united in celebration. Even if Ireland lost we would have been united in declaring Paddy Wallace a prat for conceding that last penalty – but what a climax!

chels_home_rep240Delighted with Tottenham’s win over Chelsea as well. The team is finally starting to gel. It’s tempting to think of what might have been earlier this season, but the signs are good for next year if Harry can hold onto the players. Manchester United’s dalliance with the self-destruct button has also been amusing. I guess when you support an under-achieving team you get used to losing, so seeing Man United’s legion of fans taking the hump is fun too! I’m no fan of Liverpool either but at least the title run-in will be more interesting. Spurs will have a big say in what happens as both teams still have to play Tottenham.

And although Ards’ unbeaten run came to an end at “home” against Armagh City, it was pretty cool that the club got a mention in today’s Observer. A journalist was interviewing Irish rugby fans watching the match and for some reason got talking to Ards fans in Ballyclare!

One-legged dog at the Super Bowl?

There’s an interesting thread on the Word Magazine blog – predicting what set list Mr Springsteen will pick for the Super Bowl’s half-time show on Sunday. Twelve minutes is not a lot of time! I can safely say Jungleland is probably out of the equation. Maybe some songs on a sporting theme – Glory Days, or even The Wrestler. 

But please, please no Queen of the Supermarket!

I stayed well up past my bedtime last year to watch Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Super Bowl set, and it was pretty spectacular. He kept it simple: American Girl, I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’, Running Down a Dream.

How would you sum up the best of Springsteen or the work of any major artist in twelve minutes?

Baseball

I was watching Goodfellas last night on Sky One (another film ticked off that list) and when it finished I flicked down a few channels to Channel Five’s baseball coverage. The live match was Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals and I managed to stay awake for about an hour to catch some of it.

I was in Chicago last year for a few days at a friends’ wedding and had the opportunity to go to a couple of Cubs games.

This is Wrigley Field, it’s one of the oldest ballparks in top flight baseball and is a real beauty. Slightly run-down but has a great charm to it, and has a capacity of about 45,000. I bought a ticket for their game against the Colorado Rockies online about a month beforehand. The pre-match build-up around the field was fantastic. It was a balmy June evening in the city as I got off at the subway station and the hot dog stands, merchandise stalls were all buzzing. There was a fantastic mix of people – teenage guys on a date with their girlfriends, beer-fuelled packs of “frat-boys” rowdily roaming the streets, old men with faded baseball caps who had definitely seen a game or two, nerdy statisticians armed with  scoresheets and pencils, and whole families on an evening out. Basically loads of people who looked they had walked straight out of a Bruce Springsteen song!

I had a seat pretty high up facing the bleachers (about 18 dollars) and from there you could see the skyline of the city behind the ground. It’s in a pretty built-up area of the city – a far cry from the Chicago White Sox immaculate corporate stadium on the south side. The Cubs have always been in their shadow both on and off the field, yet attract a strong support and apparently still sell out every game. There seems to be a goodwill towards the team from the fans as honest tryers, and I definitely picked up on this during the game. It was a leisurely three hours, and a very sociable atmosphere in the ground between fans.

I didn’t pick up on all the intricacies of the game, but could follow it okay, and the Cubs pulled off an amazing last hit of the evening win. It was high fives all round as you’d expect, and I immediately went round afterwards and bought a ticket for the following evening’s game (I was there on my own so I could get away with it!), which they also won.

It was refreshing to go to a sporting event that brought people of all ages and backgrounds together, was reasonably priced (cheapest ticket is about 7 pounds), and represented a full evening’s entertainment. I still get pangs of nostalgia about those nights, and wish that sport at home was so inclusive, accessible, and full of community spirit.

England rugby win again – oh crap!

Can’t believe these cloggers have penaltied their way into another final. 14-9 against France.
Please South Africa give these guys a last minute DEFEAT for a change.