Back in 2006 I was lucky enough to be at Anfield when Liverpool beat Man Utd in the FA Cup, Peter Crouch’s first half header enough for the win. At the final whistle there was much rejoicing and I shook hands with the man beside me, because they just couldn’t have done it without us. “Thank God”, he said, “that really is no good for my heart condition”. No doubt about that, but I thought of him this evening as I followed events from Tullamore on Twitter. Because while it may be stressful watching your team in the flesh, it is a walk along the prom in 25° mid-afternoon Saturday sunshine compared to not being there.
Being there is a lot easier on the heart because you can see everything unfolding in front of you. Even the television can’t capture the nuances of an individual player dying on his feet or an entire team floundering as the game slips away from them. Anyone watching the game against Clare would have been completely flummoxed at how Waterford imploded in the manner they did. You really had to be there to smell the frustration on the wind, to see the hunch on each player’s shoulders as they realised a game they could have won was turning into a rout. You can only get some of that on television, and radio is far worse. At least on television you can see each individual play. On radio even the simplest passage of play is portrayed as if it were the butterfly float and bee sting of Muhammad Ali. It’s unbearable, so I don’t bear it.
I’m sure plenty of people would be aghast at the thought of following it on Twitter. The way I see it, reading text is wonderfully antiseptic. When it looked like the game was running away from us tonight as Offaly eliminated the four-point lead Waterford had built up with the wind in the first half, I was able to tell myself that we just weren’t good enough and start mentally preparing my best magnanimous speech – don’t want to be accused of being infantile now, do I? And it was a fine plan, right up to the point where it looked like we might escape from O’Connor Park with a win. Then followed ten frantic minutes of hammering the refresh button and relying on people who had better things to be doing than telling complete strangers what was going on. It was awful. And this was for a victory!
In a nutshell, I’d like to be there whether we win or lose. The reason for the former is obvious, and the reason for the latter is that I can cope better with the fallout. Maybe the GAA should add a qualifier to their marketing slogan “Nothing beats being there – because not being there could be the death of you”. As a wise man once said, it is much safer to be feared than loved.