Third place this week goes to the protocols surrounding the Olympic Flame, which allows people like Jedward to carry it around.
(Yeah, I know it seems like I’m picking on them a lot recently, but I play the hand I’m dealt).
I know that plenty of non-athletes get to carry the torch on its relay. They tend to be prominent people in local communities, or just notable volunteers for the Olympic movement. A common trend though, is that they have some special connection to sports or sporting life, whether it is with the Olympics or something more local.
But whoever picked the relay runners to go around Dublin decided that John and Edward Grimes were suitable choices, not only to carry the Torch, but to get the money shot of carrying it down O’Connell Street, past the GPO.
I have a problem with this. It’s not Jedward especially, it’s anyone who isn’t a sportsperson who takes a spot off someone more deserving (they ran a marathon you say? Well, so did my sister, where’s her section of the relay? What about all the Irish people who have run several marathons?).
There is someone, some current or aspiring Olympian, Paralympian or sportsperson, someone who may have dreamed of getting to carry the embodiment of the Olympic Spirit for just a few minutes, to hold something that is one of the most potent symbols of sporting life and achievement.
That person lost out. Because Jedward are well known, because the teeny-boppers go mad for them, because it makes for better TV I suppose. That’s not cool. That’s not right. We could all think of many famous alternatives, and there must be countless lesser known people, whose failing is, apparently, not being also rans in a British reality singing competition (who can’t sing).
I went into Dublin to see the flame. I saw Dublin GAA’s Bernard Brogan, an All-Ireland winner, hand it over to Paul McGrath, one of Irish soccer’s best ever players. They were deserving. Jedward are, to be brutally frank, not.
Second place is related to the following tweet.
Or maybe a more angry one:
They’re just a few examples, I’m not picking on them specifically. It’s a strange myth that Sylvia Plath, noted American poet, “always” appears on the Leaving Cert English paper and that it is a safe bet that you can just study her part of the curriculum and get away with ignoring the others (since only a set number of the curriculums poets will appear on the actual exam). There are actually a few variations of this, one of the main others being “There is always an Irish poet”. All part of this weird nonsense science that tries to determine “who will come up this year”.
Well, English Paper II has come and gone. Plath didn’t show up. Neither did Seamus Heaney, usually a mainstay.
Two parts of the reaction irritate me. One is people cursing the actual poet themselves which is a very odd thing to do considering that Plath has been dead for 49 years and is unlikely to have much of an effect on what gets put into the Irish Leaving Cert paper.
The other part is the stuff like the Tweets above, two of many, which suggests that Irish students who choose to take a gamble on Plath to the detriment of other poets were “screwed” and deserve sympathy.
No, they were not screwed and no they shouldn’t get sympathy. Plath wasn’t guaranteed to come up (she didn’t in ’09 either) and if you decide to presume she would and not study anyone else to the level required, then you’re just plain dumb. A little bit more study into mathematical probability would have suited you I think (the safest course with the least work is to study five of eight poets, I believe).
And then, in the aftermath of your stupidity, to insist that you, or the students if you’re an outsider, are the wronged party in all this, is just worse. The rules are pretty simple beforehand. No poet is guaranteed to show up. You’re the idiot who thought you had gamed the system. You got shown up. If you’re unfortunate enough to have to repeat English, or lose out on your preferred college place by a few points because of this, well tough luck. The Leaving Cert is an exam I think is deplorably inefficient in being a barometer of education, but the game is the game. If you decided to risk it all on Sylvia Plath and lost, you have no-one but yourself to blame. And, if you’re part of a few who claim they picked such a course because teachers insisted on it, well your teachers are thick, but that doesn’t excuse your mindlessness.
Some things will never change apparently.
But the winner this week, as I’m sure you would have guessed, is Mick Wallace TD. There is a cavalcade of stuff to choose surrounding him, from the overall story itself, his insistence that he was sure he could “pay it back” so it was OK to lie and break the law, the ULA/technical group being uncharacteristically soft in their response (or silent, just like they would be if this had been an FG/Lab/FF TD, right?) or even defending him as Joe Higgins TD did on radio yesterday morning, Fianna Fail of all people calling for an inquiry (oh, all of the hypocrisy this story turns up), Catherine Murphy TD claiming that Wallace should be commended for “being forthright” and “coming out with his hands up” (years after lying to revenue over his financial failings), the revelation that Wallace and his son gave themselves a pay rise in the last year of the company (you know, while he was trying to “save jobs” by lying about VAT) it all goes on and on.