In Response To The Irish Times Article On American Sports

Dear Sir,

I was very disappointed to see column inches dedicated to the erroneous and indeed lazy article by Brian O’Connor on American sports. Normally in the journalistic World, ignorance of a subject precludes writers from tackling same, Mr. O’Connor seems to wear that same ignorance of American sports like a badge of honour.

His article is wildly inaccurate on a number of levels, and is actually quite offensive in parts.
He appears to be making an odd case that American sports are not popular in the rest of the World, and offers a few glib remarks to back this up, but very little of actual substance. Indeed, he takes a quick swipe at baseball and yet doesn’t actually tackle the game in the body of his content. It’s as if he awoke, saw news of Fourth of July celebrations and snidely thought, ‘Screw them, their sports are crap!’.

From an Irish perspective I have to wonder if Mr. O’Connor knows anything about sports in Ireland outside of a seemingly very narrow understanding on his part. Basketball is absolutely enormous across Ireland, and indeed Irish keeper Darren Randolph’s father, Ed, is a legend in Irish basketball circles. The game is played in schools and clubs all over the country and has enjoyed several years of huge success as it makes it mark as one of the bigger sports outside of the biggest players such as soccer, GAA and rugby.

Mr. O’Connor’s poorly argued article would fall down on the topic of basketball alone, however he is also hugely incorrect when it comes to American Football and indeed baseball too.

American Football has been growing steadily in Ireland since the 1980s and is home to a vibrant league, the IAFL, with thousands of registered members both North and South of the border. One of the joys of the sport in Ireland is that it is played by teams North and South, fostering sporting ties in broad communities. It is one of the biggest ‘minority’ sports in Ireland, and its thousands of members should be greatly offended by Mr. O’Connor’s lazy article (in which he actually goes out of his way to offend those very people in a bizarrely arrogant sentence).

Baseball is smaller in terms of membership and yet ironically better placed internationally than its footballing brothers. The Irish National baseball team has taken part in European Championship tournaments since 1996 and has achieved medals and notable scalps along the way. We’ve beaten several big European teams (Austria, Belgium, Finland and England, twice, on their home patch, to name but a few) and have achieved bronze and silver medals at European tournaments in ’04 and ’06. The team is growing as is the sport in Ireland. The Irish Baseball League contains teams from literally every corner of Ireland, again North and South, and is developing and growing annually.
Both football and baseball have huge followings all through Europe. As a member of the Irish baseball team from ’96 to ’06, I had the huge privilege to travel the World in an Irish jersey, and I can tell you, there are some beautiful baseball facilities all over Europe, in places as disparate as Karlovac Croatia, Prague, Hull, Vienna, Stockholm, Croydon, Regensburg Germany and Antwerp. Baseball is absolutely enormous in France, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands in particular.

Mr. O’Connor’s article is wrong on both sides of the Atlantic. In his shopping list of sporting clichés, he appears to copy and paste in the old refrain that soccer, football, isn’t big in America. I would openly wonder has Mr. O’Connor bothered studying the game in the USA lately, as it’s absolutely huge at this point. Huge at all levels. Soccer is pushing the established sports at school, college and professional level all across the States. Seattle, where I am now and for example, has some of the most incredible soccer facilities I have ever seen, with literally thousands of players playing in hundreds of games in tens of leagues on a weekly basis. There is soccer everywhere you look here, and for Mr. O’Connor to write the Beautiful Game’s place in America off so lazily is nothing short of pathetic.

One last glaring part of Mr. O’Connor’s article was his misguided and also hypocritical analysis of American sports as ‘static’. First, to call basketball static would suggest the writer has never watched a second of sports in his or her life. That’s just awful. Second, if that gentleman had ever tried understanding either baseball and or football, he would understand the physical demands, skill and commitment required to play those sports well. He might then also understand the passages of play in those sports. Further to this, if he wasn’t just having a bitter, disinterested pop at Americana, he might have realized he was being super hypocritical in labelling any sport static considering he appears to be a fan of Rugby Union. Much as I love that particular sport, have you been watching the deterioration of the scrum in the last decade? Yeah, static? Really?

I find it very worrying that your paper prints and article by a writer who clearly hasn’t researched his piece at all, and is instead left to jot down a few lazy personal opinions about American Sports.
Everyone in entitled to their opinions, of course. However, a paid journalist shouldn’t take so much glee in being so wildly inaccurate in his clearly personal ramblings. One would think that the title ‘Sports Journalist’ would come with a basic understanding of a wide variety of sports, not just breathless fan-boy drooling over rugby, framed by a lazy, arrogant dismissiveness of sports one doesn’t understand.

Yours in sports,
The Irish National Baseball team in historic Fenway Park, August 2001


Jon Carter said…
Very eloquently put Cormac. Unfortunately the masses have had it engrained into them that Baseball, Basketball & Football are boring, I ask you this, how can you play a game (cricket) for 5 days & it end in a draw! With American sports you are guaranteed a winner, high impact & very visual, strategic & highly entertaining to say the least!