Going to America in search of salvation

No, somewhat regrettably, one is not taking flight. Even if such an opportunity did present itself, a sheep or tillage farm in Australia would be the preferred destination. This despite a yearning to see dear friends who’ve long decamped Stateside. Now read on…
Certain times of year afford particular thoughts enhanced prominence. This might sometimes lead to repetition in spaces such as this, but so be it. During this week – the third instalment of September – each year, recollection is stirred of the observations of a former local publican who professed All Ireland football final Sunday to be the last big day’s trade of what’s, notionally at least, the summer season.

Such a stance can now be viewed from a number of angles though. The return to perhaps its deserved standing of motorsport in Dunboyne through the commendable efforts of the local motor club guarantee at least one more big Sunday for the area after Croke Park’s autumnal closure. If there are teams going well in the local club championships that keeps a pulse of life in the place too.

Yet the sense of closure doesn’t dissipate. Silage and straw are all safely saved in preparation for the next segment of the farming year. Just as the dawning of the National Ploughing Championships act as an industry’s celebration of the most significant part of the calendar. Normally, too, the return of the soccer season in England and throughout Europe serves as an uncomfortable reminder that winter is afoot.

Now, this year, in terms of shortening the most difficult period of the year, the Rugby World Cup is an undoubtedly useful aid. However, as it’s being staged so close to home from our perspective, it’s not of very much use as a distraction to a mostly chronic insomniac and over-thinker.

Which is why yours truly ends up going to America in search of salvation – in the hope of finding late night sporting action on television to while away the often excruciating hours of solitary pondering.

An avid interest in basketball had prospered going back as far as school days, but, in more recent times, the senses have become more attuned to goings on within American Football. Understanding thereof has improved markedly since I watched the Super Bowl for the first time in a confused stupor a few years ago. In no way would it be claimed the finer nuances of the robustly physical code be totally grasped – it’s doubtful anyone does – but enough has been mastered to enable getting by.

At the funeral of a friend – a master of his chosen trade – a short time ago, a story was recalled of the gentleman in question being on a job one day, in the midst of which he found himself dreadfully short of necessary materials. When the individual for whom the work was being carried out enquired as to progress, the typically forthright response from the contractor was “Who do you think I am, Mandrake?” That, by the way, is the cleaned up version of the exchange!

The fabled magician always springs to mind when thinking of American sports. Relating to affairs of the gridiron owing to the complexity of happenings therein, and, when it comes to basketball, because of the minefield which predicting the outcome of an 80-plus game season tends to be.

With the NBA, while not inclined to suggest that a decline in the efficiency of the output produced by LeBron James marks an irretrievable decline in the career of the greatest player of his generation, last season did bolster the inclination that there was something of a changing of the guard on the courts.

Players such as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard became figures of greater influence. That, in turn, directly led to their teams – the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs respectively – became even more significant protagonists when it came to the eventual destination of the overall Championship.

Leonard’s inclusion in the above scene set may seem a tad curious given that the Spurs were eliminated fairly early on. But, the point is, the triumvirate referred to above are likely to be the standout exponents of their craft – not only for their respective sides but for the entire sport – for years to come.

Mind you, for all the complexity pertaining to a campaign of such longevity, sometimes it does simply come down to whoever has the greatest playing talent at their disposal. And, right now, in the ‘Splash Twins’, Golden State have, in my view, the two best players in the NBA and the way Steve Kerr’s team took the title last season attested to this.

Over such a protracted time span, even that wouldn’t be enough to inspire confidence in making outright predictions before the outset. Especially when the raft of young talent stepping up via the NBA draft – such as Karl Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okofor, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Decker – are considered.

In the unpredictability lies the attraction. That, and the prospect of a distraction during the long sleepless nights!

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