Ghost of girlfriends past
IT was the ghost of girlfriends past for me last week as I went Christmas shopping in my native Derry; in the space of 30 minutes I bumped into two former loves.
The first greeted me with a big hug, kissing me on both cheeks before standing back to examine me from head to toe.
“You look good," she beamed. "But I dodged a bullet with you!” She was right – I wouldn’t have been good marriage material in the 15 or so years since we broke up.
I’ve travelled the globe with Ireland and CricketEurope in that time, enjoying tournaments in, amongst other places, Nepal, Tanzania, Argentina, India, Australia, Estonia and New Zealand.
Shortly after I spotted another ex – this one, though, hadn’t ended on good terms. I stood frozen – debating whether to dive left into Easons, or right into Top Man – in the event doing neither, like a rabbit caught in headlights.
The time I spent touring with Ireland was the reason we’d broken up. I’d just come back from a long tournament when an opportunity came up to attend another more or less straight away.
"You love cricket more than you love me,” was screamed in my direction. With hindsight I probably shouldn’t have joked that I loved rugby more than her – it's not a game I've ever cared much about.
As she breezed past me last week, she shot me a look that sent shivers down my spine – and not in a good way! It was the same one she’d given me at the funeral of a mutual friend – one that left me in no doubt if she had her way the corpse would not be alone in the casket.
Break-ups were much easier in the 80s and 90s when there weren’t so many methods of communication. There was no Facebook, Twitter, email, What’s App - even mobiles were in their infancy and if you had one it was probably the size of a breeze block.
If things weren’t going well it was easy to break-up – when asked why things had gone wrong for the umpteenth time my standard phrase was: “I never spoke and she never answered.”
I got to thinking about the role technology now plays in our lives and our dependence on it – or should that be over dependency? Technology is an excellent slave but a very bad master.
We’ve all seen how everyone – especially the under 30’s - now has an iPhone permanently in hand about three inches from their nose. They’re constantly refreshing Facebook every 10 seconds, seeking reassurance while posting photos of their latest meal and the antics of dogs and cats. I want to scream: “Get off Facebook and get a life.”
Being involved with the CricketEurope website in its various guises for 15 years I’ve seen some incredible changes both in terms of delivery and expectations – the demand now for instantaneous scores, photos, reports etc is insatiable. We try to feed it as best as we can but we have undoubtedly created a monster which is becoming harder and harder to satisfy as we get older, and resources (especially time) become increasingly stretched.
Our live coverage during the recent women's tournament in Thailand was exceptional (I know self-praise is no recommendation, but indulge me). John Elder has designed a package which incorporates ball-by-ball scores, text commentary, audio, pics, sponsor messages and drop-in comments.
By contrast the ICC in an effort to control the message opted for the Cricinfo feed and a version of commentary from around 2000 – no descriptions whatsoever, just standard robot based – no run, 1 run, four runs etc.
Their theory was if there is no message then nothing negative can be said. Compare the CricketEurope coverage from Rod Lyall during that last dramatic over of the final which had the Mankading incident, as thunder and lightning threatened. There was a five-minute delay before the final ball was bowled but none of this relayed on the official coverage.
I’d fallen out with ICC during the men’s T20 WCQ earlier this year when they didn’t allow live coverage from the grounds – only updates ever four overs were permitted. I pleaded with the cricket people at ICC – no point in appealing to the regulations people who wouldn’t know the difference between a ball and a bat – but to no avail.
ICC had a contract with OPTA who opted for the stock phrases robotic commentary – “no run, there is no run there. No run – he can’t get it off the square”. Truly dreadful and they were rightly ridiculed by fans in a social media storm.
In Thailand, however, the ICC showed remarkable common sense – I don’t think I’ve ever written "ICC" and "common sense" in the same sentence before without “lack of” or "absolutely no".
Their new tournament organiser was extremely helpful and diligent. The local organisers couldn’t do enough for the media and with nobody from the ICC media department running obstruction, things ran rather smoothly.
Ian Jacobs was the official tournament photographer and he was a real pleasure to work alongside – we helped each other and dove-tailed well. None of the usual professional self-interest here – I pointed out connections to him and what I thought would make an interesting angle, while he filled any special requests for me.
The downside to being the official photographer is that you are at the beck and call of ICC – they want 6-10 pics as soon as the match starts. They don’t really care that much about action pics until they get the warm-ups, toss, umpires taking the field, openers etc. I can never really understand this, but he who pays the piper calls the tune.
After games, the CricketEurope routine was to get the results, scorecards, tables and reports on asap. I’d usually select the photos to edit, caption for later uploading before retiring to the hotel bar which had a happy hour – two to be exact – easy listening live music and comfortable leather chairs.
There wasn’t an iPhone in sight as myself, John Elder, Rod Lyall and Cricket Ireland President Dr Murray Power debated the issues of the day cricket-wise, breaking into politics, entertainment, literature and history. It was an education listening to these three – my role was to provide the light-hearted anecdotes!
There were a few what I call “Quiney Doherty” meals during the evenings. Quiney was a guy from Ardmore who went on holiday every year to Sligo.
Quiney was presented with a hotel bill for extras at the end of a 10-day stay – it was around 360 punts (before the Euro) – 340 was for drink and 20 for food. He studied the bill carefully, having no argument with the drinks portion before querying the food purchases he’d forgotten about ordering when drunk!
With no phones between the four of us in the evenings in Bangkok, it was the best few hours of the day. I enjoyed being completely shut off, from a communications perspective, so much that my New Year resolution is to be incommunicado for a few hours each day.
Try it, you might like it.