Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Olympic Fever melts Irish Hopes

Maybe we Irish should try our hand at a new Olympic sport and become the world's best, first! No I'm not talking about Hurling, or Camogie, or Cork-Bouling. No, we will have to be far more inventive than that to grab Olympic Gold. The Russians have their Gymnasts, the Chinese their Ping-pong players, the Greeks their wrestlers and the Americans their Pole-vaulters. I think we need to invent a new sport that could have a world-wide appeal, but at which we are the masters! Hmm! what about Mountain-Snow-boarding-on-Wheels! Now thats one sport we just might excel at! Just kidding, but with the Travellers threatening to enter their own country Pavee in the next Olympics, our guarranteed Boxing medals are now no longer a banker! At the rate we are going we will be lucky to be allowed to send anyone to London in 2012.

Olympic fever ...and controversy has gripped the Irish nation yet again. No, Sonya and Eamonn have not come out of retirement, nor has Michelle handed back her illicit trove of Gold medals. No, it is an entirely new story for us Island dwellers.  It seems that the Irish Ladies have qualified for the up-coming Winter Olymics in a rather un-Irish sport. The Bob-Sled! (why Bob, maybe our new sport could be called Paddy-sled, just a thought)

Anyway, I digress. I mean, in a country that has no snow, let alone a decent sized mountain, qualifying for the Bob-Sled finals must have taken some leap of faith, not to mention improvisation and a fair amount of imagination. ('Go on, push harder Bridget, just pretend its snow, not slurry, ok!')

But qualify they did and they were all fired-up, doing interviews, signing endorsement contracts, getting their skin-tight outfits tailored and their bob-sled waxed or whatever they do with Bob-sleds, when they were 'Thierry Henry'd' at the last minute by New Zealand, who it seems have taken them to the Olympic Courts (who knew?) and have filed a suit (no, not the skin-tight ones) against the Irish on the basis that in the Olympic constitution (who knew?) it states that all continents must be represented in each sporting discipline, or in the event of un-qualified continents, their best, though they may not make the qualifying cut (for Bob-Sledding its 20 countries in the Olympic finals, each of whom have done a specific qualifying time).

The Irish actually genuinely achieved the Olympic qualifying time and are ranked #20 in the sport world-wide (who knew?). However, the muscle-bound Kiwis didn't make the time, and are ranked like 23rd in the world. But by pulling this legal stunt, they may yet get in as the 20th Bob-sled team, ousting the Irish, on the basis that there are other teams already in from Europe, and none from wherever the feck Kiwis come from...like under some rock someplace.

Anyway, speaking of the Irish in Olympic sports, I recently read an unusual tale, untrue, but funny nonetheless, about an Irish Olympic wrestler!

'A Russian and an Irish wrestler were set to square off for the Olympic gold medal. Before the final match, the Irish wrestler's trainer came to him and said 'Now, don't forget all the research we've done on this Russian. He's never lost a match because of this 'pretzel' hold he has. Whatever you do, do not let him get you in that hold! If he does, you're finished.'The Irishman nodded in acknowledgment.

As the match started, the Irishman and the Russian circled each other several times, looking for an opening. All of a sudden, the Russian lunged forward, grabbing the Irishman and wrapping him up in the dreaded pretzel hold. A sigh of disappointment arose from the crowd and the trainer buried his face in his hands, for he knew all was lost. He couldn't watch the inevitable happen.

Suddenly, there was a Long, High Pitched Scream, then a cheer from the crowd and the trainer raised his eyes just in time to watch the Russian go flying up in the air. His back hit the mat with a thud and the Irishman collapsed on top of him, making the pin and winning the match.

The trainer was astounded. When he finally got his wrestler alone, he asked 'How did you ever get out of that hold? No one has ever done it before!' The wrestler answered 'Well, I was ready to give up when he got me in that hold but at the last moment, I opened my eyes and saw this pair of testicles right in front of my face. I had nothing to lose so with my last ounce of strength, I stretched out my neck and bit those babies just as hard as I could.' The trainer exclaimed 'That's what finished him off?

'Not really. But you'd be amazed how strong you get when you bite your own nuts. '

Well, ...nice story eh?! But we 'Oirish' lay no claim to such impossible anatomically-tortuous contortionist feats! Horizontal jogging is our favoured sport here in the 'Auld Sod', oh, and Olympic Bob-sledding.... Jamaicans - fear not!
No, this is an old Billy Connolly joke that I last heard when I saw Billy 'live' in a sold-out Carnegie Hall in 1989, I know this because my wife was 81/2 months pregnant with our first child at the time and I was certain she was going to deliver right there in Carnegie with every story he told. Not that I could have helped her in any way, being bent over double the entire night with paroxysms of laughter of the type that would move a triple-rated vindaloo curry from a constipated elephant. It was possibly the only time I ever wished a live entertainer would finish up early so I could draw breath! Exhausting, but un-forgettable.

What a performance Billy gave that night...and he didn't look like he ever 'practiced' ...he just made it up as he went along, or so it seemed. (the same night he did a monologue on the pre-flight safety demo on an airplane, ...' and there ye are, in the middle of the freezin' Atlantic, a thousand miles from the nearest shore, bobbin'up and down amongst the 350-foot waves in the pitch-dark, blowing like mad on this little plastic toy whistle while trying to remember the dots and dashes of Morse code as you punch out SOS's or SOB's on this teensey-weensey flash-light that the battery seems to be dieing on and no-one could see at ten foot range anyhow....sadistic torture...thats what it is, a fiendish plot by the cabin crew to make you feel safe while they rush back up to join the captain in the cockpit for a final cocktail before take-off..')

Anyway, back to the wrestling match. Billy told this tale in the haggis-thick, Pictish accent of an inner-city Glaswegian...unintelligible to most Americans I would imagine as it sounded like a cross between a Brave-Heart war-cry and a Chainsaw on full-throttle! I can still see Billy's maniacal facial expressiona, the eye-popping, vein-throbbing, facial-gnurling grimaces, accompanied by a spastic lip-curl and rabid chin-drool, all lending complete credence to the deathly effect the Pretzel-Nelson hold was having on the unfortunate street challenger, while the huge, sweaty, bearded Cossack, smelling of ten-day-old eau-de-ursus prepared to deliver the final back-snapping squeeze...and then afterwards he answers his trainer's question..and in full voice, Billy joyously evokes the punchline...which in his version goes somewhat like...

 '...Och, hoots mon, 'tis amazin' the strength ye get when ye bites yer ain Willie'!

Then you knew for sure it wasn't an Irish story....Sure no-one in Ireland is hung like a Scotsman!

Aaah...happy memories... you had to be there!