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TV Wrap - Dana White among the last of the deluded as sport's irrelevance is made clear

The realisation is dawning more slowly for others that sport just isn’t important in the face of a pandemic.

Updated Mar 27th 2020, 5:18 PM

WELCOME TO SPORTS TV in the age of Covid-19, which is largely the mainlining of nostalgia and the judging of people’s bookshelves.

Most programming is cancelled, but Sky Sports News are stumbling bravely forth for now while Samuel Beckett could not have arranged a better evocation of the futility of life than the WWE have by staging Wrestlemania in an empty arena.

And that’s about it. As our reconfigured lives go on, the sport we watch is either frozen in time or has prematurely fallen.

To pull at a silver lining: the pause at least gives us a chance to perceive sport for what it is and understand why it’s important in our lives.

Sport is a restless but adjacent world into which we have plunged ourselves fully, where the thrills we feel and the blows we take are as real and as tangible as the exit strategy.

This last fortnight has felt like being plucked from a flowing river, shaken dry and twirled back around for a consultation just as the water sloshes and curdles to a halt. These aren’t muddy waters we are peering back at: sport’s irrelevance has never been so clear.

That’s not to say sport is unimportant, but what use is escapism in the face of a virus from which there is little escape?

The framework of our passions have been stripped bare: our becoming inflamed about the identity of the Irish football manager or the selections of Andy Farrell or – God above – the GAA’s Championship structures are all underpinned by a healthy dose of wilful, mute delusion that this stuff is vitally important in the first place.

The last fortnight has also shown that if it takes a necessary level of delusion to love sport, it takes even greater dollops to run it at an elite level.

A lot of feet have dragged because of heavy, jangling pockets, but money shouldn’t talk ahead of public health. 

The IOC, having spent too long telling themselves that everything would be fine by July, eventually bowed to pressure from athletes and postponed the Olympics.

Tour de France organisers are still hoping to stage the race without supporters, a ludicrous idea even before you consider that competitors may represent the highest concentration of asthmatics anywhere in the world.

Dana White, meanwhile, has come out swinging. As all sports were shutting down, the UFC staged their 14 March card in Brazil behind closed doors. It went ahead following one of the least reassuring headlines in sports history: “Dana White Says UFC Fights Will Go On After Consulting with Trump.”

White then reappeared in an Instagram Live session with fighter Kamaru Usman. (There was no carefully-placed bookshelf here, with his copy of The Art of the Deal presumably out of shot.)

White, looking for an adversary, lashed out at the journalists who criticised the staging of the card in Brazil.

“Think about this: Go online and look at some of these people – and this isn’t a knock, this is just a fact: The weakest, wimpiest people on Earth cover the biggest, baddest sport on Earth. What do you expect them to say?”

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Source: MMA Fight Nation/YouTube

He has since postponed three events but maintains that the UFC 249 card will go ahead on 18 April behind closed doors in a yet-to-be-disclosed venue. White maintains that “our sport is different”, but it’s not.

They will still bring fighters together to heighten the risk of futher spread, and healthcare workers will have to be diverted from frontline emergencies to staff an event where harm and injury is wilfully inflicted. 

It’s delusional, but White is likely just the public face of decision made above him as he maintains that the UFC will continue and that “everyone will get paid.”

As the tensions being played out in the real world show, lives come before livelihoods and the UFC will likely back down eventually.

There will be a time to stage these fights, just as there will be a time to trickle and then flood the world again with the sports we love.

But now is not the time. There are far more important things to worry about.

- First published today at 14.56

Mike Sherry makes his Rugby Weekly debut to give his two cents on where Munster stand under Johann van Graan, Peter O’Mahony’s leadership and his own preferred successor to the southern-province skipper, and his decision to retire at just 31

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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