Christy Cooney was asked out of the blue this week if the GAA was considering introducing women referees into the men’s game.
“Absolutely” he said. “If they’re well equipped (ooooer!) and want to do it.”
Imagine if he had answered: “We have no plans in that regard. In fact, it hasn’t even been discussed. Why would we need women referees? There is, after all, a dedicated women’s game” - the sky might have fallen on his head!
Instead, the male’s safety antennae tells him to use a phrase which actually means: “I am not a sexist. Some of my best friends are women. I love them platonically, as people, not objects.”
Men must, in future, be on red alert. Any hint of sexism and we will be hunted down like dogs. Sadly, myself, Colm and Pat will no longer be able to chase the camera-women round the RTE Studio on a Sunday while the theme tune from Benny Hill is played in the background.
Gone are the double-entendres that Pat never understood. Gone, the silent conversations carried out via the raised eyebrow as the voluptuous make-up girl dressed in a French chambermaid’s outfit bent down to powder our noses.
What last week’s events emphasise is that there is no longer such a thing as a private conversation. Women can have a natter about sex or general rubbish. Men, it seems, cannot. In future, our default setting will be the beaming game-show presenter, of the “You’ve got a funny story about the time you went to Butlins” variety. We will be perpetually in George Jones interview mode, permissible subjects including illness, the weather and the blanket defence.
“Doesn’t Mary have a lovely bottom?” says the compere.
“Be careful there” whispers his sidekick.
“Right, you’re right .... of course .. . all the girls have lovely bottoms” at which point the compere gets the thumbs up. This is not an exchange between Andy Gray and Richard Keys from the archives of Sky Sport, but instead a nugget of classic dialogue between Father Ted and Father Liam during the ‘Lovely Girls’ competition. Messrs Gray and Keys must be wondering what hit them. One minute they were the embodiment of the Murdoch empire, having their mikes tucked in by Sky eye candy and their egos cosseted by vast salaries and pampering befitting of Roman emperors.
The next they are waking up after being run over by a Sky steam-train. Yet they couldn’t possibly be the victims of political correctness. Their comments about the lineswoman were merely silly and inaccurate, on a par with the “women can’t drive” guff beloved by most men.
I watched the game and have to say hats off to the lineswoman’s - sorry linesperson’s - decision, surely a candidate for line-call of the year. It was the two lads who emerged with the egg on their faces. It was, however, no big deal.
“The Sun” - Rupert’s flagship newspaper – is, after all, immersed in the culture of carry-on movies and for this reason is Britain’s biggest selling daily, even if “Oooooooooh Matron” has been updated to “Get your t***s out for the lads!”
Page 3 is its lifeblood and symbol. Sky Sports is the same. The girls are invariably stunners. Charlotte Jackson, of whom Gray boorishly joked whether she might like to tuck in his mike, said during her previous incarnation as a glamour model: “Friends often rib me about being photographed wearing next to nothing for lads’ magazines, but I am proud of my body.”
You could argue – and the feminist movement does - that girls who appear in lad-mags are demeaning women and that for a broadcaster to hire them is an affront. It is not Sky’s philosophy.
I came into the living room one Saturday morning to see three of my budding young sexists (aged 5, 8 and 10) watching Sky Sports’ Soccer A.M., a televised lads’ mag. They had a dollybird dressed – just about – in team colours. She was “Soccerette of the Week.” The lads in the studio cheered every sexual innuendo raucously. “Have you got a boyfriend?” asked the presenter “Yeah” she said.
“Could you handle another one?” Cue another delighted roar, as the young lady simpered in her bikini. Like any parent, I worried she might catch cold!
Then they played ‘Rushden Roulette’ where the Soccerette performed ‘The ap of Onuoha,’ lowering herself onto the lap of a life-sized cutout of a black footballer. Just as she nestled onto the crotch, the deep voice of an African-American soul singer groans ‘Yaaaaaaaa.....’ If you don’t believe me, check the SKY Sports website.
If you discount political correctness as the motive for both the sacking and the obviously orchestrated leaks from this notoriously iron-disciplined corporation, what is left? Is it that the two men had become despised? Well, this may be a part of it.
In the leaked recordings, their tone is arrogant and somehow nasty, lacking any sense of warmth or affection. If the people around them disliked them, then it would be easy, given Sky’s overtly laddish culture, to record unsavoury titbits, then post them in brown envelopes or on the web. But why would this cause SKY to reach for the red card? Or is it just a curious coincidence that before the most famous off-side decision of all time, Mr. Gray initiated breach of privacy proceedings against Murdoch’s “News of the World?”
“Top Gear” presenter and “Sunday Times” columnist, Jeremy Clarkson, another expensive Rupert Murdoch employee, accurately commented on the episode that he himself would have been sacked ‘100 times’ if the same rules were applied to him.
They won’t be, perhaps because unlike Andy, he isn’t suing his boss. A prevailing theme of the post mortem, mostly peddled by English male politicians (terrified about being accused of misogyny) is that this has been a massive stride forward for women’s rights. You think?
Tune into Sky Sports tomorrow morning and watch the blonde on the black man’s lap being cheered like a pole dancer on a pirate ship. Murdoch’s media empire, where it is compulsory for all the girls to have lovely bottoms, will remain exactly as it is.