They announce a general election one day and a Lions selection the next. How much more of this shit can we take? It’s a few hours into this Lions squad’s life and already the noise is overwhelming. In fact, it’s been overwhelming for some time, the incontinence of those leaky sources shameful and inaccurate in equal measure.
The announcement itself has unleashed the usual torrent of vitriol, but as sickening is the righteous indignation of those who insist we should all get behind Brand Lions, that cynicism among the populace is a new and disgusting trend. It’s not. What’s new is social media, this monster out of control. It’s brought us, among other ills, Brexit and Donald Trump – and it’s working on Armageddon. Along the way, the destruction from within of the Lions ought not to be too much trouble.
When we rant, as we always have, about injustice, corruption and people who disagree we should be able to do so only to those within earshot of our corner of the pub. Now the bile of everyone is spewed into the ether like a greenhouse gas. That last Lions tour was a hideous experience if you even vaguely followed it on social media – and they won.
The righteous will point to the sea of red in the stadiums as evidence of the virtue of the Lions concept. Certainly, following the tour can be a singularly uplifting experience – and so it should be at up to £16,000 a pop. But the rest of it is beginning to wear thin.
We’ve always been touchy about the Lions because it’s a quadrennial affair and feels all the more precious for it, heightening our rage when we sense mismanagement. Can you imagine if social media had been around for Sir Clive’s toe-curling exercise in hubris and self-indulgence 12 years ago?
Warren Gatland is no egomaniac, but he is the long-time coach of Wales. Any selection will be coloured by that. There self-evidently would not be as many Welshman touring if the coach were, say, from Scotland. Those players omitted as a result will have to live with that, as will we all.
Which is another thing, the politics (that again) of the whole thing. There’s the selection of the coach himself – increasingly a question of who’s available. Thereafter, selection of the players is not as it is for a national side. This is a one-off, so players and their supporters from so many different corners of these isles feel any pain with particular intensity.
Is it worth it? Well, it is to the Brand, which rumbles on, accumulating more wealth. It is to the southern-hemisphere unions, some of whose viability might be threatened without the 12-yearly windfall. The players, too, long to go, what though the toll on their over-stretched bodies can be catastrophic. Meanwhile, those social-media platforms flourish and undermine, like the most insidious parasites.
So let’s repair instead to the pub, and we might yet save the Lions.
Leave your phones behind.