Snoop Dog

I watched that Panorama programme last night about the dog fights and Tyrone player Gerard Cavlan’s role in it. Fierce stuff altogether, though Cavlan was not much of a leading man.

Whilst undoubtedly a very good footballer, is Gerard Cavlan really ‘one of the most talented of his generation’, as the reporter claimed? He’s been around for a while, but hasn’t won an All-Star award, which, while not the definitive indicator of anything, would be a good basis for making sensational claims.

And when the reporter said that he was ‘a role model’, I had to wonder if she had ever watched a GAA match. At such matches, many such ‘role models’ bend the rules to knock as many lumps out of one another as the referee’s wall-eyedness allows. But of course, she isn’t the only one to call GAA players role models. This trend strikes me as something new. When I was learning to kick and catch a ball, I can’t recall anyone referring to the likes of Ciaran Duff or Eoin Liston as role models.

These days, I get the feeling that the idea of the GAA role model comes from the fact that there is something attractive about the extent to which the sport has become professionalized in training methods and approach. Banks and other businesses that sponsor GAA events tend to emphasize the discipline and preparation of the players involved, and the heavy metriculation of all elements of the national sporting match has echoes in the modern national pursuit of profitability. GAA players are an embodiment of an ideal ‘work hard, play hard’ disposition, one which many business leaders want to see replicated in their subordinates.

Anyway, back to the programme. There were echoes of a programme some 12 or so years back, where a cock-fighting ring had been exposed in the east Tyrone area. Dark deeds are uncovered in the rural underworld by the harsh light of urban truth-seeking. That programme sticks in the mind for the uncompromising language of the man under investigation:

Take that fuckin’ looksee (camera) out of here or I’ll stick it up your ass.

Now, I’m very much opposed to dogfights, which I think are cruel and depraved, and I think that anyone who participates in such things has serious issues. The owners’ projective identification with the dogs (a common thing among any set dog owners) was disturbing, with people saying things like “he’s torn far bigger dogs apart, so he has”, or, in the case of Cavlan, “a real hard-mouthed dog”.

But, I also find highly dubious the whole practice of producing documentaries that rely on the use of hidden cameras to expose corrupt individuals or groups.

If, as a hobby, you use a hidden camera, filming your friends and acquaintances in their own home, meeting them for coffee and getting them to reveal their private concerns, and you then post footage of it on the internet, people will think that you have serious issues. However, people are not expected to object when such a thing is done in the service of a good cause, such as saving dogs from violent slaughter, or exposing the dodgy practices of plumbers.

There was one scene last night where the covert film-makers were in the house of the Finnish dog-breeders, and you could see that they were having some sort of pastry for breakfast. It’s this sort of inevitable excess of detail that -to my mind- typifies why this enterprise is disturbing. To know the truth about dog-fighting (which is what the documentary supposedly allows us to do), we don’t need to know what these people had for breakfast, or what their kitchens and living rooms look like, or what the logo on their t-shirt says. But we are generally happy go along with being told about it, even if the information is obtained via a process of snooping.

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August 2007

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