The heat hit Emmet Ryan but not enough to prevent the cause of drunk journalism. Here’s his first piece of commentary from Madrid.
Destination Basketball. Upon landing the heat was a shock. The weather back home has been pretty awful of late but wow it is hot here. Basketball is irrelevant. With Real playing Juventus in a Champions League semi final on Wednesday and Barcelona on tonight, this is a football town until that business is done with.
That’s ok. Half of the reason I arrived early is Dermot, a former multi-purpose hack like myself who met a Spanish lady and quit my tech beat to be full-time in football. He’ll be at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night. I’ll be nearby, I may even talk to a tout and consider spending an obscene amount of cash for a ticket. Whatever happens, I consider Dermot family. His brother Col is a close friend and Dermot is a fellow tech journo, be it past or present.
You see, I am incredibly lucky. Os was kind enough to make me lucky enough to take over BiE back in September 2013 after a life as a half-sport/half-tech journalist. Well half and half is misleading, if I hadn’t endured my assorted experiences in all kinds of parts of this business I wouldn’t know that I have never met two communities in journalism as genuine and as lovely as basketball and technology. I’m a freaking jack of all trades in journalism, I did what I could to pay the rent but having worn many hats it’s really pleasant to know that I’ve fallen into two games where I just keep meeting people I like. Whatever about soccer, regular business, property, and everything else I’ve done while trying to keep a roof over my head, no two parts of this game could make me happier than being a tech and hoop head. That’s because of the people. Yeah, those groups still have infighting but I honestly can’t name anyone in either part of this business I wouldn’t love to have a drink with. When you have that, who needs a salary that goes beyond your needs?
This Irish rover arrived in Madrid with clear orders from a boss who is a friend going back years, long before he ascended to his current status, to look after myself. When I know that Sam Meyerkopf, David Sardinero (a huge fan of my drunk writing), Nikos Varlas, Emilianio Carchia, and Kremmena Mladenova are in town, what worries could I possibly have?
These are people who love what they do.
So I arrived at my AirBnB around 20.30 local time and pretty much hit the pubs as soon as my bag was off my back. My Spanish beyond saying terms for beer and Sunday is appalling. The first bar wasn’t fun but I got two beers. In the second Laura, whose English is even more limited than my Spanish, was delightfully understanding. The third was cool as I just kept saying Rioja. It was that buzz that got me thinking about the people I have met through this business, in person and online, that make me appreciate what I have. Dan Devine doesn’t know me from Adam but when I wrote about doing what we do while having mental health issues he got it and that meant so much to me. That’s the thing about basketball journalism. Whatever issues we have with each other’s line of argument, we all seem to get that we care. It gets taken for grant but kids I’ve worked with so many hats we don’t realise how cool we are with each other.
My life has been filled with luck. Being around the right drunks at the right time led to the two biggest promotions of my life. I work hard but so does everyone, I appreciate the ball has bounced my way fortuitously more than most and I feel obligated to run with that. I think of Andre, BiE’s man in Romania, and the work he does to do brilliant work in his second language. I think of Uygar Karaca, who write around once a year but it is always a gem.
You see, I was on a date on Monday night back in Dublin. I’ve been on a few lately but few with sports fans. All I could think was, I sound like I’m humblebragging. Then I realised, she doesn’t think that. She sees what I see in all these hacks I’m proud of. A person doing what they love with the knowledge that someone will appreciate what they do and that’s enough. Yeah I have my moments. I see Dortmund win, I congratulate Kremenna. I see Sam is on tour hardcore, I tell him to drink my share. It’s not to be cool that we do this, it’s because people who have made my life and the lives of so many people better are enjoying themselves and that feels good.
That brings me back to Dermot. Y’see my magazine, the tech mag, used to be called Computers in Business. I agree, in our current era that name is terrible and that’s why we changed it to Connected. Dermot and I were freelancers who just knew each other’s name. I had been friends with his brother several years before I realised that they were even related. Stuff clicked when I did. They are both so chilled out, they know it’s a fight in this life but they are willing to take the load and hope for the best. I could ask for no more. When he said no about joining the band, being a tech hack again, I was actually happy. Dermot would have been an addition to the magazine but he knew what he needed. That’s an achievement in life kids. That knowledge, that’s a step.
So I sit here in the dark, waiting to grab one last smoke before bed, and I know that tomorrow is soccer only and I couldn’t care less. By Thursday afternoon I will be surrounded by some of the nicest people I could ever meet who genuinely care about the same three days in basketball I do. It’s our Final Four. It’s YOUR Final Four and all of us will deliver on a level that will make you happy.