Now we know how those Amazonian jungle-dwellers felt when they met David Beckham. In the trails for tonight’s Into the Unknown, in which Goldenballs goes on an adventure to Brazil, he meets some locals who didn’t even know about football, let alone its most famous player.
There was a similar feeling of total cluelessness when Sky’s first foray into hurling began on Saturday night. This much we knew: the game involves two teams brandishing sticks and sounds like the result of an overindulgent night in the pub.
Anything else was a mystery. And 20 minutes into the first show we were none the wiser. We’d had the “it’s more than a sport, it’s a way of life” introductory claptrap, complete with a child looking into the distance to the soundtrack of motivational power metal, then the obligatory pictures of well-refreshed fans heading into a stadium.
Then we crossed to the studio at Nowlan Park, where Kilkenny were hosting Offaly in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final.
The host, Rachel Wyse, was joined by Brian Carney, Ollie Canning and Jamesie O’Connor; the latter two were laden with honours, apparently. We watched in hope that they would at least give us a short primer for what we were about to watch.
Nope. They went straight into team news, followed by an interview with the Offaly manager, Brian Whelahan, who said things like “on the day” and “give it our best shot”.
Then we learnt that Kilkenny like to play the short ball. And points weren’t a problem but goals were. And the Offaly left full forward was expected to drop back as a sweeper. Which was fine. Except it was meaningless.
Once the game actually started, it looked quite exciting. It was massively one-sided, as far as we could gather (Kilkenny beat Offaly by 5-32 to 1-18 – again, some guidance is necessary to figure out what this scoreline actually means). The sticks, which resemble prehistoric shovels (are you listening, Sky? WE DON’T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT THIS GAME), look lethal, as do the small, extremely hard-looking ball and the rambunctious tackles.
But we might as well have grown up in the shade of a rubber tree with a tapir for a pet for all the sense we could make of it.
Of course, Sky does not want to be seen as patronising. But Saturday’s coverage was too far the other way. Players we had never laid eyes on were introduced as “household names”. Tactical theories and team traditions were trotted out as if they were common knowledge. The niche sport of hurling (in Britain, at least) will stay very niche if they carry on like this.
From the trails on the BBC website over the last week, it looks like the Beckham programme will be entertaining.
For a start, we will get to hear Beckham speak Spanish. Mixed with Portuguese. Sometimes in the same sentence. But at least he seems to make himself understood. Hurling mob, please note.