For the four years after I finished high school I was enrolled, part time, in a Professional Writing and Editing course. This was never a pursuit of money, but, rather, of interest. I’ve always been drawn to reading and writing, and was happy to be in a circumstance that would encourage me to partake of the activity more, but also to learn more about it.
It was a fascinating and worthwhile experience, one that developed skills that I use to my advantage in my working life every day. I never actually earned my Advanced Diploma, as I quit requiring two units to qualify when I ran out of subjects to choose in which I was interested. Instead, I continued on with the work I was doing and, despite a couple of downs along the way, am still going quite well.
There were a number of people who didn’t, and still don’t, quite understand why I would quit requiring such little time and effort to get the qualification. Simply, doing and gaining things purely to do and gain them has never been my go.
I’m sure their rationale was to do with the other pull in my life being sport. I have been told from when I started that course until now, some 16 or so years, that I would make a good fist of sports journalism. It never really occurred to me to pursue such an end, as the joy of writing involves, for me, being able to write what I want to say, when I feel the urge to say it.
It never would have worked out for me, as my brain just doesn’t work the way it would need to in order to succeed in such an environment. The world of sports journalism proves, on a daily basis, that the requirement to submit a certain amount of words, by a certain time, on a certain subject, time and time and time again results in a toxic dilution of output.
Susie O’Brien wrote an article for the Herald Sun this week that was one of the worst examples of opinion writing I have ever read. If you desire a head scratching, perplexing few minutes, you can find it here.
I’m still not sure what the actual point of the article was if not to use a famous name to grab some clicks on the internet. However, the subject of the piece was Nick Riewoldt, and his supposed offence was to demand excellence from his team mates. Extrapolating a little, she was suggesting that the Saints Captain’s desire to get his team off the field so that they could discuss the result in the immediate aftermath of the match without taking selfies with the fans was disrespecting the fans and the Marketing and Operation Manager in charge who was, pointedly, a female.
I have often, to much criticism, made comment that Nick Riewoldt is not as good as his reputation suggests. I have cited some poor performances in big games, a lack of strength in stationary marking contests, and some yippy kicking over the journey as reasons for my opinion. It’s not that I think he’s no good, I think he’s an absolute gun, but I’ve felt he’s not quite the player that he could’ve been.
Yes, it’s not a popular opinion, but I’ve also said that these perceived flaws have been overlooked because of how much he bloody tries. The bloke runs and runs so much that you have to admire him. I have found that people struggle to hear criticism of his footballing ability because of the effort he gives and the contests he makes. And that’s fair enough, we should and do hold him in much admiration.
This is why having Susie O’Brien not only criticise his commitment to his fans and to excellence, but to also have it suggested that the fans were being disrespected by this man of all men was tantamount to sports journalism treason. Oh, she's not a sports journalist? Well, any journalist must understand their topic. In this instance, that topic is sport. One must ask, did she ask any of the fans if they felt disrespected by Nick Riewoldt? It can’t be so, as I just can't imagine that even one of them would answer in the affirmative. A look through the comments at the bottom of her article would indicate that she didn't.
If I was told that Trent Cotchin had pulled his men off the field in the manner of Jack’s cousin Nick in order to propel his club in the right direction, I’d be so impressed with him. The little ask-around that I did suggested that others felt the same about their captain doing the same. They wouldn’t feel disrespected, quite the contrary; they’d be proud of him. We almost never see an outward sign of a captain showing leadership, and the moment we do some pelican comes out with rubbish like this. It’s infuriating.
And as for the disrespect shown to the Marketing and Operation Manager being worsened due to her being a female, it is a downright pathetic conclusion. Is disrespecting men better than disrespecting women? Are men now naturally tougher and mentally stronger than women? I’m lead to believe that suicide rates would suggest not. There has been much work done amongst society to recalibrate our thinking on these kinds of matters, and I’m still not totally clear on what is expected of me in this regard. Throwing this little piece of nothing out there only serves to confuse the situation even more.
Still, I must ask, is it not more disrespectful to women to suggest it is worse to disrespect them than men than the act that Riewoldt supposedly made in the first place? I’ll admit that I’m entering a territory of philosophising for which I am not entirely qualified or comfortable, but the point is that it very much seemed that she threw that mention of apparent misogyny into the mix in an attempt to get some of her mud to stick, to the detriment of the cause against actual misogyny itself.
This article was a perfect example of a sports journalist trying to create news, or to falsely represent opinion, rather than report on the news or relate to an audience a strongly held view. It was attention seeking, grubby journalism that is the result of a rotten system that demands quantity, not quality. There are so many examples of this.
It was interesting for me to note that the only conversation I had heard on the matter amongst media types was that very one I was listening to at the time. My view is, if a player wants to speak about his troubles and that helps him deal with it, then that is a good result for him. The slowdown of media talk as a result must not be the objective, as the media is responsible for its actions, not the player.
If a player wants to maintain privacy, then the media should respect that right. It is not up to the media, and certainly not the pompous Mark Robinson to state what is in the best interests of every individual footballer suffering mental health issues. Offering blanket solutions to complex issues signifies a lack of complexity of thought. If they truly cared for the footballers, which Robinson always is at pains to state that he is, then he would respect their wishes and not discuss them in terms of what they should or should not do whilst combatting serious medical conditions.
Robinson disrespects the right to privacy amongst players, and he does so out of self-interest.
I am clearly on the record stating that I have never been a big fan of Chris Yarran. I never wanted him to come to my club, but bloody hell, we’ve got him now and he is just a human trying to get through life like all the rest of us. Mark Robinson would obviously have much more to gain than the players from them giving him their story, namely, something to actually write and talk about. A bit of respect is due.
And it’s not just respect for the player, but for the audience. The media needs to respect that their audience, the fans of sport, is intelligent enough to see through blatant falsities. We can see that Susie O’Brien is committed to writing something, anything, and will cling to whatever tenuous scandal she can in the desire to earn a living – and the consequences be damned.
We can see through Mark Robinson’s thinly veiled words of self-interest. Not just these two media performers, but the vast majority of them, stink of desperation as they claw and squawk for relevance. They’ve lost clarity of thought, and certainly the joy of the sport. They have lost a relationship with their audience and their lack of respect for their audience has resulted in their audience’s loss of respect for them.
The media as it currently exists does not appear to be an industry for those with a love of writing to develop, not only the skill, but that very enjoyment of the craft that landed them in the profession in the first place.
I, for one, am happy to have never been a part of it.
Follow Greg Gibson on Twitter: @GregGibbo28