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September 18, 2006 | by  | in Opinion |
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Don’t Let Jesus Catch You Writing Dirty

Alright, fine. You got me. String me up by my ankles, put on some quiet Manilow and read to me the opening chapters of Atlas Shrugged, because I deserve it. I committed the cardinal sin of sports writers. I predicted.

Last week you may recall that I wrote in some length about the nature of female sporting fame, and in doing so, I cited the relatively mild stream of success of one Maria Sharapova, Russian tennis player and orange Gummi Bear in the proverbial bag of eye candy. I, with snide resolve, peered down upon Ms. Sharapova’s sixpence of success and used it as evidence in my case that only extraordinarily hot female sports stars enjoy media attention, (regardless of their performance record).

Then the blonde-haired dream boat went ahead and won the US Open. What’s worse, she coasted to victory, blonde hair streaming, voice moaning in pleasurable pain. Colour me surprised, shocked and just a little embarrassed (just a little, though. I’ll probably be over it by the time the absolute flurry of letters streams into the office this week…).

There before the grace of God went I, your sporting servant, castigating the leggy comrade for her consistent, yet unremarkable run of form, and she wins the goddamn US Open. Pants down, ass paddled. It’s as much as I deserve, and quite frankly what any sports journalist should expect to receive should he or she slip up.

Sporting journalism, particularly in the print media, is very much a niche market. There are very few ‘mega’ sport-print journalists who prowl the media leaving itty biddy kids like myself in their wake. Indeed, if you think about it, the journalistic stardom in the sporting field usually stems from either radio or television. Both the New Zealand Herald and The Dominion Post feature commentaries and articles written by prominent New Zealand sporting journalists who also earn their crust on television.

Far be it for me to question the logistics of this, (name recognition is a huge draw card), but could it be that by allowing such a small pool of sporting think-tanks roam the seas of print and air, conflicts of interest may arise and the much lauded traits of journalistic accuracy, fairness, truth and balance be neatly tucked aside?

Here’s a good example of what I mean by “conflict of interest”. The Sky TV Rugby duo of John Drake and Tony Johnson both have press commitments, as well as being two important figureheads in Sky’s Rugby broadcast scene. Just last week the NZRU decided to press ahead with Thursday Night Rugby, to the despair of many provincial unions and players, and the wives of dairy farmers who will now insist on cutting into valuable Shortland Street time with the latest Manawatu Turbos fixture. This was done at the behest of Sky TV, who cited logistical issues with being able to cover every single Air NZ Cup game from Round Two onwards.

In a climate where even the All Blacks Coach feels compelled to rest twenty-two players for half of next year’s Super 14, surely this latest inundation of rugby is a bridge too far? Maybe Drake and Johnson would like to shed some light on it?

Naturally, I’m not short-sighted enough to forget that as commentators, both gentlemen are given sufficient room to impart their thoughts and feelings, and knowing the cut-and-dry styles of Drake and Johnson, I’d imagine there may be some words thrown Sky’s way re: Thursday night Rugger (Drake’s a huuuuge Shortland Street fan, I hear). Nothing too harsh, though (how’s TJ going to feed Mexted if he doesn’t have a job?).

The point I’m making is that we may be the victims of our own minuteness, as a sporting country and as a media circuit. We simply don’t have the resources nor the girth of star appeal to produce celebrity sports journos in every journalistic field. Does this in any way impinge on journalists’ ability to produce quality work and thought provoking analysis? Of course not. What I am suggesting is that sporting journalism is a fickle beast, and that situations may indeed arise where the field journalists play on may shrink, giving way to a fall in quality, discourse and overall analysis.

So, friends, as a bastion of sporting journalistic prowess, (I heart all three of my readers), I lay down my guard and recognise the folly of my prediction. I’m a very small fish, but I do realise there are good times and bad times to swim with sharks.

Although I would find it mighty difficult to turn down a swim with a shark named Maria.

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Kia ora, biography box, kia ora.

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