Recently I found myself at a cross-road. For years I have made a mockery of the ‘entitlement’ sports fans believed they had over teams and players, only for myself to start believing the same thing…
At the best of times this is an uncomfortable marriage, but also a very necessary one. All three groups believe they have certain ‘rights’, a right to privacy and the odd bad performance or dip in form (teams and players), a right to comment critically (media), and a right of entitlement and ownership (supporters).
All parties believe these rights have been earned, or deserved, but more importantly, that the other group needs to respect and acknowledge these rights over and above their own!
Inevitably, these groups or rather, mobs, gang up on one another, all believing they are entitled to answers or explanations especially when their rights have been violated.
A couple of recent examples highlighted this yet again for me.
Because of simple logistics, I am closer to the Stormers and Western Province rugby than any other rugby team in South Africa. Through this I am privileged to receive information first-hand, or from the horse’s mouth so-to-speak.
I realised however over the weekend after the Stormers crushed the Western Force, followed by the article by Wentzel where Coetzee had the last laugh, that over the last 4 years just about every single article or column I wrote about this team was negative, and critical, or even overly-critical and unfair.
Wearing my media hat, I felt I had a right to criticise or report to the readers on matters which I believed they had a right to know. But herein lies the problem. These negative issues were issues perceived by one individual, or the media mob that attends every game and press conference at Newlands, and then literally force these views onto the public.
Never underestimate the power of the written word… Unlike a conversation between individuals, what has been written does not have a tone, or a mannerism that can be associated to a feeling or interpretation. It gets read, re-read, discussed, dissected, analysed and is effectively burnt into minds of those who choose to read it.
Another instance is Dewald Potgieter’s latest column on SuperRugby. In his last 2 or 3 columns he has continually mentioned how the last couple of weeks has been the most difficult of his life. How the expectation of the public is weighing heavily on his shoulders and how difficult he finds this, or provide answers to the fans and supporters.
In his latest edition, he tells a story of a man that walked up to him at a shop, the man told him that he thinks he is the most overrated player he has ever seen. He explains his emotions in how he wanted to bang this guy’s head in, and the frustration he felt as a player, and how this man (who probably represented the U/19 F team) has no understanding for his position, and no respect for his ‘rights’.
Then at the same shop on a different day, a girl in the car-park screamed at him how he is her dad’s favourite player.
You can almost feel when reading his column the utter amazement, confusion and frustration the player had to go through or is going through. You also almost feel sorry for him, as you would for Graeme Smith who fled to Ireland after the Cricket World Cup quarter final loss recently – but then you remember those losses…
This leads to my third example, Graeme Smith and the Proteas.
The media is in an absolute state of hysteria because Graeme Smith decided to take a break and head straight from India to Ireland to spent time with a loved one, and not come back to South Africa first to ‘answer to them’?
I can understand how the public (read media) is pissed off at the poor result against New Zealand, same as I am seemingly continually pissed off at WP Rugby for some unknown reason and the same reason that guy in the shop was pissed off at Dewald Potgieter.
We are frustrated, even hurt by the failures of people who essentially are, our heroes. But since when are we entitled to answers? Especially when there isn’t even a question to be asked?
I have sat in enough press conferences to tell you exactly what ‘questions’ Smith would have had to answer to;
“So Graeme, in your opinion what went wrong?”
We lost that’s what went wrong.
“Do you believe the chokers tag is justified?”
I have never seen a professional sports team go out with the intention to lose, but in sport, there is always a loser and this time it happened to be the Proteas. You lose because you make mistakes, either individually or as a team, and more often than not in critical moments or more than the opposition. That is the reality of sport, so in effect, every team that loses on any day, chokes.
Then there will be the usual questions about the team selections on the day, tactics used, etc., all very easy to criticise in hindsight.
So exactly what purpose would a Graeme Smith press conference have served? Stroke the ego’s of the media perhaps? Satisfy those millions out there who will suddenly say; ‘I told you so’? All of whom were silent when the Proteas crushed India.
Fact is, everyone of the individuals discussed above need to realise that the job they chose, or the group they fall under, each comes with its own challenges and responsibilities. Moreover, none of us are entitled to anything.
Each group needs the other, and the failures of one does not result in some form of victory for the other. Understanding and respect will go a long way in getting the ‘answers’ we are all looking for when times are tough, perhaps that is worth remembering when your favourite player, or even least favourite player knock’s a ball in a critical moment, or spoons a catch to a fielder when it’s the last thing the team needed.
A sense of self-importance, often leads to delusions of grandeur.
To quote an advertisement currently on television; “Before you question the heart of a player, ask him what he wouldn’t give to have a second chance”.