Speaking up for a sportsman of few words
WHY is it that we in the media think professional sports people are obliged to speak to us?
We pay our money at the gate, watch them perform masterful feats on the footy field or cricket pitch, then go home elated or mad as hell, depending on the result. Athletes could be forgiven for thinking the transaction ends there, but clearly it doesn’t.
This week we saw the public flaying of Dragons player Darius Boyd, whose 42-second press conference showed that he’s not likely to sit for his bar examinations any time soon.
It was the perfect excuse to wheel out all the tired old lines about sportspeople being role models, fulfilling their sponsorship requirements and promoting the game to the fans.
Somebody wake me when the footy’s on.
In reality, Boyd’s greatest crime was being a bit of smartarse and forcing the journos to drive an hour to Wollongong for an excruciating series of one-word answers. The irony, of course, was that we in the press got four days out of the story instead one.
But why exactly did Boyd owe it to the media to be upbeat and entertaining? Since when did we decide our footy stars – who put themselves in collisions that would kill the rest of us - had to be groomed into on-screen talent?
Too often the media sets up players and coaches across our footy codes as denying the fans if they fail to co-operate with journalists. I wonder how many Dragons fans were offended by Boyd’s taciturn press conference. Much of the comment online was in support of him.
Boyd has learned his spartan media style from his coach Wayne Bennett, who has tormented TV executives and newspaper editors for years with his monotone answers.
The fact that he has transformed the Dragons from a team of habitual losers to frontrunners is being lost in the navel-gazing over how Bennett and his players perform for the cameras.
None of this is to say that we should discourage athletes from talking it up if that’s their style. It makes a nice change from “the boys just hung in there and come good at the end.”
To save you the trouble, I trawled Google and dredged up some of New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra’s better media efforts. This guy was a journo’s dream – and there’s enough material for Darius Boyd to pilfer and claim as his own should he need a hand.
“Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?”
“I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early.”
“Baseball is 90% mental—the other half is physical.”
“Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.”
“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”
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