You've just gotta tell the whole story

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

AS A scribe, I tend to profile sports protagonists in the warm-fuzzy mould but diplomatically make it abundantly clear when I turn up at the fields or courts of battle I slip on my game face.

If teams or individuals excel then out come the bouquets although, I hasten to add, if performances are ugly or against an incompatible opposition then a certain sense of journalistic conscience starts nagging to ensure those blemishes are thrown in to put things in perspective.

At times, in applying a level of social conscience, I sympathise with a coach, captain or players' misfortunes - which can often be totally beyond their control - but professionally I never refrain from asking the hard questions.

A fortnight ago, just before I stuck an interview machine under the nose of Team Wellington soccer coach Matt Calcott at Bluewater Stadium, Napier, he sparred with me after I waited patiently for him to get off the phone after a marathon call.

"So, what's this I hear you wrote about me getting a thrashing here [at Park Island in a Chatham Cup game]?"

Looking at the frown on his face and mindful Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United had just outplayed his men 3-0 in their ASB Premiership game, I looked him in the eye and replied: "Because that's a fact, Matt, and in the context of the preview where Wellington have never lost to us here in the summer league."

Calcott broke into a smile, patted me on the back before saying: "That's all right. I'm just joking."

Jocularity aside, there's something unnerving about media organisations applying pressure on their staff to take it easy on protagonists, be it regarding on-field or off-field issues.

That Sky TV cricket commentators have reportedly been told to be nice to the Black Caps and not to regurgitate their off-field dramas is somewhat unsettling from the spectators' perspective.

The controversy surrounding the sacking of former captain Ross Taylor has fired up debate for the summer game but cricket faithful expecting Sky commentators to weigh in will be waiting a long time, the TV company says.

"We don't put down sporting codes because we're in the business of promoting sport," Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way reportedly said.

Sky and New Zealand Cricket had a business partnership, she said.

"It's natural for our commentators to promote our product."

Former New Zealand cricketer and commentator John "Mystery" Morrison said Sky's policy was "pathetic". "The day that people don't debate and argue these issues will be a sad day for the game," Morrison said.

Commentators should be allowed to voice their passion and interest and scrutinise the game, he said. "It's totally irresponsible to ask commentators to just be cheerleaders. I think that's been a trend in recent times and it's dumbed the game down."

Enough said.

The sports media play a pivotal role in not only disseminating news but also assuming the mantle of custodians who don't just bore readers, listeners and viewers with facts and figures but also use their experience and nous to stimulate brainstorming sessions.

That the changing of guards in the Black Caps will make any difference, after Taylor was unceremoniously dumped following a coup, is something every discerning fan will formulate an opinion on.

With poker-faced Black Caps and coach Mike Hesson - some of who will no doubt need manicurists if not hair transplants after their last-ball victory over South Africa in East London on Monday - clearly showing what any victory will mean to them after New Zealand Cricket's public relations disaster, it again puts in the spotlight sporting business deals.

No one begrudges TV commentators earning a living but, wait on, what happens when a team is skittled for 80-odd runs?

"Well done, fellahs, not a bad effort. It could have been worse," hardly cuts the mustard.

Ritualistically planting tie-and-jacket wearing puppets in front of a TV camera to gloss things over is tantamount to treating TV viewers as muppets.

According to the APNZ report, Sky commentator Simon Doull said he hadn't been gagged. Craig McMillan, Mark Richardson and Ian Smith declined to comment or return calls.

The second the sound-bite wallahs take positions on the field with muzzles, they simply cease to become experts, regardless of their glittery playing careers.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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