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Media and the Modern Player by Adam Hollioake
I have exploded into action like Ben Johnson out of the blocks during the 1984 LA Olympics! Wow this is my topic! I have been waiting for an excuse to talk about this for years.
A while back Michael Clarke was publicly ridiculed for using twitter to try to find a date to a function for his team mate Steve Smith. Without having read the article and without having what all good writers should be armed with (knowledge) I am going to jump into this topic feet 1st. For it is not this controversy that has fueled my fire to write this blog! For years I have been a keen student of the personalities of professional sportsmen! For I grew up in the era of John McEnroe, Dennis Lillee, Mike Tyson, Jeff Thomson, Rod Marsh, Warwick Capper, Daley Thomson, Ian Botham the list goes on and on! All these amazing characters! These fantastic role models?? Were they? Aren’t we told that it isn’t a good example to sledge?
I for one am the biggest critic of the match referee or rather their over policing of player behavior! Why is it there? Why does it exist? All you people who have been brainwashed by whoever came up with the nonsense line “because it sets a bad example to the youngsters!” Sit back down and listen!!
Who the hell came up with that nonsense? He is so famous now! I hear people quote him every day! Let me tell you, the example that we were all set by our heroes is what made us watch the sport in the 1st place! I never would have watched sport if it wasn’t for characters like the ones I have mentioned earlier. Instead I may have been more interested in hanging down at McDonalds with my mates and causing some real problems. If the worst thing my 4 year old boy does when he gets older is behave over competitively on the sports field I will be the happiest Dad alive! I as a young father have more of a concern that my son may grow up without interest in sport at all. How are they expected to get excited about watching a bunch of robots running around doing the same thing with the same bowling action. No don’t bowl like that! No don’t bat like that! No don’t sledge like that! No don’t say anything controversial! Come on please, are we all that soft that we cant bare to see 2 men competing hard against each other, would we rather pretend it doesn’t exist? It is sport it is meant to
In this era of thrown matches, huge prize money, cliché quotes etc, wouldn’t it be nice to see 2 people having a go at each other, at least you know the passion is there, at least you know they want to win. The money aside, they are just competing, it is healthy and we should embrace it.
I will give you an example, during the 2001/2 Ashes series Glen McGrath was bowling England out when Alan Mullaly walked to the crease, he decided that McGrath needed to be taken on and despite his very average batting abilities picked a confrontation with the great bowler, what ensued was 15 minutes of 2 competitors having a go at each other and was probably the most entertaining 15 minutes of the whole series. The result however was that both players were slapped on the wrist and fined. The return of the robots for the next Test was secured...
The match referee or rather the duty of over policing that has been placed upon him, is the detrimental to the sport of cricket in my opinion, bought in to protect our young from the terrible behavior of our athletes. Well look at our crowds outside India, they are dropping because the game is to sterile and has been damaged by things far worse than player behavior on the pitch. I am all for match referees, they just need to be given clearer instructions to allow the passion to remain in the sport.
Man it is tough out there these days! I hear today some female tennis player made a joke about being scratched by a kangaroo, when she had really just banged her leg against a chair. She was marched back into the press conference like a naughty girl to admit it was a lie! Man what is going on! Please! Everyone stop!
I for one made a conscious effort to speak to the press early doors and was of the opinion that I could change everyone. Well it only takes one journalist to turn on you and deliberately take you out of context to make you give the party line.
As athletes we give up our time to the media to get the story out, we need to co-exist as we both provide for each other. The relationship with athlete and media is like a coral reef, it only takes one germ to destroy the whole eco system.
Example 1998 Dhaka ICC trophy match vs South Africa, I suffered a massive loss of fluid and almost wound up dead. Due to this I experienced massive dizziness and outer body experiences. When asked to describe it by the media, I could have said the party line, “Yes it was tough but that’s what playing for your country is all about” instead I chose a little more risqué approach and came out with a throw away very tongue in cheek comment about feeling like I was as high as a kite. Everyone in the room knew what I meant (they weren’t idiots) but one particular moron went away and I ended up on the front page ‘Adam Hollioake in Drug Scandal”. I mean please! Yes you got your headline well done. But now you have ruined it for everyone. Now I will give you cliché nonsense.
Why, well because professional sport brings its own pressures and we don’t need to be bringing more upon ourselves.
I save a paragraph for Shane Warne he is a true great character of the game. Anyone who can walk into the press conferance say and do what they want and walk away without any concern for what is written is obviously made of steel. Never have I known anyone be able to soak up the pressures of the media (and his pressures are greater than your average sportsmans) and carry on living their life and performing at such a high level. That said, for every Shane Warne there are 1000’s of professional athletes that wouldn’t be able to deal with those pressures! So therefore most of us normal athletes choose to play the straight bat and not bring these extra pressures upon ourselves. We need more Warney’s but you would be a fool to try and follow his example, it would be as hard as copying his ability to bowl leg spin . So therefore to allow the characters to re appear we need to not jump on every little thing they say or do. Of course there are boundaries and I am not suggesting athletes get away with a lot of the social misbehavior that has become easier to access, but the onfield stuff and press related activities I think we need to be more lenient on…
At the moment it is too much to ask of anyone to be funny, yet tow the party line, controversial without being politically incorrect, interesting yet humble….. Wow it is quite difficult.
To finish on we at Surrey were having a press skills day and a guy came in and was telling us how to speak to the media, he was saying we needed to say this and that, and topics to avoid etc One of the young kids put up his hand and said “Wouldn’t it be better if we were just ourselves?” Perfect point, however very naïve we all said, you can’t do that, you will get slaughtered…..
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Adam Hollioake with the 1999 County Championship Trophy