Sunday 21 October 2012

Kick out Racism: Why all the expectation on football?

As much as I love football, I sometimes feel that the simple pleasure of watching 22 blokes on pitch kicking a football around is now just a small sideshow.

Following football these days is as much about listening to endless debates, the hype surrounding teams and players and controversy after controversy.

Take the racism issue that's reared its ugly head. Ideally I don't want to be talking about racism in football, but the issue refuses to go away.

Rio Ferdinand his brother Anton and the Reading striker Jason Roberts all refused to wear Kick out Racism T-shirts this week in protest at the campaign and the action taken against John Terry by the FA.

It's unfortunate that in the last 18 months we've seen a couple of high profile incidents of racism but I don't think it means we've gone backwards in tackling the problem.

This country can rightly be proud of the efforts made in tackling racism in football. We're light years ahead of countries on the continent particularly those in Eastern Europe. You only have to look at the events in Serbia this week to see that.

Nobody wants to see a return to the 70s and 80s when racism was rife both and off the pitch. There won't be a return to those days as Britain has thankfully moved on as a country.

Football is so consuming these days it feels like the fight against racism matters more in the world of football than elsewhere in society.

Football isn't perfect. If racism exists in football then it's because racism exists in society. Why should football be an exception?

Where's the high profile kick out racism campaigns in other areas of society? How about a kick out racism campaign in law, medicine, Financial services, the Media I could go on.

We know football is big business and gets huge media coverage but lets not put football on a pedestal and expect the game to be above the rest of society.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Jimmy Savile: An inquiry won't change the attitudes of the 60s and 70s

The Jimmy Savile story goes on and on and gets more embarrassing for the BBC.

With more Savile victims coming forwards with allegations of abuse, the question keeps being asked. How was this abuse allowed to continue for so long?

It's an obvious question to ask but there's an aspect of this story where people are judging the attitudes and culture of previous decades with our own 21st Century attitudes.

The world has moved on a lot since Jimmy Savile was committing his crimes.

I've been reading that his behaviour was an open secret for years. It's hard to accept that many people, members of the BBC, journalists, hospital staff, and teachers were all aware of what was going on but chose for various reasons not to go public with what Savile was up to.

In previous decades sexism was more rampant and socially accepted in a way that's unthinkable today. In the last week I've read a few comments in various papers from women who have worked in the media and who started their careers during the 60s, 70s and 80s.

By today's standards the sexist comments and the casual groping and fondling they spoke of seems shocking. You think, how could this have been tolerated. The thing is - it was tolerated and it's taken many years for attitudes to change.

This is a difficult time for the BBC and questions should rightly be asked on why a Newsnight investigation into abuse by Savile was rejected.

However, it's pointless blaming the BBC for sexual attitudes and behaviour of the 60s and 70s. Like any institution the attitudes and culture of the corporation reflected those of the day.

The BBC is a very different institution to what it was 30 - 40 years ago. The behaviour of Jimmy Savile couldn't take place today, and if it did start it would soon be uncovered.

Friday 12 October 2012

Lance Armstrong: A cheat amongst cheats

Another nail in the coffin of Lance Armstrong's reputation was delivered this week following revelations that he lead 'the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen'.

That damming verdict comes from the 1000 page report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency which looked into the practices of Armstrong and members of his former cycling team US Postal services.

It's hard to see how Armstrong has any defence left when so many former team mates have admitted their part in drug taking and have confirmed that Armstrong was actively involved in drug taking himself.

I've only recently started following cycling and didn't watch the sport closely when Armstrong was winning his 7 Tour titles.

What I've realised is that period of the late 90s and early 2000s was arguably when cycling was at its dirtiest - everyone was taking drugs!

Yes it appears that Lance Armstrong was a cheat, but was it possible during that era to win the Tour de France without cheating? I'm not sure it was.

Without defending Armstrong, there's still a part of me that thinks winning 7 Tour de France titles is still a phenomenal achievement, even if he was a cheat in a peloton full of cheats.

Friday 5 October 2012

Fox News: Man kills himself live on TV

Last week Fox News accidently showed live footage of a man committing suicide by shooting himself in the head with a gun.

The news channel had been following a car chase, where the police were pursuing a motorist through the US state of Arizona.

The police eventually gave up on the chase, but Fox continued to follow the man until he stopped his car and got out.

At this point, Fox News switched from live coverage to a slight delay of a few seconds, just in case something unexpected happened.

Well something unexpected did happen and the camera didn't cut away in time - meaning viewers witnessed someone killing themselves live on national TV!

TV anchor Shepard Smith apologizes to viewers for not cutting away in time

I can't believe I missed this story, I only found out about it today. After watching the clip above, I decided to watch a clip on Youtube showing the very end of the chase and the motorist killing himself.

It's disturbing to watch as you realise this isn't some action film but real life. It's the reason I didn't want to embed the clip onto my blog.

I've now discovered that Fox News has a reputation for covering high speed car chases, as they provide short term ratings increases for the network as viewers want to see how drama ends.

This got me thinking. This incident seems to blur the lines between what's news and what's entertainment. Fox had followed the chase for most of the morning and early afternoon.

Was it newsworthy to dedicate hours of live coverage to this or was it just pure entertainment for viewers?

News can and sometimes should be entertaining. Clearly there are some news stories that have greater appeal to audiences than others, I'm just not sure that hours of continuous live coverage of a car chase is news.

It reminds of the increasingly common question of whether something reported is in the 'public interest' or is it 'of interest to the public'.

The coverage from Fox feels more like the latter it was entertainment, like a form of reality tv, but dressed up as news. The only problem is that Fox and its viewers got way more than they bargained for.