Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why do cricket and rugby administrators insist on filtering and denying the truth

It seems that rugby union and cricket are still totally entrenched in their amateur and schoolmasterly sport origins. This is exemplified by refusing players and coaches from expressing an opinion of anything. The Aussie former test player Darren Lehmann being the latest victim of a charge of unbecoming behaviour. It seems every other week someone oversteps this invisible boundary rope and sticks his foot into this minefield. More often than not the player (or coach) in question is merley articulating what the man in the street or other media commentators have been saying and thinking anyway. Why then, just because a player or coach says it does it become unbecoming and detrimental. Particularly, as in most cases, when the comment is probably a fair reflection of the issue at hand. If (and Lehmann certainly thinks so) the early start influenced the outcome of the game, why shouldn't he say so. If the sponsor and broadcasters have a valid case for the early start then they can defend this case. Isn't that what free speech is about. This self-censorship to protect the big bucks and avoid irritating an arrogant sponsor is just plain amateur. It brings to mind the severe firing of Nick Mallet from his post as Springbok rugby coach for pointing out that the price of Test match tickets was unaffordable for the average family. The question should be :"Is the comment fair, honest and not baseless?". Rather than whether such a comment is detrimental or not. In most cases (as in Lehmann and Mallet's') the circumstance that gives rise to the public comment is probably far more detrimental than the comment itself. If the public comment then shines a light on this circumstance there is perhaps a chance of the issue being adressed in the future. This is surely a better overall result.
The other issue of schoolmasterly behaviour arises out of the sending off of rugby players for dirty behaviour. This has a profound effect on the game as this player cannot be replaced and results in the other side having a huge advantage. The game often ceases to be a spectacle and becomes a farce as the other side take advantage of not being adequately marked. It is the schoolmaster mentality of the referee and administrators wanting to use the sending off as example to others and punishing the whole side for an individual's transgressions. This is much like the teacher who detains the entire class at lunchbreak because someone was making a noise. I have no sympathy for the dirty player but the referee often gets the decision wrong and only sees a fraction of the transgression and certainly not the full context. The player should be sent off and be subject to a full disciplinary procedure after the match, but in the interests of the game he should be substituted. To punish the entire team & many spectators for a single transgression and "just to prove a point" is infantile.

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