Never bigger than the game

2014-10-03 00:00

JOURNALISM is a tough job. Besides the language and grammar know-how, there’s the talking aspect, the digging around to find the what, when, why and how of a situation.

It sounds easy as that’s what people do all day — talk. But let’s not be misled. It’s anything but that straightforward and the irony is, when you need people to talk, they clam up, like a naughty kid not smiling for the camera in a family picture.

Take the latest Jake White scenario. He’s a big man in world rugby these days and his career, moves and decisions are watched worldwide. He’s earning more than handy cash and therefore, is in the sporting spotlight. He is big news wherever he is involved on the rugby front, which means his departure from the Sharks as director of rugby after less than a year will rightfully generate massive interest and news.

This is where the barriers suddenly appear. A general press release outlines the problem, yet any attempt to speak directly to the man, or John Smit, the CEO of Sharks Rugby, are met with dead-ends and feeble excuses of them suddenly being unavailable.

That’s not good enough. People out there want to know the facts, the reasons. If, and it’s a massive if, there is nothing to hide, what’s the problem with telling it like it is.

It’s a free country — or so we pride ourselves on saying — yet a rugby coach cannot proudly thump his chest, which is synonymous with the antics of the game, and say what he is up to.

It smells so rotten. And it’s not only him. Administrators, fellow coaches, players who were involved with White are reduced to nervous wrecks, quivering in the corner, refusing to comment.

Why? It only leads to speculation and rumour in attempting to unearth the truth. It also gives the impression that White is some mega-powerful individual who has such a hold over everyone he has crossed paths with in his life that at a click of his fingers he can cut them down if they dare to mention his name, let alone expand on that.

He’s not the only one. It happens in all sporting spheres. Rumours of soccer coaches being fired or renewing contracts is suddenly dealt with by zipping up and closing all avenues of communication.

Earlier in the year, there was speculation that Maritzburg United coach Steve Khompela might be leaving the club, yet could we, as sports journalists, get honest, no-holds barred comment from the horse’s mouth? It was more than a wild goose chase and incidents like this quickly dispel any respect and credibility an individual or club may have had or demanded from us scribes.

These people must remember they started at the bottom of the pile, un-noticed, doing something they love. They put in the work, moved up the ladder and reached a status many mere mortals only dream of.

It’s thanks to the game and the support of people that such progress can be made. And, as such, the people, those folks who fork out for a season ticket, purchase a suite, spent a fortune to attend a match with their family, need to know and have a right to know, the truth.

Stand on your box and proudly proclaim why you have made certain decisions in your life. You are in the public eye and they pay your salary.

No one is bigger than any game and if that’s a problem or they can’t cope, take a listen to the Billy Joel classic, Honesty … “such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue …”

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