Thursday, April 08, 2010

There is Always a Story if You Want One

I must admit there are times when Soulberry can spoil my day with his crusade against anyone who has a bad thing to say about the IPL. But there is a reason why I go to his blog everyday and it's not masochistic. He can write some really thought-provoking posts and I came across one such post today.

I'll admit to being put off by the whole sports journalism business thanks to the nature of sports coverage in India. That and the fact that I believe the power to make a difference lies with the administrators and not media-persons. But isn't it a profession one indulges in only because they felt they would enjoy it? You would never get parents in India pushing their kids to do a journalism course. So why is it that this job becomes so tiresome after a point of time? Why do these journalists marvel at Tendulkar enjoying his cricket even after 20 years in international cricket?

One of the biggest reasons for doing a job is money. Okay, that statement was Shastri-like in its obviousness. But for sports journalists it has to be something more than that because they're not as well-compensated as those investment bankers and marketing minds in the corporate world. This means the job has got to provide one with the opportunity to make a difference. At times it conflicts with the editor's requirement. Gotta look at the bottom line after all, and the bottom line says people would rather read about Virat Kohli's attitude than his commitment when he turned out for a Ranji game a day after his father passed away. When Yuvraj has a few bad games it's because he has problems with the captain. It can't be cooked up, afterall a "top source" told our reporter about it. It has become more important to have out of work celebrities criticise cricketers for talking about cricket and put a sexist spin to it.

But amidst all this are cricket fans who put up with a boatload of rubbish just so they can watch some cricket. They are large enough in number to help the bottom line and will stick with the sport even when it's not fashionable.

Last year I had the privilege of going to a test match at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. Since I was on holiday I also went to watch the players practise the day before the test began. There were a lot of people at the ground and I got to speak with some. Among them was a father who had brought along his 6-year old son to show him how Sachin Tendulkar batted. A day later the man also brought along his old man and the three generations in the family shared an experience that perhaps only sport can provide. On the fourth day of the test the Sky Team were going to have a talk with Ravi Shastri during the tea interval. The way the match was going it could have been the last day of the series. Some of the people on the event staff were disappointed that they couldn't get to hear from players in the Indian team. According to them, these players were more popular than most of the Kiwis and the people of New Zealand wanted to hear their stories. They wanted to know how the Tendulkars and Dravids had achieved so much in the sport, their cricketing journey, how it had affected their personal life.

Of course it never happened because the board does not allow players to speak in public, and as someone who has seen how the media can make a scandal out of nothing I can see where the board is coming from. But would such a situation arise if our sports journalists have the drive to write about something that sticks in the mind of the readers/listeners/viewers? There is always a story behind an athlete, and it is invariably one that inspires the common man, for it takes a lot of passion, commitment and sacrifice to play professional sport. Movies have been made on such stories and have been very successful. There is no reason why bringing these out in columns or interviews wouldn't get as many "eyeballs" as Deepika Padukone at an IPL game.