Breaking Ball - Punditry has crossed the line with personal attacks

Breaking Ball - Punditry has crossed the line with personal attacks
It’s hard to figure out what caused more controversy, the alleged sledging that many took issue with in the Donegal-Tyrone match or was it what Joe Brolly said about Cavan football and RTE sports presenter Marty Morrissey on the Sunday Game but his comments about Marty crossed the line, especially with his fellow presenters in RTE, but while an apology quickly followed his comments it has raised a lot of questions on whether the type of punditry on the Sunday Game is acceptable or not.

It’s hard to figure out what caused more controversy, the alleged sledging that many took issue with in the Donegal-Tyrone match or was it what Joe Brolly said about Cavan football and RTE sports presenter Marty Morrissey on the Sunday Game but his comments about Marty crossed the line, especially with his fellow presenters in RTE, but while an apology quickly followed his comments it has raised a lot of questions on whether the type of punditry on the Sunday Game is acceptable or not.

Punditry is the expression of one’s expert opinion. So by anybody’s standards the comments about Marty were by no means acceptable as it was personal and that has no place on any programme. Also the response by RTE does not show enough leadership in dealing with the matter.

When Sean Cavanagh made that infamous trip tackle on Ciaran McManus in Croke Park, Joe’s outburst was a personal attack on one of the most talented footballers ever to play the game. The outburst was degrading both for the player and for his family and very little was done about it,. Yes there were a few comments about Joe taking it a bit far but Joe wasn’t the only one and nothing was done about it.

When Donegal play and the Sunday Game is present the usual comments are always on the autocue; the negativity about the way we play; the game, the stories of what Jim McGuinness expects from his players and if they are within the spirit of the game and the all behind the ball mentality and of course the puke football tag.

Is that acceptable all the time? There were very few of them questioning the tactics used by Kerry to win last year’s championship. There were very few questions about how many fouls their half-backs or half-forwards committed during the championship. Those stats were kept to themselves because it wouldn’t be cool to question the Kingdom with their history, but it was ok to have a go at the likes of Donegal.

A few years ago there was a constant barrage of negative comments about the mistakes of referees and their match officials. At times the comments were certainly over the top but to be fair the programme presenter would usually call a halt to the criticism.

The GAA at the same time were having a serious problem with recruiting people to officiate and I have a feeling that someone got in touch with someone else in RTE and soon the referee and the match officials were off limit. What does that say about what is thought about the players or indeed managers?

There is also the perception that many pundits cause controversy because it raises their image. It gives them more coverage and it opens more doors. To be fair they’re not all like that and some have the good of the game at heart but what is forgotten in a lot of this is that the people involved are all amateur while they are not; they are all well paid and sit in the lap of luxury while everyone else has to pay their way.

They are given a freedom to give their view and that’s fine by me but this is not world affairs or not the same carry on that is going on in the Dail at the minute so why is it they feel the need to attack not only the integrity of the people involved but also the game itself?

If you listen to the hurling pundits they rarely will give out a negative image of their game. Jim McGuinness, in a great piece in the Irish times about the controversy, talked about the lack of respect shown towards those involved.

In Joe Brolly’s response he questions the way in which Jim - and these are his words - “controlled the players“. In typical Irish life Joe, like many others, deflects away from the issues at hand and goes off on a different tangent. Maybe that’s the Barrister in him.

The GAA have given all the media, television and the written press, huge access to their games. Players are asked to do all sorts of things and give interviews at all times of the day. These players and managers are all members of clubs; when they’re finished with their county they go back to their clubs so they deserve to be treated better.

What happens if something is said about a player and it has consequences for the player or manager and their families? Will it be time then to ask some questions, what is acceptable?

I for one don’t believe that everything should be rosy in the garden and I accept that people’s views need to be heard and in order for a well balanced argument there needs to be balance but who is standing up for those playing the game? Who is standing up for the manager on the sideline who has to use whatever tactics that will get him and his team over the winning line? Even the politicians get to stand up for themselves.

The championship has only started and already we are talking about all the wrong things. In the last few weeks I have toiled with the idea that maybe the Sky deal might not be such a bad deal after all. You never know, with a bit of competition, people both on and off the field might have to raise their game.