Thursday, 28 June 2012

Why always Mario?

“He’s scored a goal, so what?  He’s going to go and tell the coach he’s the best player.  They’re down to ten men, all the Irish players are completely goosed and now he’s going to tell everyone he’s he best.”  So Mick McCarthy greeted Mario Ballotelli’s goal for Italy in their final group game against Ireland.  Instead of focusing on the quality of the strike, he instead left little room for doubt about what he thinks of the striker.  In the post-match analysis Alan Hansen acknowledged the “finish was great but not as good as Mick McCarthy’s commentary – that was sensational”.  Let it not be said Hansen doesn’t earn his share of your licence fee.

You probably know that the focus of McCarthy and Hansen’s contempt was the fact Balotelli started to say something after the goal but his teammate Leonardo Bonucci thrust his hand over his mouth to stop him.  While many of us might wish Bonucci could spend each episode of Match of the Day with his hand clasped tightly over Hansen’s mouth (just to stop him talking, not breathing – I’m not unreasonable) the reality is neither McCarthy nor Hansen knew what Balotelli was saying and thanks to Bonucci we still don’t but the BBC’s 'finest' were happy to sit in judgement and condemn Balotelli for supposedly directing his ire at his coach.

By last Thursday, once the reports of England’s game against Ukraine were out of the way, it was on to the build up to their quarter-final and when talking about Italy, the English Press focused their attention on one man.  Matt Lawton wrote in the Daily Mail on the Friday, “Mario Balotelli’s efforts to lie low appear to have failed as he continues to dominate the Italian angle of the showdown with England”.  Mmm, I wonder who’s responsible for that, Matt?  It’s not Mario, that’s for sure but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Italy would have another ten men on the pitch against England.

Accompanying Lawton’s article was a picture of Balotelli lying down while his Italian team mates did press ups.  There was no context (there rarely is) but we were told the “Floored genius” was “skiving”.  Which is odd, because the day before Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror wrote about a training session for Italy’s strikers:  “For some it was routine.  Not for Mario Balotelli.  The Manchester City striker lashed the ball past the keeper with a venom that seemed excessive for a relaxed training session.”  So, let me get this straight, when Mario doesn’t engage in the press ups, he’s lazy but when he kicks a ball in a way subjectively deemed to be too hard it’s evidence of his “volatility” and “suspect temperament”?  Or is it really just evidence of the tabloids’ tiresome over-analysis of one person?

Hansen says "shut your mouth"
The day before the game the Daily Mail claimed that Balotelli “represents everything wrong with modern football”.  Harsh words, and there was me thinking it was the racism on the terraces that Balotelli has repeatedly had to endure, or the fact that Uefa considers branded underwear a worse crime than such abuse or many of the other ills that beset the game.  “His behaviour,” the Mail went on “makes Gascoigne look like a choirboy”.  Would this be the Paul Gascoigne who admitted beating his wife regularly over a two-year period?  Or the Paul Gascoigne who was in 2010 arrested for possession of cocaine and twice for drink driving?  To top it all off, the Mail told us Balotelli has “recently bought a pair of chow chow puppies”.  The man’s depravity knows no end.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

How Ronald McDonald stole cricket

A few months ago the new editor of the Wisden Almanac caused a bit of a stir with his preface to this year's edition.  Lawrence Booth wrote at length about various issues within the game, including the increasing acceptability of talking about depression and the decision of Surrey’s Steven Davies to confirm his homosexuality.

However, they gained little coverage from the cricketing Press which instead chose to focus on Booth’s belief that the game’s administrators are focusing on the limited-overs formats – and especially Twenty20 – at the expense of the five-day game.

For example, England have axed a Test this summer to make room for five ODIs against Australia (meaning they will play six Tests, 13 ODIs and four T20s) and while Booth acknowledged that T20 is “a vital part of a fragile ecosystem”, he argued it has come to dominate to the extent that last year had two-Test series between South Africa and Australia in which “a pair of classics left the players craving a decider”.  The Champions League, in which both Cricket South Africa and Cricket Australia are key partners, meant the extra game could not be accommodated (leading Booth to call for all series not involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to have a minimum of three Tests).

What Wisden’s new boss had identified, although he perhaps didn’t realise it, is the impact on cricket of a sociological phenomena called McDonaldization.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

An open letter to Sol Campbell

So Sol, when’s the autobiography out?

I assume that’s why you’re in the headlines on a regular basis all of a sudden, giving us your 'expert' analysis on various topics (well, racism anyway) or are you just looking for a media career?  (If it’s the latter, I can understand where you’re coming from; after all if Robbie Savage can do it, surely anyone can…)

You handled the announcement of your retirement superbly.  I mean kudos to you for extracting maximum exposure out of something most people thought had already happened.  Given your last competitive game was for Newcastle in March 2011, ‘retiring’ 14 months later could have made you look a little silly (a tiny bit like resigning after you’d been sacked and escorted from the building by security) but, no, you handled it with aplomb and notched up the first batch of headlines.

I quit.
Then just over three weeks later we got that Panorama programme.  Your comments warning England fans not to travel to the Ukraine because they “could end up coming back in a coffin” were, like the programme, a touch on the sensationalist side.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Tabloid coverage of Euro '96

This is the final part of my 1996 MA dissertation 'Shock! Horror! England in the Tabloid Press: An Investigation Into the Tabloid Press, the England Football Team and the Processes Which Have Led to Sensationalisation'. This installment looks at the coverage of the England team during Euro '96.  Part one can be found here and part two here.

The Coverage in the Sun and the Daily Mirror During Euro '96

Having shown the processes that have led to a right wing and sensationalist tabloid Press, I now wish to outline and attempt to explain the coverage used during Euro ’96 by both the Sun and the Mirror.  It is clear to see that running through both newspapers there were two similar themes.  Both Wagg (1991, 1986) and Maguire (1994/95) when studying media coverage of English sports (Maguire studies cricket as well as football) have identified the themes od ‘wilful nostalgia’ as well as clear nationalist overtones, what Maguire refers to as ‘identity politics’.  It is clear that whilst these discourses run through the coverage given to Euro ’96 by both papers, they are used in different ways.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Circulation War: The processes that have led to Sensationalization

The second of three parts of my 1996 MA dissertation 'Shock! Horror! England in the Tabloid Press: An Investigation Into the Tabloid Press, the England Football Team and the Processes Which Have Led to Sensationalisation'. This installment discusses the history of the Press in England.  Part one can be found here.

The Circulation War: The processes that have led to Sensationalization

The aim of this chapter is to delineate the long-term social processes that have led to the shaping of the printed media but more especially to the tabloid Press as we know it in England today, as well as to the rise in sensationalization in those papers.  In short I will be attempting to identify and highlight which social conditions have facilitated the creation of papers such as the Sun and the Daily Mirror and the style that they employ.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Cultural Studies and Figurational Studies: Towards a Synthesis

This is the first part of three in the serialisation of the dissertation I wrote in 1996 for my MA entitled: 'Shock! Horror! England in the Tabloid Press: An Investigation Into the Tabloid Press, the England Football Team and the Processes Which Have Led to Sensationalisation'. As I re-read it a few weeks ago it struck me that 16 years on, not much has changed and so after a little bit of persuasion from Greg Theoharis of Dispatches From a Football Sofa fame I've decided to publish it as a starting point for a series of posts on how the tabloid Press cover the England team during this year's European Championships. This part introduces the topic and provides a theoretical context, to that end it is the most technical of the three. For those interested a bibliography will be provided at the end. I have made a few minor alterations, mainly to remove obvious errors, but otherwise this is the text as submitted in September 1996.

Most of those involved in the study of sport, whatever their discipline and no matter what paradigm they adhere to would agree that the most common involvement people have with sport today is via the mass media. There has, however, been a distinct lack of cross-fertilization between sports sociology and cultural studies, despite the facts that, in the west, sport and the media due to various socio-economic, political and cultural factors have become increasingly interdependent and that they are taking up more and more of people’s time.