Limit Gimmicks

Sports fans in the main are traditionalists. Many like to see sport remain comparable to days gone by so that feats and records continue to have meaning.

Sports administrators are constantly striving to attract more people to their particular sport, as often Government funding is derived from such figures. At the professional level, sponsorship deals are based on crowd figures and attendances, so any gimmick that can pull in more viewers is a welcome move by most involved with the day to day running of the sport.

Some of the innovations in some sports have definitely been beneficial. Some have worked in certain sports better than others.

Two that this writer, – a definite traditionalist,- dislikes are the interviewing of players as they come off for half time and cameras in the dressing room. The first, because honestly what does it actually add to the broadcast? Rarely does a player say anything profound that is going to give the viewer an insight into how he or the team feels. Surely it is far better to grab the coach or assistant coach after half time to hear what they said, planned changes to personnel or style of play, and what they expect from the team in the second half?

As for the dressing room camera, surely the players deserve one area on a match day where they can have some privacy and if they want to vent their feelings they can. Great to see them coming off the bus and walking to the changing rooms, maybe even have a camera as they enter the rooms but then stay out. In AFL there is merit seeing the players singing the team song, but then they usually move into a seperate room to actually shower and change.

It was therefore refreshing post the T20 World Cup to hear one of the players speak out. India’s Captain MS Dhoni called for there to be restraint when it comes to, as he called them “gimmicks,” being introduced to the field of play.

Dhoni spoke out after one match in which the first ball that Virat Kholi faced hit the spider cam dangling over the player’s head and was called a ‘deadfall.’ The ball still reached the boundary, but because it had hit a piece of television equipment it was called a ‘deadball’ and no runs were scored.

Dhoni was quoted as saying, ” I am quite a traditional guy. I have always felt that anything that disturbs the game of cricket I don’t like it. It all started right from the T20 where people would be like, ‘why don’t you wear a mic? Why don’t you wear a camera?’ I have always felt there is a need for balance. At the end of the day it is a spectator sport, people watching on television but at the same time four runs can matter especially when it is a close game.”

Dhoni also interestingly spoke out about the unwanted intrusion into a player’s space on a match day.

One fact that is often overlooked and to which Dhoni referred, the mic’ing up of players. When T20 started this format of the game was in its infancy and the ICC stated that it would never be more than an exhibition format. Yet that all changed very quickly when spectators who would normally never venture inside a cricket ground were suddenly willing to pay to watch a ‘fast food’ version of the game.

Interestingly at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey tournament the goalkeepers were, for the first time in an international tournament, given the option of wearing a camera on their helmet. Some opted to do so, others did not. The choice was up to the individual and the team management. Did it add to the viewing experience? One would have to say that it did. It made you appreciate how little time the ‘keeper had to react and how fast the ball was hit at the goal; many shots up around 115kmh.

Should this become compulsory? The option being there for the individual player and team would appear to be a good way to operate.

There is no doubt that top level sport needs television. Not only the coverage and exposure it guarantees, but also the dollars it is prepared to invest in the sport. A prime example of this is the Hyundai A-League. As much as people bemoan that fact that the sport was not on free-to-air television, without the money Fox invested in the coverage would the support be there? Would Adelaide United have managed to pull in 70,000 at the Grand Final? Would the League have the profile it currently has?

Change is constant in the modern world and everyone is looking for the next innovation, but one does feel that Dhoni has a point. Sport is a form of entertainment, but the actual sporting contest should always be the main attraction. The contest must always be the primary focus ahead of the gimmicks which are more aligned with fly on the wall, big brother style entertainment.

There needs to be a happy mix, but one that ensures that the players are safe at all times and the ‘gimmicks’ do not interfere with them and the coaching staff carrying out their jobs to the highest level. We also need to accept that if our sports stars are to be such public property away from their place of work, they deserve the right to have some sanctuary that they can call their own, away from the public and the prying eyes. That was always the changing room, and it is in this writer’s opinion time that they were given back this privacy.

Limit Gimmicks
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