Anything you ever did was strictly by design, but you got it wrong…

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We discussed in the last blog post that the AFL Finals are the absolute apex of AFL media nonsense – during the Sydney Swans vs Geelong game, the commentators and boundary riders got into a conversation about pickle juice curing cramps that became a theme of the night, culminating in Matthew Richardson drinking pickle juice live on air as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Brian Taylor, of roaming/wandering Brian fame, emphatically proclaimed Geelong had never EVER played an interstate final, when the network had mentioned the Nick Davis game at the SCG over and over. Alas, the Telstra Tracker was rather buried in this game, much to the disappointment of thousands of Telstra Tracker fans around the nation. How could we truly analyse the game without knowing if Mark Blicavs repeat speed efforts were 13 or 14? It just didn’t feel the same…

We touched on before that Channel 7 love and live for this kind of stuff – even such a blatant factual error as saying Geelong have never played an interstate final when they’ve played 3 is grist for the mill. If you point it out, its “joining in the conversation” after all. They have immuned themselves to negativity and errors, because any feedback is good feedback, and it means you are listening, not playing music or typing on the laptop. It’s important to note that Channel 7 aren’t they only ones indulging in this joyous season of media guesswork and narrative framing. Fox Footy, a channel that got it’s talent to abseil down a building for reasons, after all host a one hour pre game and then another one hour post show talkathon that pivots deftly from expert opinionating to post game analysis that has no relation to what they talked about pre game without a gap. Fox Footy love pointing out the experience of its panel, as if that’s the be all and end all of football knowledge. Brownlow medalists, Coleman medalists, Premiership players – hell even Jon Ralph gets a graphic, as if he was “part of the team”. They speak loudly, and in a deep manly voice…

Now at this point, it’s important to point out, this is 2017. Speaking loudly and being wrong is not a sin anymore. Credibility is not an issue, getting into the news is important. We mentioned rhetoric theory before – the PR idea that all that matters is winning the argument, that whatever is necessary is what must be done. Hearts and minds are all that matters – it’s why those who proclaim Dustin Martin is a changed man will be all over him if he plays poorly in the Prelim final. It’s entirely because it’s better to be certain on an opinion and be wrong than do your research and come up with a maybe. Only the emphatic survive in the opinion era – Channel 7 have decided it’s better for their commentators to say things like “fast start here boys” or “next goal is important” as the font of wisdom. Those emphatic statements become wisdom over time, insight takes too long, there’s the Telstra Tracker to get to…

At some point in the Demetriou era, it was decided we must talk football all the time, and that what must happen is football becomes a 24/7 soap opera. It’s why Dustin Martin is now a bastion of maturity (c Brian Lake) not a pariah. It’s why the Giants are either “self-confident and born to play finals” or “ego maniacal delusional brats” who need to pull their heads in. It’s why 360 has a Monday hero, because subtly, for every Monday hero there must be a Monday villain. Light and shade, narrative, agenda and story. Everything is in the moment, every game, every kick. Once a narrative dies, a new one must start…and speaking of which….

The game between the Sydney Swans and Geelong had a very clear narrative going in – the cooked, tired Geelong side vs a Sydney Swans side that (I don’t know if this was mentioned) was 0-6 at the start of the year but had flown home into the finals with just two losses subsequently, both to Hawthorn. Eddie McGuire pointed out time again that the Cats were tired, sore, that Joel Selwood had around 16 different injuries. At a key point in the discussion, David King, the king of fuzzy stats, logics and graphs, started a discussion about how Buddy Franklin was potentially the best player since Wayne Carey. The panel mostly agreed. All predictors said Sydney would win. It was widely agreed from all and sundry that one of the keys to the Sydney success story was that everyone knew their role and stuck to a predictable game plan, that everyone knew their role and was fully prepared…

Of course, sport being sport, Geelong won the game, and Sydney were, frankly, awful. Buddy Franklin didn’t kick a goal. The game was largely over early, leaving Channel 7 on commentary to fill the time with pickle juice jokes. Over on Fox, a different narrative was starting. Dermot Brereton, who lest we forget, tipped Sydney, praised their predictability and Buddy pre game, now openly questions whether Buddy was worth the money, based on one bad game in which he may have been injured. No one was making a Wayne Carey comparison. Worse, to absolutely no disagreement, Brereton decided that John Longmire was “too predictable” as a coach, too nice, somehow suggesting he was too moral to be a coach. That pre game strength was now a negative. All based on one game, and with no reference to what was discussed pre game. You could argue the price of Buddys contract is a legitimate football discussion, but pre game it wasn’t even an issue. And of course, Fox Footy then got Ted Richards on to “angrily deny” Buddys contract was an issue. One narrative certainty dies, another begins…

The TV networks are certain this is what you want, particularly in finals – strong men with strong opinions. You want proven finals experts who have played in Grand Finals and abseiled down buildings for no real reason. The problem is – it gives you nothing. It’s hollow analysis, just said decisively. It’s empty words, stats packs recited and guess-work. It’s valueless. Group think permeated the Fox Footy panel – they all agreed Sydney would win, that their predictable game style was the key to success, that John Longmire was a fantastic coach and that Buddy Franklin was the best player ever. There was also emphatic agreement that Sydneys back six was outstanding…there was no discussion of alternatives, these were facts presented by manly men, conviction of opinion on display. Premiership men. Men brave enough to abseil down a building. Men you can trust…

One game later? Geelong win easily, Chris Scott is a genius again when the 2011 Premiership was a fluke 3 hours before. They knew exactly that Geelong would win and how, that Sydney were too predictable, that John Longmire was somehow too moral to be a great coach (maybe he’s not one of footys “good blokes”, sigh), Sydney’s back six got exposed, and that Sydney should have kept Shane Mumford instead. The key to the whole year – in one easy game – one narrative stops, another one starts. What you said before is totally irrelevant…just be certain, emphatic, deliberate, and loud – don’t ask questions, didn’t you see Dermot play in the 1985 Grand Final…he knows what’s going on….boys…back to you…

An Old Man Yells at a Cloud

When THAT Footy show brought back Eddie McGuire mid-season, there was a genuine hope/fear, depending on your side of the fence, that the show would, like the initial revived Hey Hey It’s Saturday, get a dead cat bounce in the ratings. The Herald Sun went out of its way to promote the show in every way possible, showing Eddie McGuire on a horse in a skit as it was the wittiest jape of the season. The show talked a big game – McGuire is to his supporters a “world-class” TV host, capable of working through without an autocue, and he would get the big interviews. Plus, he would reign in another “world class TV talent, we’re lucky to have him” (c James Brayshaw) renegade in Sam Newman, and the world would react like it was 1996 again. If only they could get rid of that uppity woman and that horrible comedian who says everything shits him and go back to that “footy show sense of humour”, everything would be great…

Weeks on from the heady days of the McGuire bounce, and with the “fresh ideas” exposed as Footy Box and sending Shane Crawford on the road, the show is back to where it started. Losing in the Melbourne ratings to the Front Bar. The show hasn’t done anything to engage a new, younger audience. The show feels the same, irrelevant and flat, keeping the same sense of humour. Entire shows come and go with nothing happening or registering. Unlike the glory days, no one needs to tune in for the teams. Even the shows “big interview” with Dustin Martin was scooped by Twitter an hour before hand, with everyone knowing Martin was staying at Richmond long before Eddie elbowed Damien Barrett out of the interview. It’s a lumbering, old style commercial TV show that feels horribly out of time. They promised to “turn the show over to the players” but talk over Alex Rance when he’s trying to at least modernise the shows sense of humour. It’s still the boys club Heritier Lumumba so feared, only less people are watching…

The central problem – the continuing reliance on Sam Newman as a central tenet of the show. Now, we’ve been very careful to avoid the obvious criticism of Newman and his age, but during the week, it was impossible to avoid the comparison of Newman to an old man yelling at a cloud. During an interview with Mark Latham (let that sink in) Newman ranted against gay marriage, political correctness, somehow claimed the Footy Show was the most non discriminatory show on TV because (1970s comedian voice) “we take the piss out of everyone”, and that the AFL shouldn’t infuse themselves with political and social views.

Newman then went on to start a rant on the show about how Australia was “rooted”, like a man who is writing an angry letter in green pen to the 50/50 column of the Herald Sun, on the subject of the Malcolm Turnbull SCG photo (ie – that PR stunt we talked about last time). For a man so keen to promote escapism and claim “people just want to watch the footy without all those agendas”, the Footy Show isn’t that entertainment haven people are allegedly clamouring for. The show has been hijacked by Newmans own agenda, in a particular irony. Clambering against political correctness is of course de rigueur, but for Newman to do it with such hostility was of course not exactly “we’re going to put the fun into footy!” as Eddie McGuire chest thumped in that glorious first week…

The co-host of an allegedly major TV show essentially espoused that a view that the world hadn’t changed since the 90s, that you could make the same jokes you used to, that everything would be fine if it wasn’t for that gosh darned political correctness and those people on Twitter not sycophantically guffawing at his jokes about Asian men looking like monkeys. Do you get it! It’s OK! Because he takes the piss out of himself, it’s OK to say it! Oh lighten up…

For all the espousing, nostalgia, back slapping and talk of a Footy Show rebirth, that somehow if Eddie let Sam “off the leash” everything would be better, the central issue that the show can’t grow and thrive without the toxic comments of Newman, and how uncomfortable they make a more progressive and socially conscious playing group. To suggest that the show best bed itself in a 1990s “we take the piss out of everyone! Equally opportunity sledging” and that Heritier Lumumba (who he called Harry, in a dismissive style) is “speaking for an agenda” is to position your show to utter irrelevance, no matter how many heavily edited comments sneak into the Herald Sun letters page…

 

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