News just in

30 05 2010

We love the news around World Cup time. They seem to use a check list for certain reports;

World Cup connection –  √
Covers England’s Opponents – √
Funny Angle – √

We all saw the piece  on BBC Breakfast News this morning, didn’t we? In case you didn’t, the piece was about an American university course on football. It was the epitome of  journalistic laziness, introduced in that the annoying “lets’ poke fun at the Americans, they call football “Saw-cah!!!!” way. Why do people think that different words are funny? It’s surely just a logical consequence of Britain and America being thousands of miles apart.

The piece contained two incorrect assumptions; Firstly the assumption that Soccer is an American word. Oxford University students came up with the word in the mid 19th century. Soccer is derived from the word association in front of football. Oxford’s students at the time had a fashion for shortening a word and ending “-er” to it, “the famous Oxford “-er” “; Association football became “Soccer”, breakfast became “Brekker”, rugby became “Rugger”, etc.  The habit was started by the ex-pupils of Rugby School studying at Oxford.

Then, the assumption that sport is a field unworthy of academic study. (To a sociologist football would be a valid area to study, to a journalist it’s a mickey mouse subject.). There was genuine amazement at the connection between  Saw-cah and American Universities.This was tied in with the  usual idea that Americans don’t know anything about football (despite football’s rich American history) so they have to attend courses on how to be a football fan.

The whole tone, and indeed content, was wrong. If you listened to what the academic was actually saying he wasn’t talking about how to be a fan, he was teaching the students about the cultural significance of football around the world.  The students told us as much when they were interviewed. They certainly didn’t learn the offside rule as the journalist told us at the beginning of the piece.

The connection between American sport and the universities is almost umbilical.  Professional sports performers are recruited through university system, not an academy system as in many other places. This happens in nearly all major sports in America; Michael Jordan, Brad Friedel and Tommy Smith all came through the university system for example.

You could argue  that broadcast journalists should be fully aware of what they are talking over, the film will have been edited for example, but that’s another thing. It’s no wonder some people think about sport in clichéd ways, the information the media presents information in a stereotypical and clichéd way. A lot of British people could do with studying the university course on the piece, lazy journalists for example.

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