Sports journalism in the US is a respected and full-time job (though it is a curiously white profession). In the UK, we have hacks, TV journalists and the odd, very few, real sportswriters. Generally it comes across as a job for limited wankers.
Most are hacks, churning out terrace talk or gossip fed to them by agents. Following their stories and cues are the TV journalists who did very little actual research but happily comment on what the papers are saying. The real writers, talented men and women who could possibly work in many fields of writing inhabit the broadsheets and websites, writing the occasional pieces across the broad spectrum of sport often using historical analysis. Think of it as your grandfather telling you a few stories from back in the day while reflecting on present events. They know nothing really changes too much in human psychology.
Last week Mancini, the manager of Manchester City swore at a press conference when asked for the zenith time if his job was under threat. It really might be. But its unlikely right now. Yet his exasperation was fuelled by lazy hack journalism and lit by the final question. Finishing second in the league and ejected from the Champions League is a poor season for Man City. With the players at their disposal, they should be challenging for everything. Yet what they and their manager lack is nouse and experience, something Ferguson across the city passes onto his players every week. But more significantly, Ferguson’s players come to the club to win, knowing anything less will see changes. These players are well-paid but that isn’t what draws them to the club. Its Ferguson and his drive to win.
Mancini has made mistakes this season. This tactics are suspect at times especially his rotating system at the back. Its simply unnecessary. He has also bought some relatively average players for phenomenal amounts of money. Wenger at Arsenal is also under media pressure. The fans, while a little disenchanted, are sticking by him. He is Wenger after all and the issues at the club reflect a different financial reality. His magic does seem to be waning and again his transfers upfront and in defence are often poor or simply not good enough. Earlier last week Wenger snapped at a female journalist who asked if he has anything to say to the fans after their FA Cup exit. His irritable reaction didn’t look good but the question was inane and Wenger took the bait and then provided the story than a simply call the question inane and move onto another question.
Managers give press conferences to attempt to manage the media and get their side across. Yet today with the rolling 24 hour news and the internet rumour mill, very little can be achieved. Ferguson takes note of questions and refuses to speak to certain journalists until their organisations send a replacement journalist. He knows how to use his influence and understands these journalists are looking for an easy story rather than a dedicated piece. They have half a page to fill too. Wenger and Mancini let their irritation out in public and feed the machine who then sell the story onto the fans.
The media would argue when the managers win they take the plaudits and must take the blame when they lose. Managers like Wenger and Mancini need to take a page from a different book and let the machine do the work. Initially sensationalist and made-up stories would fill the gaps but the public won’t stomach that for long. Ultimately it might lead journalists remembering their roots or pack it in all together and leave it to the on-line and dedicated fans to provide the depth.