Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is MasterChef to blame for the deluge of wannabe sports writers with a `passion'?

Dear Doctor Smith,

I have visited doctors for many years, ever since my first day on this planet in fact. I have a passion for health, or not getting sick at least, and I think that passion stands me in good stead for a career in medicine. Can you tell me if there is any particular type of surgery you might be interested in me doing? I am a big fan of breasts, so perhaps you might want me to handle some enlargements?


I sent this off to a local quack today. I got the idea from a dozen or so people who have contacted me in the past week. I figure being a cosmetic surgeon pays better than being a sports editor. And it's a more intellectual pursuit than reflecting on the musings of H Kewell and R Slater.

Everyone it seems, loves their sport. And everyone who loves their sport, it seems, feels they have to write about it. For me. Now some from the "outside world" actually do. I know a dentist who is on the way to getting something published in Inside Cricket, and a successful engineer who managed to sneak into the pages of Football+. But the supply of sports fans who believe they can write because they have a 'passion'  is far outstripping the demand.

It's been a couple of years since I last edited sports mags and now I have two on the go. From memory there has been a surge in the number of the FWLs (Fans With Laptops) looking for a chance to follow this "passion", in quotes for that is the constant word.

I don't know what the reason is for this increase, but a lack of knowledge has never stopped me charging in with uniformed opinion before, so I have narrowed it down to one of two things: Masterchef; or the rise of sports opinion websites.

First things first. Because of MasterChef hundreds of corporate lawyers and start up accountants have been encouraged to throw down their pens and pick up their pans. Often it's a disaster. The passion might be there but if you are going to succeed you better bring game. It's the same in my business and for every Adam turning out exquisite treats, there are 100 Jimmys and their plates full of dull fried rice.

While not word for word, here's the gist.

Dear Mr Harper,
I have played cricket all my life. I would like to interview Steve Waugh for Inside Cricket because I think he'd have some interesting things to say. If you are interested please send me Steve's number and let me know how many words you want. I don't require payment for this.

There are many staggering parts to this type of approach, the main one being how ubiquitous it is. And next staggering? The last line.

Before the World Cup I happened across a news story or two which didn't have a place in Football+. I am a freelancer myself (please, no questions about my passion ... Dear Arsene, I think I could do a better job in goal than that...) and within rights to sell this elsewhere. I approached a major football website. (No, not them, them). I was told I could write it but couldn't get paid - plenty of people would be happy to submit stories for a byline. Last time I checked, you couldn't eat, drink or pay for games of pinball with the words "By Tony Harper" . . .

Now there are plenty of sports opinion sites and plenty of bylines and not much money being handed out. It seems there are plenty of lawyers and accountants and chefs looking to get their names in print for passion.

Don't get me wrong. We publish freelancers. If you have a great cricket or football story I want it. But you need the right ingredients. You need to write like a writer and pitch like a journalist and you need to convince me I want to read it. And if you can do all that, we'll even pay you. But no, we won't give you Steve Waugh's phone number.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Australia's new coach unveiled

 The Socceroos have a new coach. German Holger Osieck is eight years older than Pim Verbeek and as little known here as the Dutchman was before he was given the task of following Guus Hiddink after 2006. Osieck was Franz Beckenbauer's assistant for Germany in 1990 and has an unspectacular career , including four years at Canada. Frank Lowy said he spoke to Beckenbauer about Osieck's character.
Already, questions are being asked if the appointment, underwhelming for those hungering for a higher profile man, is a political masterstroke or part of a continual decline. Lowy, say some, has moved to appoint the German as part of machinations to secure Beckenbauer's vote on the 2022 World Cup.
Osieck said he was first approached at the World Cup, where he was representing FIFA,  and is being charged with invigorating the youth development of the country. There are obvious  toes being stood on, not least those of the people already charged with that mission.
The decision brings a German in alongside Han Berger, a Dutchman, a potentially interesting meeting of minds.
A notable part of the announcement was the inability of media to nail down the name. Lowy said eight candidates had been interviewed, including some big names, but it was Osieck's personal quality rather than star factor that secured him the job.
Osieck was with FFA types in Slovenia ahead of tonight's game. That they could walk around with the Socceroos' new boss comfortable in the knowledge no one capable of leaking the news would recognise him is the clearest indicator of how anonymous this man was, before today.
That's all changed. He is already being hammered on his style and his answers are already Verbeekian: "You can not put the game into attacking or defending. Your game must be based on a structure where everyone has to follow. I won't say I have the ultimate sytem. It's always a flexible one."
Guus Hiddink was a No.1 coach. Verbeek was a number two and hated the pressure of the Australian spotlight so much he took up a youth job before he even got to South Africa.
Who knows how this will pan out? Osieck will be closing in on 66 at the next World Cup, if he stays that long. Let's hope he can get back there 20 years after the current top point on his coaching CV.