The footy media need to wake up to themselves

Finn Devlin Roar Pro

By Finn Devlin, Finn Devlin is a Roar Pro

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    James Hird during his days as Essendon coach. (Photo: Craig Golding)

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    The first thing one needs to remember about James Hird is simple: he is human.

    He feels things, like the rest of us. He has instincts, and these instincts become thoughts, and these thoughts become feelings and these feelings become states of existence. The process in between is long, complicated, and unique to all of us.

    The second thing one needs to remember about James Hird is that he is a legend of the great game of Australian rules football.

    This second one is a where the problems start. Hird’s 253 games, 343 goals, one Brownlow, one Norm Smith and two Premiership flags (one as captain) afford him some grace as a legend of our game.

    No one can (although many will) doubt his contribution to football is overall a positive one. Despite the 2012 supplements saga, the man’s contribution to bringing thousands of then-young Essendon fans into the game, his ability to showcase his talents on the grandest of stages, in the most adverse of times, means his status as a playing legend of the game should not be diminished.

    Even for non-Essendon supporter, Hird has produced memories and a contribution by simply picking up the oval ball that few can forget.

    Yet, it is his status as a footballing legend that has left Hird vulnerable to such treatment he has received from the football public and, in particular, the media, in the wake of the ‘Essendon 34’ supplements scandal that has rocked the AFL for the past four years.

    Essendon Bombers coach James Hird celebrates with Jobe Watson. Photo: Will Russell

    Treatment that only came to a head when Hird was admitted to hospital in a suspected deliberate overdose attempt last week.

    The treatment in question, first and foremost, is not acceptable. The personal attacks on radio stations and TV networks, the loaded ‘attack-dog’ interviews, and, most damagingly, the media campouts in front of his family home.

    At the very least, the Hird’s shocking health scare has ignited a slow-burning debate about the privacy of the celebrity individual the effect media treatment has on their lives. Andrew Maher, the prominent football journalist, recently tweeted “Ok. Media’s copping a hiding. Lot of media folk follow here. Not all support home camp-outs. RT if you want this invasive tactic to stop.”

    Although the tweet itself was another example of laziness society is experiencing in the age of social media – Maher would’ve done well to call and influence those in the industry who authorise or participate in such abhorrent practice – camp-outs and other such invasions into the affairs of the private citizen are a topic many people in the media debate upon.

    The idea of newsworthiness versus privacy infringements is simply a case-by-case issue. Yet most media organisations showed an appalling lack of judgement with Hird.

    Not once did anyone consider the mental health of the individual who has been rightly or wrongly chastised for overseeing a program which, at the very base of it, cheated in a sports competition (with respect to the players, who’s health appears fine now, but this may change).

    The outcome of such a competition, and by extension the integrity of it, is not likely to significantly alter the lives of anyone other than those involved in it. This means that it’s not worth a human life, or the nature of its existence.

    Hird has a right to privacy, and his family certainly have a right not to wake up and see pictures of their own home and words which have often borderlined on straight-up abuse, about their husband, their father, their son or their friend.

    The players at Essendon have a right to have a grievance with Hird himself. They have chosen not to play this out in public, if at all. This does not give the media the right to pick up the slack.

    Of course, this is not to suggest Hird should be cleared of wrongdoing. He endangered the health of 34 young and vulnerable high-performance and pressurised professionals, who entrusted their safety to a club he (publicly, at least) led.

    James Hird. Photo: Craig Golding

    Surely, however, the issue is beyond that now. Surely it was beyond that when Hird fell on his sword over a year ago, and disappeared from the public light. Surely the issue at play was between Essendon, Hird and the AFL – which has been sickeningly weak and slow to support Hird in his hour of need – and still is between those three. Just because it’s the AFL does not mean its anyone else’s business.

    What is newsworthy or not, what the public wants to know, and, most sickeningly but unfortunately seemingly most prevalently, what sells adspace and newspapers, should not become a burden on a citizen.

    Just because the public wants to know doesn’t mean they have to know. Hopefully people, and most importantly the media, will finally wake up to this. It’ll cost society dearly if they don’t.

    After all, people like Hird are human. They feel things.

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    The Crowd Says (104)

    • January 9th 2017 @ 5:54am
      New guy said | January 9th 2017 @ 5:54am | ! Report

      He should never have been allowed to coach again after the saga

      • January 9th 2017 @ 9:19am
        Kev said | January 9th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        He should never have been appointed senior coach to start with. At least not without some sort of apprenticeship. Former player to senior coach in one step? Give me a break.

        • January 9th 2017 @ 2:00pm
          Brad said | January 9th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

          I think between hird, vos and buckley we wont be seeing a club legend straight to senior coach for a long time

          • January 9th 2017 @ 4:49pm
            Penster said | January 9th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

            Beware favourite son syndrome.

            • Roar Guru

              January 9th 2017 @ 9:49pm
              BigJ said | January 9th 2017 @ 9:49pm | ! Report

              If hird has done this for media attention (which i highly doubt) Then he is patheic, if the media are just making a story out of this for sales then they are pathetic (which is the more likely). I have to question why this is even a subject of debate??? the man clearly has problems and he should be left alone to deal with them. next topic please!!!

    • Roar Pro

      January 9th 2017 @ 6:51am
      anon said | January 9th 2017 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      Hird had been out of the news and out of the public consciousness until he chose to overdose, which created yet another headline grabbing story about James Hird.

      No-one had been hounding him in recent times. He had been largely forgotten about.

      I doubt it’s the media that has made him unhappy about his life.

      I think it’s more to do with the fact he’s been ostracised. This is probably the first time in his life he’s ever encountered any level of rejection and it doesn’t feel very good.

      Eventually he’ll be given his second chances, but ostracism is a reasonable response to someone who has caused so much carnage, adversely affected so many careers, cost a club so many millions, and is largely unrepentant to this day.

      • Roar Guru

        January 9th 2017 @ 10:30am
        Paul D said | January 9th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        Bang on with the self-serving comments and being largely left alone – no-one was camping out Hird’s home in recent months.

        The man is just a straight up narcissist. An attention seeking me-me-me type that clearly has spent too much time thinking “what if” rather than “what is” in recent months.

        And as you say, he will never find happiness or forgiveness until he admits and accepts his role in why his life is what it is. Blaming everyone else might feel good at the time but it doesn’t help in the long run.

      • Roar Guru

        January 9th 2017 @ 9:39pm
        BigJ said | January 9th 2017 @ 9:39pm | ! Report

        Hey Anon mate, did your article get published ????????

    • Roar Guru

      January 9th 2017 @ 7:34am
      Penster said | January 9th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      You’re assuming his health problems are football related. The black dog can bite anyone.

    • January 9th 2017 @ 8:23am
      Onside said | January 9th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      At home and growing up he was Jimmy.

    • January 9th 2017 @ 9:13am
      Peter Russell said | January 9th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      Well written, Mr Devlin.

    • Roar Guru

      January 9th 2017 @ 9:30am
      TomC said | January 9th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      I’d heard about media campouts at his home, but I haven’t heard any personal attacks on radio stations or loaded ‘attack-dog’ interviews. Is this referring to something that happened a while ago?

      • January 9th 2017 @ 9:56am
        Bob said | January 9th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Could the author be referring to the exclusive interview Hird granted to Tracey Holmes on the ABC?

        • Roar Guru

          January 9th 2017 @ 10:05am
          TomC said | January 9th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

          That’s the only interview with Hird I can recall, but it doesn’t exactly fit the description.

      • January 9th 2017 @ 5:52pm
        Tony said | January 9th 2017 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

        Throughout the entire 4 years he was hounded, by the public and the media. Whether justly or not, he was. The campouts have happened for 4 years as well. And then we’ve all heard about what happened the week, or weeks before with the wife of the judge who ripped into him for no apparent reason. The hounding shouldn’t have happened and I hope finally people will be smart to see that doing this is uncalled for.

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