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Clickbait alert! Sport is so much more than just games

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Editor
4th May, 2019
41
1606 Reads

So, how bout that Israel Folau? Yeah, that’ll get people clicking in anger.

It makes sense to have a yarn about Izzy, given his on-going issues with Rugby Australia are coming to a head this weekend.

But during the last month or so, I’ve seen on this site (again) how furious and, frankly, illogical this issue makes people.

I know, I know – people posting on an internet chat forum under pseudonyms being furious and illogical. Who’da thunk it?

Here’s the thing, though: Folau’s infamous social media postings lead to bananas numbers.

A syndicated piece from AAP about Taniela Tupou we put up this week has – as I write – more than 11,000 reads and over 860 comments.

The boss man gave his two cents when things first broke, which got 740-odd comments and over 9000 reads.

Me? I weighed in on the issue a couple of weeks ago and got 220 comments and 3600 reads.

Embarrassing stuff by comparison, but it wasn’t a bad response on Easter Sunday.

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Israel Folau

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

And, reading some of the comments, I was serenaded with a few classic hits the more vicious types warble when confronted with a point of view they don’t like.

Accusations of hypocrisy? Tick.

Cowardice (and gutlessness and variations thereof)? Tick.

Leave Christians alone! Big tick.

Hate speech? Ummm, honestly, that’s a new one for me, but it certainly pops up elsewhere, so sure, tick.

I brushed all those comments off, because people who make such accusations are doing the keyboard equivalent of yelling at pigeons (and yes, a number of you are likely reading this right now – hi!).

But one of the refrains that popped up a number of times really, really pissed me off.

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“This isn’t about sport!”

Now, I won’t give a blow-by-blow of my piece – there’s a link above if you care to read (or re-read) it – but it was about the response to and reporting of Folau’s Christianity-fuelled comments in a Christian society.

Sure, it went beyond talking about both a player and a sporting organisation, but that’s the power of sport.

It creates conversations that can inform broader opinions, influence politics and, ultimately, change the world.

I’m not going to pretend I’m writing prose of such profound insight that it’s spilling brandy in halls of power, but the accusation that a discussion of an athlete in the broader context of society has no place in the proverbial back pages is to completely underestimate sport’s power.

The AFL and NRL’s most recent TV rights packages combined were worth around $4.3 billion. To put that number in perspective, the Nine-Fairfax merger was reported as being a $4 billion deal.

Granted, the broadcast deals are multi-year contracts, but still, our two biggest football codes carry a televisual price tag to rival entire media empires, to say nothing of Todd Greenberg and Gillon McLachlan’s various other wheelings and dealings to attract further sponsorship cash.

And that’s just the two top winter sports. Add in the money made by and from cricket, tennis, football, rugby union, cycling, the Olympics, basketball, motorsport – look, I could go on and on here – and the total amount is eleven figures.

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Specifically – and these are older numbers – Clearinghouse for Sport says “the combined value of the sport sector in 2011-12 was $12.8 billion”, which equates to two per cent of GDP.

Two per cent of the entire nation’s output is based on sport, and you want to tell me that a discussion of sport – or a specific athlete – in the broader context of society has no place on a website about sport?

Please.

Sport is a huge, sprawling, multi-billion dollar entity – and that’s just in Australia. Globally, we’d be talking hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars.

And it goes way beyond finances. It both reflects and shapes society.

Apartheid in South Africa was brought to an end by a variety of forces, but a global sporting embargo on the nation played a significant role.

The decades-long tension between North and South Korea eased considerably as a result of their marching together in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

And on the negative side of things, why do you think the Munich and Atlanta Games were chosen as the targets for terrorist attacks?

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Individual athletes have certainly played their parts too.

Lance Armstrong created a foundation that raised half a billion dollars for cancer sufferers (sure, it was built on lies, but that doesn’t make the money worth any less).

Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem is still causing ripples in the States.

Colin Kaepernick kneels

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Here at home, Cathy Freeman did even more for reconciliation with that unforgettable win in 2000 than Kevin Rudd’s apology.

And the Wallabies’ highest-profile player said that people who are born a certain way are destined to go to Hell.

Should we ignore all these world-shifting events – and stories like them – simply because they aren’t about the game that was played on Friday night?

Again, please.

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The kicker? As the reader and comment numbers cited above attest, you guys freakin’ love this stuff!

If I don’t like something in the first four paragraphs, I hit ‘back’ and move on with my life. I certainly don’t read it to the bottom only to comment: “I don’t like this – and the author should be nicer to white people!”

If you’ll indulge me a little further (g’warn, you’ve come this far), despite constant accusations of being a clickbait artist, my intentions when contributing to The Roar are, sadly, far more mundane.

Rather than penning the most inflammatory and anger-inducing article I can, as part of a grand, site-wide conspiracy – of which the ‘Editor’ badge under my name apparently makes me one of the instigators – I generally write about whatever I found interesting in a given week.

Because whether the story gets thousands of reads and hundreds of comments, or it’s just my Mum who skims my efforts over Sunday breakfast, I’m paid the same.

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As a result, I’ll continue to write about sport in its broader context when I deem so fit. I encourage you to as well.

You want to stick to the on-field action and talk about a team’s win or loss, or how well or poorly an athlete played? Write your own article and start a conversation.

That’s the beauty – and, indeed, whole point – of this wonderful website.

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