In journalism schools, if you pick up sports reporting, they are many interesting things that you are taught.
That sports has become a billion dollar industry immensely contributing to local, regional and international economies.
That there is a symbiotic relationship between the sports industry and the media.
That the media is a big advertising agency of sports, mainly concentrating on the big matches, the big stars and the big events to the benefit of the organisers while failing to look at the critical aspects such as corruption, cheating, discrimination and sexual exploitation, for example. That once the TV lights are switched off, the pen is put away.
That sports is the “toy department of the news media”, an unfair jibe that paints sports reporting as not serious vis-a-vis say news reporting, crime reporting, court reporting etc.
I could go on, and on like an Energizer battery. But I will finish with one other example. That, unlike news reporting, generally, sports reporting is very predictable.
Let me explain. Calendar of events of the different sports disciplines, internationally, continentally and nationally are all released in advance. Most are annual calendars but some can cover up to four years like the Fifa calendar with its elaborate international matches calendar and their quadrennial, much loved, much followed World Cup. Any person across the street with a modicum of sporting knowledge, will know that the world’s biggest multi-sport event is the Olympic Games and they are held every four years.
With the benefit of sports calendars, media organisations have all the time to plan their scope and depth of coverage. Concomitantly, sports lovers can also plan how they are going to follow the action, be it watching on television, going to the stadium live or following online and in newspapers.
The coronavirus pandemic has just shattered this cosy, stable environment.
To help in fighting the spread of this novel respiratory disease, and also to comply with government directives, virtually all sports organisations in the world have suspended or cancelled their calendars this season.
Nation Media Group was all set to do a comprehensive coverage of the Magical Kenya Open golf tournament that was scheduled for March 12 to 15 at Karen Golf and County Golf Club in Nairobi. All the Olympic qualifiers were included as priority coverage items in the Nation Sport docket up to and including the naming of Team Kenya for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Content of the English Premier League, considered the most popular football league in the world, has all but disappeared after the competition was suspended. Other major popular sporting events have also been postponed or cancelled — German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, Uefa Champions League, 2021 Afcon qualifiers, NBA, Super Rugby, French Open tennis, Masters golf tournament, London Marathon, multiple Formula One races …
We have been left to now cover stories of men biting dogs — the chaos coronavirus is visiting on sports.
But even as we in the media grapple with the challenge of covering a severely disrupted sporting world, you have to give a thought to the typical sport fan whose routine has been cruelly interrupted by this pesky virus.
I am thinking of that man or woman whose weekend activity was populated with visits to the stadium to watch their favourite team or dashes to the local pub to view a live game on television with their mates, as they — as former Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye once famously said — “sip beer and gossip”.
I am thinking of that elite sport person used to competition and the amateur player used to a leisurely kick about in the poorly kept estate fields. Their routines have been abruptly uprooted. Sports adherents are clutching air.
Oh, there is also the potato couch at home, who dominated the TV remote during live sports broadcast. On the bright side for the soap opera/reality TV/movie watching ladies, “this is a big match I can’t afford to miss watching,” argument from your partner will not hold, for now.
The TV remote is yours to hoard.
Nyende is a Sports Sub Editor at the Nation Media Group. [email protected]