It’s a topic I touched on in ‘The dark truth behind the great spectacle’ but I feel so strongly about it that it deserves a whole blog devoted to it. Honesty – is it really the best policy?
One of the requirements of being a sporting sensation is dealing with a media that is often cruel, self-centred and with a tendency to twist what has really been said in order to make headlines and sell newspapers. As a result our heroes have become less and less inclined to say what they feel – rather than being honest with the fans the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Frank Lampard, people whom the whole country have huge respect for, come out with the same old clichéd rubbish in press conferences and interviews. Wiggins himself admitted in a recent documentary that he hates talking to the press because they harangue him for answers continuously, not thinking about anyone but their bosses and a good story, while he just wants to enjoy some peace and quiet after a long day cycling. People don’t seem to realise that these sportsmen and women are human; they need their personal space, their rest and recovery, just as much as anyone else does.
But going back to the honesty side of things, Wiggins also said he hates talking to the press because he doesn’t want what he says to be twisted in a way that undermines himself, his team-mates or the sport. I think the same can be said with the majority of athletes – they only say things that they know cannot possibly be misconstrued and damaging. I wind through interviews on programmes like ‘Match of the Day’ and often go off to do something else when the drivers are answering questions on the grid before a Formula 1 race because I just find them so boring. All they do is repeat phrases that they have been taught to say, such as ‘For sure it’s going to be hard but I think we’ve got a good chance of winning,’ or ‘the boys played great today and we were unlucky to have lost’ – it’s not honest, it’s not what they really want to say and it’s incredibly tedious. As fans we want to hear what these professionals say what they really feel but we are continuously let down because they fear coming into disrepute if they say the slightest little thing out of place.
It’s an understandable reaction though – every time someone in the public domain says what they really thinks they are often victimised for it. The social networking system has given these role models a platform where they can interact with their fans and be honest with them without having to go through the media first. But this form of interaction is arguably even worse for the players – they can be ‘trolled,’ insulted, even threatened by fans of opposing teams. In trying to be honest with the fans they are being exposing themselves to even more abuse than if journalists misquoted them. Not all of them help themselves though, Ashley Cole being a prime example. He called members of the FA a ‘bunch of t***s’ after being accused of lying in the John Terry racism trial – that wasn’t a good idea and eventually landed him with a £90,000 fine but the bit that irks me more than anything in this case is that the tweet was removed within hours of it being put up. If you’re going to be honest then go the whole way and show you mean what you said, don’t remove it – you’re going to be punished anyways and if it’s what you really mean then don’t hide that fact.
But expressing what you really feel without holding back can also lead to even worse consequences. Racism is a rather nasty storm that has reared its ugly head again in football recently, with players and fans alike being accused of using insulting language towards others because of their skin colour. My last paragraph may then make it seem as though I can excuse this kind of behaviour because these people are being honest and expressing what they really think. That is in no way true, I don’t condone any sort of discrimination in sport or life in general, but it highlights the complexity that being honest can bring about and can make us understand yet another reason why sporting stars don’t always say what they think – they may have views that, if expressed, could be turned into meaning something completely different and much nastier but certain sections of the public domain.
Honesty is a really tricky subject, something I know from personal experience. I have been hated, victimised, rejected and reprimanded for expressing my views, yet I also have been respected for not holding anything back. Although I am still young I can sort of understand the turmoil these role models go through when deciding whether or not they should say something they feel that will let them sleep easy at night or something that may reflect how they really feel but could have huge implications. I can, therefore, conclude that I don’t think it’s being honest that is important – it’s choosing what to be honest about, when to express it and how it’s done.