One of the most remarkable phenomena in sports journalism is that not only sports performances, but also media performances are extensively commented on. The afterthought of the afterthought, you know it. You see it, for example, at the Olympic Games, where not only is it also discussed in the studio after interviews. “Did Ireen look focused enough?”, for example. Or, after disappointment: „did he sound critical enough? Was he not too resigned?” Just as someone with only a hammer in hand sees nothing but nails everywhere, sports journalists, especially on TV, seem to see a competition in everything. This is often quite entertaining right after a match.
But this was also the case after the revelations about cross-border app traffic at Ajax. In a podcast Of Voetbal International, Freek Jansen, a member of the editorial board and regular Ajax follower at the magazine, for example, spent minutes analyzing how Ajax had come out. He was clear about the press release announcing the resignation of Overmars: “a textbook example of what not to do.” Too long, too apologetic, too complimentary. Jansen praised the interview of Ajax coach Erik ten Hag before the match against Vitesse. He sounded sincere, according to the journalist, and with the right emotion. “He said just the right things.”
Now this phenomenon in itself is easy to explain. Athletes, trainers, educators and journalists are constantly in a bubble with each other and then it is logical that you sometimes talk about the mutual dynamics. But for viewers, readers and listeners it is occasionally a strange experience. Am I now looking at a communications consultant or a journalist?
The phenomenon is all the more remarkable if you look at what many sports journalists do not consider to be their task. When the NOS last fall in the podcast fixed revealed that a Dutch professional footballer allegedly involved in match fixing was in the football podcast to hear a sigh from the same broadcaster. “I just want to keep watching sports for fun,” commentator Jeroen Grueter said of his colleagues’ work there. That sentiment also seemed to play out in the past week. All these peripheral matters should not be at the expense of the noble ball sport.
Disclosures about sexually transgressive behavior at a club? That is more something for the domestic pages of the newspapers, Jansen said in the aforementioned podcast. “We write purely about football.”
Now is in its own Football International regularly read excellent investigative journalism about money flows in football. So you first think: why is money a subject? But you sometimes also think: what would the sports world be like if sports journalism looked just as critically at the boardroom as it does at the dressing room. You can see from the work of the sports editors of this newspaper how much it can pay off. Because sports don’t take place in a vacuum, but in the real world. With interests, reputations and cultures.
Anyway, so much for this afterthought of the afterthought of the afterthought. Back to the match.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of February 14, 2022