Is Too Much Media Coverage Killing the AFL?

I will raise my hand and identify myself, up front, as a passionate, life-long AFL supporter and fan. I struggle to get, even vaguely, excited about NRL’s State of Origin. Trying to understand the decisions of the referees in Rugby Union has me scratching more than my head. Soccer, in my opinion, lacks scoring and body contact. Basketball is one of those overhyped American sports, which is more mouth than action. AFL has it all: full body contact, speed, sublime skills, thrills and spills. It is the game for me, but, is too much media coverage killing the AFL?

Wall to Wall Opinion & Analysis

It seems like only yesterday, but was probably twenty plus years ago, when the footy was rarely on the TV, apart from the matches themselves. A Sunday morning review show on Channel 7 and 9, and that was about it. Now, AFL has its own dedicated channel on Fox, with wall to wall opinion and analysis. On the Couch, AFL 360, On the Mark, Bounce, Open Mike, The Beep Test, The Weekly Lowdown, Saturday Stretch, and Bob are all on Fox Footy. The Footy Show on 9 has been around forever. 7 has Talking Footy, The Front Bar and Gameday. I am sure that I have missed a number of shows on community stations and state-based programs as well.

If Something is Worth Saying, Say it Loudly

All of these programs are populated, in the main, by ex-AFL players as their talking heads, with a few savvy TV hosts thrown in for good measure. The gameday coverage itself on Channel 7 and on Fox contains around six or seven commentators and specialist boundary riders for each match. To say that the coverage is brimming with ‘so-called’ expert opinion is to do a disservice to the concepts of overflowing and capacity. Ex-Players like Dermott Brereton, Dwayne Russell and Brian Taylor believe in the principle that if something is worth saying it is worth saying loudly. Sports commentators of all persuasions, AFL, NRL, rugby and soccer, back the booming voice to silence any doubters. The question must be asked, however, do all these shouting sages contribute to make watching the game a better experience?

The Game is Lost in a Sea of Overhyped Opinions

In my view, the game is lost in a sea of overhyped opinions and platitudes. These blokes, and they are blokes in the main, are paid well to proffer their opinions. On this basis alone, I surmise that they feel the need to emphasise what they are saying on air. Pronouncing each syllable of every word with gusto, and in BT’s case stretching vowels and syllables like OR-AZ-IO FAN-TA-SIA for his own amusement. I must admit that I enjoy BT’s vocal histrionics, simply because they are so silly. The amount of hot air being generated by these sports commentators should be enough to power one of those failing coal powered stations around the nation.

The Coverage is Sucking the Oxygen Out of the Sherrin

There are concerns being raised about falling attendances for the AFL in Melbourne, its heartland. Plus, lower TV ratings for matches, when compared to the same time last year, have been recorded in 2018. Industry pundits and ‘so-called’ experts are confidently predicting major rule overhauls to combat congestion and lack of end to end scoring. These ex-players are singing from ‘the golden years’ song sheet, when high marking and free-flowing footy, apparently, graced our ovals. I, personally, reckon that memories like these are always washed in a rose-coloured glow and things were never quite as rosy as believed. I don’t think there is much wrong with the game itself, but the coverage is sucking the oxygen out of the Sherrin, right before our eyes.

Let the Game’s Natural Poetry Speak for Itself

Let the game’s natural poetry speak for itself and let’s put a sock in the mouth of overblown commentators like Anthony Hudson and Dwayne Russell. It was always a point of difference for me that AFL did not need the lungs and larynx of a Darrell Eastlake or Ray Warren to make our game infinitely watchable. I miss the measured punning of Dennis Cometti terribly. There are too many talking heads on the footy shows, with too few worthwhile things to say. There is a surfeit of faux analysis concerning gameday strategies, which must have the coaches rolling their eyebrows back, if not an extra man in defence. There are some good operators on TV, I like Matthew Richardson and Tim Watson, these are two examples of keen intelligences who don’t need to shout out their stuff to get their message across. Footy coverage, just needs some pruning to make it less of a talkfest and more of a spectacle once more.

Let’s not let Rupert Murdoch turn coverage of the AFL into a copy of the “American-style’ overblown NFL, where the media runs rampant like a gunman in a US school. Restraint is called for, now and into the future, in regard to the media. Too much media coverage is killing the AFL.