Examiner Sports column, 28 Feb 2008

March 21, 2008

When the whole
picture isn’t
essential

N O SURPRISES when it comes to
the issue which dominated
water-cooler talk for the last few days. Anyone who saw Eduardo’s horrific leg-break in the Arsenal-Birmingham City game last week in the Premier League last week isn’t likely to forget it in a hurry.

That is, if you actually saw it. The decision by the Sky Sports match director not to replay the incident from an angle which showed the exact angle of the break and the resultant flapping of the Arsenal player’s dislocated ankle has provoked quite a bit of comment.

On the one hand you have those who supported the decision as sparing those at home an unnecessarily graphic image that wasn’t likely to add to the viewing experience. You’re watching a sports event, not ER.

The faces of some of the players who saw the aftermath up close and personal was eloquent testimony to the seriousness of the injury, though none vomited, which is what happened to one player when he saw David Busst’s equally horrific leg injury in a Coventry City clash with Manchester United some years ago.

On the other hand you have people who objected to the decision not to replay the incident from various angles and at slow speeds. Their arguments range from the fact that they pay their money and they’re entitled to the full coverage they’ve forked out for, to those who object to what amounts to censorship of a key incident in a game without being consulted as to whether they think such censorship is appropriate.

Leaving aside the I-ponied-up-so-I-want
-to-see-it-all brigade (if, God forbid, a crowd surge left someone suffocated, would they insist on a close-up of the victim’s face?), there may be something worth considering in the other argument.

There might be merit in the suggestion that a nameless, faceless technician shouldn’t be allowed to deprive people of being aware of the totality of incidents which influenced a key game in the Premiership. That they’re presenting a skewed version of events.

In any event, the ‘censorship’, such as it was, lasted only until someone uploaded the incident onto the internet, no doubt within minutes of occurring.

It’s only fair to point out that it subsequently emerged that ‘watershed’ considerations — as in, what’s appropriate to show on television before 9pm — coloured the decision to pull replays of the incident, with BBC’s Match of the Day warning viewers they were about to see some disturbing footage, but anyone with access to the internet and a mind to see broken bone pushing out against the unfortunate Eduardo’s stocking had a range of viewing option thanks to Youtube.

You could argue, then, that the Sky censorship was even more meaningless, because in real terms the incident was visible to anyone who wanted to see it, and that the attack of conscience was a disingenuous one. And so on and so forth.

Here in Talking Sport Towers we give Sky the benefit of the doubt, which probably isn’t a phrase that gets a lot of airplay. We’d think the match director was motivated more by human decency rather than anything else. It was instantly obvious that Eduardo’s injury was career-threatening in the way that Busst’s was, or other dreadful incidents such as the broken legs suffered by Joe Theismann or Beano McDonald in American football and Gaelic football.

Those injuries, in vastly different sports and years apart, stick in the mind because the seriousness was immediately apparent. David Busst’s career never recovered; not surprising when he had an incredible 26 operations to try to repair the damage.

Joe Theismann’s leg was snapped above the ankle by Lawrence Taylor in a Redskins-Giants game in 1984 — incidentally, repeated replays of the incident caused huge controversy in the States at the time — and he never made it back either.

Beano McDonald has come back. Eduardo’s injury looks more severe, though that was little consolation to McDonald when he broke his leg in Croker a few years ago.

I suppose where we’re getting to with all of this is that an injury as bad as Eduardo’s, or those mentioned above, resonates immediately. It’s clear how badly hurt the player is and that colours all considerations. It could be argued that the Sky decision last weekend was just delaying the inevitable, a hypocritical sop.

We don’t think so. Sometimes it’s right not to show the whole picture, and this was one of them.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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