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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Partisan Sports Coverage

Lopsided sports coverage in India has always been a controversial issue. At one time it was cricket Vs the rest of the sports. As more people started making a mark in other sports this disparity slowly started to subside. It was a well-known fact that games like Chess never got the attention they deserved till people like Vishwanathan Anand started making a mark in the international arena.

The meteoric rise of Sania has given a new lease of life to this partisan sports coverage. Sania is the newfound darling of the Indian media. The term “Sania Mania” would probably go down as the most often used term (in the media) in recent times. Although she might be entitled to every bit of the coverage, the proportion of such coverage needs to be reviewed. Mahesh Bhupathi’s mixed doubles victory in the US Open and Anju Bobby George’s victory in the Incheon games never received the kind of attention that they ought to have received. 'Sania sacrifices Biriyani’s and Baristas' might make good headlines but the media needs to decide how much of this attention is justifiable.

Sevanti Ninan, author of the weekly media column in The Hindu sums up the sorry state of affairs :

The day Sania lost at New York, Anju Bobby George won a gold at Incheon. But no forest of mikes was ranged outside her mother's door even at 7 p.m., let alone at 2 a.m. Long jump is not as sexy as tennis, and George is not given to sporting tee shirts which say "I'm Cute, No S***". She can manage responses to questions from studios, not comebacks at press conferences. P.T. Usha and Shiny Abraham, before her, were similar, and consequently did not spur news channels to make perfect asses of themselves in anticipation of their performance.

In addition to all this, the AP Chief Minister has announced a prize money of Rs. 20 lakhs to Sania. As Vikram rightly put it, this money would have been much more useful had it been given to somebody like Koneru Humpy. Chess is a game, which is shunned by advertisers / sponsors and these players do need money to travel overseas to attend all the tournaments.

I reiterate that my intention is not to do Sania bashing. The younger generation does need high achievers like Sania so that people can use her as an idol worthy of emulation. But the Sania craze has resulted in a blackout of news about other equally deserving sportspersons. Hope some balance is restored.

Update: Gayathri points us to this ToI slide show, which compares Sania Mirza with Koneru Humpy


  • I love sania but I do agree with you as well

    By Blogger vasanthi emmanuel, at 3:10 PM  

  • tony speaks

    I also love Sania, and i also agree with you, some what. Coming from a state, manipur, which produce great footballers year after year, and The popularity of cricket eclipsing all of it..like u said cricket Vs the rest.. I hate Cricket, though Iqbal seem to have stirred a little interest in me for cricket. Yes Sania has been getting a lot of attention, but I say she does deserve them. the others too deserve them though. But again, will the readers show the same interest on Humpy or Anju, had times written about them. We don't have a not for profit Paper yet.. :-)

    By Blogger anthony, at 3:28 PM  

  • Well said, Kaps

    By Blogger WA, at 4:19 PM  

  • Our Sports ministry is in a pathetic state, Kaps. All this stuff, has to be monitored by the adminstration carefully and equal importance to be given to each and every deserving sport.

    Just because the media is giving attention to some colorful figures, the CMs / ministers as well go behind those celebrities with more incentives. Just to get media attention for them as well.

    This can be changed only thru Adminstrators approach. Plus Media, as you had rightly put it.

    By Blogger Ram.C, at 4:22 PM  

  • Kaps,
    You are expecting balance from media and sports authorities in India?

    A country which idolizes its cricketers, raising them to a demi-god status ignoring achievers like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupati, P.T. Usha, Dhanraj Pillay, Vishwanathan anad,Raghuvendra Rathore, Narian Karthikeyan. They all have had to struggle to get noticed.

    We should be thankful Sania is getting some attention!!! I presume this is also got to do with our team performing below par against not so exciting teams. If we were contesting Aus at this moment we need not be omniscient to know who would be grabbing headlines!

    Expecting sanity from sports authorities/administration or media in India is just about expecting the impossible.

    I think we bloggers can do our bit:-) (I've been a culprit though blogging on cricket mostly:-)I'll improve)

    P.s: This is not cricket bashing, I'm a cricket lover myself. But it really hurts to see the step-motherly treatment to other sports in the country. That's why I completely agree with your post:-)

    By Blogger Minal, at 4:57 PM  

  • Hi
    nicely said....yes i do agree with ...For Indian Media it is a norm....

    By Blogger dfg, at 5:03 PM  

  • I agree. Far more capable sportspersons than Sania don't get even a tenth of the limelight. It would seem as if PR handling and sassy looks are more important than practice.

    By Blogger Parii, at 5:03 PM  

  • well written. Surprisingly for me, I read this article: If Sania weren't beautiful ... on Times Of India just this morning.

    By Anonymous Gayathri, at 5:06 PM  

  • I second every word in your post

    By Blogger Bala (Karthik), at 5:08 PM  

  • So true. I didn't even know of Bhupati's win till I checked (for obvious reasons) what Hantuchova was up to.

    @minal who said: "I think we bloggers can do our bit:-) (I've been a culprit though blogging on cricket mostly:-)I'll improve)"

    I'll be sad if individual bloggers start writing more 'balanced' blogs. What makes blogs so great is that everyone brings their biases and interests to the table and writes passionately about them.

    A more apt comparison would be to say that, (for e.g) DesiPundit should have a balanced coverage.

    By Anonymous antrix, at 5:52 PM  

  • Well said Kaps. The media attitude needs to change.

    By Blogger Krish, at 6:00 PM  

  • I agree with what you say, but unless Sania keeps up this kinda momentum and achieves something regularly, she wont stay long in media glare for too long.
    Look at Narain Karthikeyan - he was all over the papers when he first made it to F1. Now no one seems to have a clue of what he is doing. Sania might sustain her posn for a little more bcoz the glamour quotient.

    By Blogger DD, at 6:32 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Somu, at 6:40 PM  

  • True and sad Kaps ! I was reminded of kutraaleeswaran !

    This is what he had to say when he decided to quit !

    "No security. Let's face it, in India there are many stars from lesser-known sport currently leading a not so comfortable life, which is really sad. This may sound mean or selfish, but it is, nevertheless, true. It is nice to sit back and think that I have won a medal for my country. It feels nice to be recognised by the media and the public. It truly feels worth the troubles. But what next? I thought about it. After my time in the sport comes to an end, will these `recognitions' alone suffice? You know the answer. "


    By Blogger Somu, at 6:42 PM  

  • Here's more to what he had to say. This one was really touching and inspiring !

    "Unfortunately, the sport is expensive and devoid of monetary rewards in our country. Marathon swimming is very popular in Australia, Italy and the States. In fact, when I was in Italy to compete, the Government offered to adopt me if I would swim for them. I declined. For, pride and satisfaction lie in representing one's own country. And let me tell you, the feeling is unparalleled."

    Maybe when we start losing our Anjus and the Konerus to other countries we would realize the blunder we are making !

    By Blogger Somu, at 6:46 PM  

  • Look at Narain Karthieyan too.. Struggled for a sponsor for so long and finally has got some support and recognition..Was wishing that someone wud right about this.. nice to see this post of yours..

    By Blogger Sudha Narayanan, at 7:51 PM  

  • @Antrix:
    Hey agree to ur blogging bit but if blogging helps me gain insights on other things why not venture into it right? :-)

    That's also the beauty of blogging, it makes you see so much more than what you could perceive:-)

    By Blogger Minal, at 8:09 PM  

  • While its true that too much of a hype has been created about Sania, on the other hand she has not taken any steps back has she? She has had the quickest climb in the WTA rankings. And thanks to her, cricket is not staring me at my face every morning! So we should be thankful that tennis is gaining some popularity (Ten Sports actually hedged their bets on Sania and ended up striking it big due to the highest viewership ever!). If I am not mistaken both Sania and Karthikeyan struggled to get sponsors during their early days. But they had struggled and now getting their due reward (money, media and public adulation)isn't that bad eh? And all said and done, there is more viewership for cricket, soccer,tennis, F1. So as far as sponsorship and viewership are concerned, the media is gonna go after these. No offence but how many people know the names of the first 5 female long jumpers in the world ahead of Anju?? I for sure do not know. My point is how many follow that field event!

    By Blogger maverick, at 8:44 PM  

  • Also India is horrible at marketing its talents. Look at Tendulkar, sure he's popular but outside India he's unheard of unless of course if you follow cricket closely. The same is with films.
    For Sania, I guess she's lucky. Sex sells.

    By Blogger patiala pataka, at 11:05 PM  

  • I would disagree on the notion that funding Sania Mirza would be detrimental to Koneru Humpy. I believe it isn't; in fact, if I'm not wrong, Koneru already gets some sort of a governmental funding.

    By Blogger MetaMutator, at 11:19 PM  

  • If you really believed in what you said, why didn't you put up a photo of Anju George instead of Sania? Truth is she is a media darling, good looking and has lots of fans. Your posting of her photo confirms just that.

    By Anonymous Balaji, at 12:39 AM  

  • INdia is going to lose a fair amt of sports personalities to other countries....sports drain is coming after brain drain....even v.anand is mostly in spain nowadays...i am not saying he is going to quit playing for India all I am saying is ...it is starting some ppl are moving away...

    By Blogger Me, at 1:32 AM  

  • From 350 to 42nd rank - is no mean feat....The reason why Sania is getting more coverage than Anju / humpy etc in the Indian media is because she is a star in the International media as well. American newspapers and magazines talk about the Indian muslim girl who has broken all traditions and plays in skirts and sports a nose ring and wears Tees with some interesting inscriptions.....

    By Blogger singman, at 4:58 AM  

  • Its a truth of life we have to live with. However, I would not blame the media entirely for this. In the competitive world, they also follow the rules of demand and supply... and are trying to just cater to what people want. I am sure that most people would prefer a picture of Sania rather than Humpy on the last page of their newspapers... and again by being media savvy (thru her handling of the press and showing an attitude) Sania has just helped herself

    By Blogger Nirav, at 9:56 AM  

  • its all about marketing - Sania markets herself well - Humpy doesn't. We're all superficial. TOI was right, more than attraciveness a confident attitude helps as well.

    Take Sudha Ragunathan and Nithyasree - whose more popular?

    By Blogger visithra, at 10:46 AM  

  • Hey Kaps, That was a nice writeup. Am concerned as well.

    When you guys find time, Have a look at my post on the Koneru Humpy factor


    By Blogger Kannappan, at 12:11 PM  

  • @Vasanthi,
    I'm also a fan of Sania. Just wanted to express my thoughts about this disparity.

    it is the responsibility of the media to highlight good performers, ireespective of the sport they are in. the media would be failing in its duty if it continues with this improper ratio.

    If the media gives more attention, the government might wake up and recognize other sportspersons

    glad to know that u'll blog about other sports as well


    Thanks for dropping by. PR and endorsements have a lot of do with this media frenzy

    Thanks for the pointer...it helped in getting the real picture


    @Antrix Deepak,
    Thanks for the clarification. Will pass on the point to the DesiPundit team


    Agree with ur point. Sania needs to be in the limelight so that she can continue the winning streak. It's fine as long as we don't overdo it.

    I did read about the Kutraleeswaran story. He got some media publicity. maybe he realized that swimming is not lucrative in the long run


    Agree with ur points on sponsorship and viewership. However even Mahesh Bhupathi didn't get the same kind of coverage when he won the mixed doubles. Tennis might be more popular than long jump. But atleast Bhupathi should have got his fair share of coverage.

    agree with ur point on celebrity PR.....their brands need to be managed better

    @Metamutator Akshay,
    the slide show shows that Sania is considered more important

    You have a point here. Just want to say that the mission of Anju's pic was not deliberate.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 3:07 AM  

  • @Balaji,
    You have a point here. Just want to say that the omission of Anju's pic was not deliberate.

    I hope such a sports drain doesn't happen

    i agree that Sania's achievement needs to be applauded and the international media is focussing a lot on her. However the Indian media is writing stories like how she sacrificed biriyanis and baristas for tennis. this space can be used to write about other sportspersons.

    I do buy your demand / supply argument to some extent. However the media has to play the role of promoting these sports as well. if it pure demand and supply we'll get to see only aishwarya rai, sania mirza and mallika sherawat in our newspapers.

    tennis per se is more glamorous and hence attracts more viewership

    thanks for dropping by...will take a look at your post.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 8:39 PM  

  • Your point about the lop sided media coverage is taken, However, you cannot expect corporate sponsorship, in general, to be based on benevolent considerations. I don't think corporations have an obligation to sponsor one sport or the other.

    In any case, Chess is not even a sport, much less a spectator sport and has extremely limited appeal. If someone does come forward and does the honourable thing, it should be much appreciated, but criticizing them for not doing so would be fanciful thinking. Do keep in mind that Anand has always found sponsors coming forward - and is one of the richest Indian sportspersons. In general, I think chess is not badly covered at all in India. Try to find any chess coverage in the sports pages in other countries.

    Sports other than cricket will not get the coverage/sponsorship unless they perform at the highest level. They have to go an extra mile to get the attention that even a Yuvraj Singh gets. I daresay Anju George's profile would have risen infinitely had she won an olympic medal - she is still world class, but that's the one that really mattered.

    Sania also has an advantage in that though India was never a tennis powerhouse, the game has had a great appeal to Indians, especially in urban areas. Wimbledon has always been a well watched event, despite there being next to no Indian representation. This aspect is somewhat overlooked.

    By Blogger Gameboys, at 4:59 PM  

  • I do agree though, that the AP Govt's announcement of 'prize money' for Sania is utter nonsense. That should have definitely gone to the likes of Humpy. But then what do you expect from our politicians? They can certainly sense a populist opportunity when they say one.

    By Blogger Gameboys, at 5:12 PM  

  • ...when they see one.

    By Blogger Gameboys, at 5:13 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:54 AM  

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