The thing about viewpoints

by Goh Keat Peng

As I read a sports commentary on England vs NZ All-Blacks, it becomes quite clear how the view from an onlooker looking down from his seat in the terraces of Twickenham Stadium and that of a player on the field is really very different.

“…a fast flat pass left from Youngs then put Mike Tindall in space on the Kiwi 22, the old battering-ram hesitated, dawdled inside and then threw a change-of-heart pass behind Lewis Moody on the outside. Chances made, chances lost,” writes Tom Fordyce, the famous sports commentator featured on the BBC website.

This to me sums up quite well the difference in viewpoints within the same arena. Both commentator and player were in the same stadium at the same time engrossed in the same game. But one was up there on the terrace able to see at once the entire field and all the 30 men plus three match officials; the other was on the field where the match is in ongoing progress. The two men literally have two very different points of view, not just in terms of sight but also insight. Understandably so.

Almost at once as I read Tom Fordyce’s insightful commentary on a rugby test match between two giant teams, I am brought back from faraway Twickenham to the present-day realities of Malaysian politics.

It becomes for me like a parable as to how we view the going-ons of the national political scene. Depending on which side we are rooting for, we are filled with a mixture of emotions- hope? foreboding? glee? despair? humour? disgust? Just like the team you support in the Premiership, or Super Bowl, or Tri-Nations. Real matches and games are being played out before us (on television) the outcomes of which may send us into ecstasy or embarassment or, as in politics, sedition charges!

In recent months, chiefly because of much news about a certain political party’s internal elections of office-bearers as well as a series of by-elections, comments have been prolific. (Even this writer could not resist to say his piece as evidenced in his IS WAYNE ROONEY NOW PLAYING IN PKR?)

In saying our piece, though, we “commentators” must be somewhat circumscribe and try to be a little reasonable. I often catch myself in a “this one can do no wrong and that one can do no right” mode. Rather like in those chauvinistic cowboy movies where the “only good red indian is a dead one” kind of thing. Fortunately, the truth is not to be found in such one-sided viewpoints.

Some humility must be there that we commentators are after all only spectators watching a match in progress. Despite our vantage points from the terraces looking down, even we are only able to focus on the play in a certain spot at a given time (usually where the ball is) and do not always know the exact positions of all the players all of the time. On the other hand, the player we are following is not only seeing and reading the game on the ground but his vision on a flat pitch is limited too, if not more so. Who to pass the ball to is a decision he has to make at a given time and at an instant. Through the team practice and training, certain patterns of play becomes familiar to the team. But the decision who to pass the ball to on either side of him and when to pass on the ball or to run the ball himself is, on match day, the player’s alone to make. We who are onlookers in the terraces can think, say and act as we wish; even think we are absolutely right and the player, absolutely wrong. But only the players are doing all the playing, deciding and kicking. One is sitting quite comfortably watching the progress of a match; the other is running his heart out playing the match.

Commentators, spectators and players- we all need to acknowledge and appreciate one another’s viewpoints. We need to make better effort to have a healthy respect for one another’s contribution.

The players know they are, unlike God, not omniscient (all-knowing), nor omnipresent (present in all places at the same time) , nor omnipotent (all powerful). The question is whether we as onlookers know the same. (Or is it the other way round?) Players or onlookers who actually think, feel and act as though we are like God will necessarily bite the dust before long- whichever side we support. One-sided views do not make a match winner.

Here are some views of the rugby test match from those much more involved in the actual action than the commentators from the stands:

“You will always make errors – they made two or three too – but we made too many,” admitted Johnson (the England coach), pragmatic as always.

“At vital times, especially in defence, we gave the ball away too easily by trying to do too much sometimes,” said McCaw (the NZ captain). “Those are the decisions we’ve got to get right if we’re going to improve. There’s a learning we have to take out of the last two weeks. There’s time in the game when that’s the right thing to do, and there’s time when hanging on to the ball for one more phase is the right thing to do. Risk versus reward is the thing we need to get under control.”

And this is how Tom Fordyce, sports writer, sums it up:

“In a strange way, Johnson has it easier than All Blacks coach Graham Henry. No-one expects Johnson’s England side to win the World Cup – a semi-final place would be beyond most expectations. For Henry, by contrast, there’s only one outcome that will count as success. Fail to win the old gold pot on home soil (next year’s Rugby Union World Cup hosted by NZ) and this long unbeaten run in the northern hemisphere, let alone the nine wins on the trot against England, will count for nothing. Those worries are for another night. For now, the contrast is clear. England showed glimpses of what they might achieve. The All Blacks, to an outsider’s eyes at least, revealed close to the full picture.”

You see how close and alike politics is to sports?

So what is the lesson of this parable? Onlookers should stop making comments? Spectators should stop watching games? Coaches should stopped their ears and ignore the comments and stubbornly go their own path- win or lose? Players should retire from the game especially when they lose to their opponents? Clubs should change their owners?

Yes in some cases; not necessarily so in others; of course not in a few instances. In the game of politics, one match is not the end- win or lose. We all need to continue to stay with the tournament till the end. As to which player/s we should bring into the team to buttress and augment team performance, even Alex Ferguson himself had brought in, as it turned out, some lame ducks not worth the money spent to secure them. And look at the so-called non-entities he brought in who cost little but grew up in and with the club and made good. Who says that those who stay longest in the club are not making enormous contributions?

Unlike rugby or any other sport, politics affect all in the country-every single one of us. We don’t watch also the match goes on and affects my life and yours and our loved ones.

My worry reading the commentaries and comments these days is that the negativity and ridicule of the reporting puts off interest in high stake politics of the country and once more we common people may eventually throw up our hands in frustration and surrender the struggle to career politicians. Or worse still, drive away some good or promising career politicians and leave the field to the ones who never scored any goals nor keep the undesired goals out for us the people.

  1. #1 by dawsheng on Sunday, 7 November 2010 - 3:40 pm

    The thing about viewpoints is that it is always easier said than done. From that perspective, to a certain extent, the only similarity I can see between sports and politics is that both are not beneficial to human beings. You can’t eat sports, and politicians don’t feed you if you’re hungry.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Sunday, 7 November 2010 - 4:31 pm

    Lemah lembut KTK said he is soft bcos he is a proponent of Tai Chi Chuan, but he can b hard/tough if he uses Mantis Chuan
    He proclaimed dat he can b soft or hard at d appropriate time
    Whoa, so li hai 1, can soft can hard, got CSL’s standard, no wonder Gerakan wanita love KTK

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Monday, 8 November 2010 - 10:04 am

    To add to the similarities between football and politics highlighted by Goh Keat Peng (GKP), well the referee of both football and politics can be bias or one of the parties may play against the other on a ground not level.

    Some even liken Football players to prostitutes when they run and ruin their bodies for the pleasure of strangers sitting in the stadium and to make money and have fame for themselves. This is why Ronald Reagan once said, “politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession but I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

    This derogatory view marks one of the important differences between football and politics : in football the spectators / supporters don’t by their cheering or heckling determine, as much in politics, as to which party scores the goals. In politics, the spectators / supporters directly determine that by their votes….ln football the players run their bodies and try score goals to entertain the spectators / supporters but in politics it is more earnest, the spectators / supporters have greater stakes, because they cheer one side and heckle the other side in order for their side to win in order to improve the conditions of the entire stadium and the welfare of the spectators / supporters that the players pledge they will do if they win.

    Therefore GKP’s comparison of spectators / supporters to passive onlookers, sitting comfortably in the terraces watching the progress of a match whilst the players are doing all the playing, deciding and kicking and running their hearts out playing the match, is applicable up to only a limit and point.

    The players should respect more the suggestions and viewpoints of the commentators, spectators whose collective welfare and livelihood the players are supposed to promote by their play.

    It does not therefore behoove players to engage like prostitutes running and ruining their bodies in the play in order just to entertain commentators and spectators or engage in fouls in order to score goals to enrich themselves as players, especially so when whether they could successfully score goals depends comparatively more on the cheering and support of the advice of commentators and support of spectators in the terrace based on their belief in the promises and ability of the players.

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