Rugby 2011 world cup coverage - or the funny side of mediated nationalities, culture and sport

posted Oct 13, 2011, 6:46 AM by Wendy Hein   [ updated Oct 24, 2011, 10:20 AM ]
And we're back to the topic of sports. How can we ignore all the shenanigans of the rugby world cup, both on and off the pitch, whether you live in England, Ireland, Scotland or indeed Wales.

I know, Ireland lost... again. But a) don't tell me expectations were very high this time after their poor performance in pre-cup games, and b) in light of that, they did pretty well, no? Not everything was lost, as beating Australia was certainly a sight for sore Irish eyes. And best of luck to Wales who seem to be getting all the support from English fans these days. No wonder, as there is not much to celebrate in their camp. Interestingly, a few weeks ago I was going to write about how Manu Tuilagi was very close to being deported from England for being Samoan, and illgally resident after over-staying his holiday visa. When they found out that he could play rugby pretty well, his visa decision seemed magically overturned. We can find a similar phenomenon in the German soccer/football team: isn't it interesting to see that one Boateng brother plays for Germany, the other for Ghana? And, if you listen to the majority of players in the Irish soccer/football squad, you may have trouble finding an authentic Irish accent there too. In fact, Aiden McGeady is Scottish... who are probably not happy at all for not making it into Euro 2012 when one of their players was helping Ireland to qualify, nor are they celebrating for being beaten by England in the rugby world cup. Chin up Scotland, the only way is up. Yet, the point is that national and cultural borders and boundaries seem to blur with ease when it comes to sport - if your team is winning at least. It just shows us again how much sport matters, and how political and contradictory it can get, as when it comes to issues of immigration and national diversity in other contexts, blurring boundaries can lead to so many problems. Not in sports.

One area where this blurring of boundaries does not translate very well is in the media, particularly the sporting media. As I said before, I love the BBC, and I have to respect ITV for putting on Downton Abbey. On ITV is also where UK residents watch the rugby coverage. And, as I said before, as an outsider I am not very fond of the sports coverage on either station. Without a doubt, talking the game is a skill, but also one that requires a certain cultural awareness that seems to be lacking here and there. But, thank god for the empowerment and negotiation through cultural discourses of humour which can help us overcome any of the tension that this sports coverage often produces. Echoing some of yesterday's talks on the marketing of comedy and the comedy of marketing I came across the Irish interpretation of the ITV rugby world cup coverage. Clearly, this shows so well how humour and sports are both culturally situated, but also how you need to be culturally aware for understanding both. It also shows that talking fun and sport can be a skill not possessed by everyone. And, if you feel offended by any of this, it's only for a laugh, but certainly more conscious and directed than some of the offences in UK sports broadcasting. At least these are jokes, whatever that means. Is there a point here for reflexive distance? Maybe supporting the outsider Wales this time will sort out a possibly hegemonic sense of entitlement - I'm only joking.

Here it goes, the power of humour - and go on Wales!!

 
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