Shopping for bias and prejudice
By Michael Moynihan
Flagrant bias! Blazing prejudice! Local radio!
Every now and then you meet up with someone who’ll say: “Hey, you should have heard X on the radio last Sunday. One-eyed or what! One of the opposition would want to be castrated before he’d call a foul. Desperate stuff (etc. etc).”
Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to put a foot in both camps last Sunday: how biased could Radio Kerry and 103 FM/County Sound of Cork be reporting on the Rebels-Kingdom clash in the Munster SFC?
“You’d be more than welcome,” said Weeshie Fogarty of Radio Kerry. Michael Scanlon of 103FM/County Sound said: “It’d be like having the inspector in school but you’re welcome.”
So off I went for a half with both, ready to have my liberal sensitivities flayed alive.
I was disappointed when I entered the Radio Kerry sanctum (from the Latin, meaning ‘slightly smaller than a telephone booth’) and found no effigies of Noel O’Leary hanging from the ceiling. Commentators Gary O’Sullivan and Weeshie Fogarty welcomed me warmly before turning to the action which was about to unfold.
Within a minute of the throw-in, of course, there was a talking point. Colm Cooper turned sharply and bore down on goal before going to ground near the small parallelogram.
“A penalty! Is it?” said O’Sullivan. “I’ve seen them given,” added Weeshie with the judicious air of a former referee himself. But baying for the officials’ blood? None.
In vain I waited for the casual references to Cork as The Great Satan, but the two Kerrymen remained irritatingly even-handed.
True, Gary O’Sullivan saw climbing by Alan O’Connor where your correspondent saw none; true, Weeshie greeted a silken intervention by Paddy Kelly with the news that Kelly’s father came from Rathmore, but nothing indictable there.
At last, though, Paul Galvin took Eoin Cadogan down around the middle of the field and the referee blew the whistle.
Here it comes, I thought, the true moment of kennel blindness. Surely the Tattooed Man from North Kerry would provoke tribal affinities on the airwaves.
Weeshie thought it was a foul but also a good GAA tackle — which, to this observer was a fair description — but there was no complaining at the free given to Cork as a result.
A few minutes later Noel O’Leary went down injured and Gary O’Sullivan couldn’t resist suggesting that he’d “made a lot of it”, but he didn’t over-egg the pudding either. By the break I had given up on anything actionable and left them to roast a small Cork child alive in their studio (just kidding).
Into the 103 FM/County Sound booth, and immediately a fickle hack was won over: Michael Scanlon, Paudie Palmer and John Fintan Daly offer a chair in their (marginally more) spacious accommodation. The bias is now more likely to come out of the journalist than the broadcasters.
The trio with the Cork station show a disappointing amount of levelheadedness: When John Buckley comes on for Kerry at half-time Daly merely observes that “one redhead is replacing another” (Seamus Scanlon). Hardly incitement to racial hatred.
The game isn’t on long when Donncha O’Connor ships a heavy tackle and Palmer suggests that “surely he was fouled”, but doesn’t dress up the accusation with any excessive descriptive.
Where’s the naked aggression in that statement? Where’s the spittle-flecked screaming out of the booth? Even when referee David Coldrick misses a third-man tackle on a Cork defender in the course of a Kerry attack the lads remain focused and even find time to pay compliments to the energising influence of Kingdom sub James O’Donoghue.
There’s a chink of light minutes later when Paul Galvin’s jersey is tested by a Cork defender — a chance for the lads to drop a good sneer-bomb about the fashion columnist? “Yes, Paul’s jersey was tugged, and he’s a man who has concerns about fabric,” is Palmer’s moderate description.
Never mind the opportunity lost to throw a cheap shot at Galvin’s taste in clothes: where did the frank admission that a Cork player had committed a foul come from? Again, an encounter between old adversaries Galvin and Noel O’Leary looks set to provide a highlight. Fireworks can surely be expected as the two players come together miles away from the play...
“And off the ball Noel O’Leary finishes a drink of water,” says Palmer, “And then hands the bottle to his marker, Paul Galvin. They’re human, after all.”
That’s the trouble, Paudie. There was a bit too much humanity all round in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday for this reporter.
They say any environment reacts to being observed; for bias and prejudice I’ll just have to go shopping somewhere else.
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