“Most Popular” over “Most Outstanding”

Today’s “Sunday Observer” reports what, one hopes, is the last of a series of bumsuck reports on last year’s Navy SC and its skipper Yoshitha Rajapakshe. We have had a solid post-2009 season of striptease by the Lakehouse sports journalists, who have pumped air into the Navy SC jersies courtsey of their second round wins over Kandy SC and CR&FC.

It is true that Navy SC had a resurrection and an injection of genius last season, as massive numbers crossed over to the Welisara club, from places like Havelock Park and Nittawela. What followed was a roaring second half of the club calendar, in which the said Navy managed to bash the CR&FC 38-3 and pull off a marginal 12-11 win over Kandy SC.

Now the problem is this — it is true that Navy SC won against Kandy SC. But, should this be paraded as some giant-killing stint all year around? Which was exactly what has happened over the state newspapers. A few weeks ago, attempting an analysis of the past season, the analyst’s focus is absorbed by this win and the reference space left for the winners and some of the other individual achievements becomes pereferal and secondary. All this hype, to my mind, is created cos the Navy’s skipper happened to be the son of the Head of State.

In a year that was disastrous for Lankan rugby, where many debatable and controversial decisions were taken, given and withheld, no one spoke much against the chest-thump these spineless media people gave the Navy SC free of charge. But, now, with a fresh season afoot, one hopes the said journalists will flush their hangups and bumkisses down the drain and start afresh. In that respect, one hopes that the semiotic arrangement of photos of the “Observer-Caltex” rugby awards, as arranged on the sports page of today’s “Observer” would be the last of its masturbatory kind.

The sports page of the “Observer” (page 24) has 6 photos from the said awards night. On the right hand extreme, arranged in a discending pattern, we have:

1) The Best “Forward” – Shaun Wijesinghe (Kandy SC)

2) Best Team – Kandy SC

3) Most Outstanding Player – Fazil Marija (Kandy SC)

4) Best Captain – Pradeep Liyanage (Kandy SC)

5) Most Promising Player – Ihshan Noor (CR&FC)

Now, there is another photo — of slightly larger proportions; which, propotionately, wins the spotlight of the page — which is set apart from the five shots refered to above: that of 6) the “Most Popular” ruggerite of the year, Mr. Yoshitha Rajapakshe of Navy SC. A beaming President Rajapakshe is seen putting a medal around this player; his son.

Now, to my judgment, if one is to set off a photo as more prominant that the others in the defined sequence, it should be either (3) above; if not (2): “Most Outstanding Player” or “Best Team”. But, the more influential origins of the Navy SC skipper, the status of his father, the watchdog status of the State ideology which appears to be the prerogative of the said newspaper all combine to prop him up as the spotlight of the page. The “Observer” seems to forget that they are reporting a sports event, that should focus on skill; and not an election, where, one could say, “popularity” saves the game.

What one hopes is for this flogged horse of “Navy SC resurgence-defeats Kandy-Yoshitha leads from front” complex to be laid to rest — now that the most final of last season’s rituals is done with. Give Navy SC’s 12-11 win a break; cos it has borne the burden of a politicized journalism with a Penelope-like faithfulness. Havelocks may just have had enough time to recover from the massive crossover that took place last season; and maybe we would be in for a gruelling set of fixtures starting next month.

The online version of the article in question. The semiotics is not very pronounced in the web layout; as in the printed version

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