August 12, 2008

(No) Cheering in the Press Box

There is a universal code of conduct in sports journalism: No cheering in the press box. As a journalist, you can be a fan at home but never in public.

At least that's what I thought before I got here.

I'm a mixture of astonished, appalled and disgusted at the homer-ness of the foreign journalists. I sort of expect it from the Cubans and Russians, who wear team gear every day. But the Brits and Aussies?

I asked my friend and former colleague Peter Berlin, the sports editor of the International Herald Tribune, if British journalists generally followed the same no-cheering rules. He said yes and noted that at the tennis venue, "When Andy Murray played a Taiwanese at tennis the Taiwanese cheered every point their man won."

This is just bad form. And it's cringe-worthy. I first noticed it the other day, when a Spanish rider won the road race. A great roar went up in one corner of the press room. We chalked it up to Latin excitement (and first assumed it was Italians). The next day, when the British woman won her road race, another great cheer went out. It's not supposed to be like this.

The Chinese journalists were cheering on their basketball team against Spain, the Aussies howled when their swimmer out-touched a competitor.

I don't know what to make of this. But I've followed this rule for so long, I don't think I'll ever get used to it.

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