Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Not entirely unexpected news in the Grauniad this morning confirming that Observer Sports Monthly is going to be closed.

With the current state of the economy, plus the fact that buying a daily paper is a fast fading habit, it’s hardly a surprise, but this is very much opportunity squandered over a period of years.

When OSM first launched it was an absolute revelation. A good quality read, not overwhelmed with adverts like, for example, the Guardian Weekend Supplement which is virtually unreadable. Topical, in depth, analytical articles where the quality journos in the Observer stable were given space for longer articles than you’d get in the paper itself.

Alongside these were some jokey features, the right level of nostalgia mixed in with good quality action photography and the all-around feel of a quality product. It was the nearest thing I’ve seen over here to Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News in the US, and was compulsory reading on a monthly basis.

The quality was such that for the first couple of years, it could have easily been sold on the newsstands as a standalone publication.

But then, bizarrely, it went downmarket at such a rate of knots that you could only assume that they’d got the editor of Loaded in to run it.

The long quality features disappeared and, instead, we were treated to a series of badly written pieces about nothing at all, and a bizarre over-concentration on dangerous ‘sports’ – like cliff diving or running with the bulls in Pamplona – which is as much of a sport as bear baiting or cockfighting.

Typical of the direction it was going in was a new feature - ‘how I got my body’ where a sportsman was given the opportunity to preen himself in public whilst the rest of us wondered how soon it would be before someone dropped the word 'steroid'.

Then there was the gratuitous sexism. Every time they published a photograph of a female sportsman, the woman in question was wearing as little clothing as possible – and in the case of Victoria Pendleton on the front cover for heaven's sake – nothing at all. Any sportswomen appearing in the pages seemed to have to be party to a Faustian pact where the deal seemed to be ‘we’ll give you some publicity to help you attract sponsorship, but in return you need to get ‘em out for the lads’. Leaving aside the fact that they were talking to some of the most successful and committed sportsmen in the country – to quote Adam Faith (Spinal Tap) ‘sex sells’.

From a cricketing point of view the pre-Ashes analysis consisted of asking the England squad the most anodyne series of questions imaginable and little else, and then photographing them in dinner jackets, whilst whoever wrote the post series review decided that Andrew Flintoff had beaten the Australians single handed.

The descent to the gutter has proved terminal and a decent product has been ruined and I still don't quite understand why.

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