Pakistan in South Africa / News

Telford Vice asks Gibbs a few pertinent questions

The truth is out there, Hersch

Telford Vice

January 17, 2007

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'If the security staff did their jobs properly when they removed the supporters who swore at Paul Harris, why didn't you call the big boys in when things went too far where you were fielding?' © Getty Images
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Howzit Hersch,

Trust you're bearing up - this too shall pass, at least, that's what they tell me. Anyway. It was wonderful to see you in decent batting nick at Centurion. Good grafting stuff, and bad luck about missing the century.

As for the other issue, if the offending fans were white would you still have said what you said? That's what the racism argument boils down to, you see.

I'm asking this question because when the South African team suffered racist abuse from spectators - most of them white - in Australia last season, there was no shouting about or at the fans from the field. At least, none seems to have been recorded.

I'm not calling you racist, I'm trying to explain why some people might do so.

And what about the Pakistani batsmen who were out there on the field with you? Didn't you think that what you said broke the admittedly unwritten rules of sledging? Also, how does it change anything if you were talking to your teammates? The comments you made are still out there, regardless.

I have to tell you that when I heard for myself what you said, I was disgusted. It's not the swearing. Bloody hell, I'm a reporter - we were born effing and blinding, and I'll continue to do so until I b****r off this mortal coil at the age of 112. So swearing doesn't scare me. Instead, it was your harsh tone that struck me most.

There was something close to hate in your voice, Hersch, and that's not a pretty sound. I have this mental pen pic of you as an easy-going bloke who enjoys his talent and realises how lucky he is to make his living in the sunshine. That wasn't what I heard on that tape.

I do not doubt that the Pakistan supporters were becoming increasingly unruly. They were loud and irritating from the distance of the press box, never mind from over your shoulder. In fact, the reporting of this story has been unfair to you because all we have to go on is what you said. This saga will remain unfairly skewed against you unless we are somehow able to reveal what the fans were saying. Let no one suggest that they are blameless in all this.

Be that as it may, if the security staff did their jobs properly when they removed the supporters who swore at Paul Harris, why didn't you call the big boys in when things went too far where you were fielding?

I should tell you that I do have some idea of how you felt. Three hours after the close of play on Sunday, I was still working in the press box. The plan was to send the BBC a few clips of what Mickey Arthur had said at the press conference that evening. The plan was not working, because of a man and his leafblower.

Now, a leafblower is an inspired choice for removing the debris left behind in the stands by the crowd after a day's play, and this bloke had been doing his job infuriatingly well for two hours. Do you know what a leafblower sounds like, Hersch? It's a bit like an elephant shoving its trunk into your ear and trumpeting for all its worth. Try editing audio clips with that racket going on.

After two hours of this little lot, the end of my tether was at hand. The chairs in the Centurion press box are sturdy, and made of metal ... Yup, I hurled a chair into the stand the man was cleaning. Not at him, of course - I was simply trying to attract his attention to ask him when a semblance of silence might return. But that doesn't change anything. I should have contacted the stadium manager, I should have followed the procedures. I should have kept my cool. I didn't.

I enjoyed an instant of satisfaction as the chair clattered into the plastic stadium seating. Then I realised just what an unprofessional, reckless idiot I had been. I tried to find the man to apologise, but he was long gone.

The next morning, I asked for a few moments of the stadium chief executive's time. I explained myself, and I was relieved when she decided to let the matter rest there.

I think I reacted as most people would have done. I realised I had done something that required an apology and that I might have my accreditation withdrawn as a consequence. That realisation doesn't make me anything special, it was entirely normal.

Which makes me wonder why, after admitting your guilt, you're now pursuing an appeal. It looks like you think you needn't have to face the consequences of your actions.

I can't tell you how disappointing that is. But, hey, I'll get over it, and pretty soon you'll be one of my favourite players again.

I'll stop bending your ear now. Before I do, I need to ask you to keep this between us. I know it's going to be on the worldwide web, and that many millions of people will have access to it. But there's stuff in here that I'd rather not have broadcast out there. So, off the record? Know what I mean?

Cheers,

Telford Vice

Telford Vice is a Durban-based writer with MWP Media

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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