Emmet Ryan penned this column for The Daily Business Post a couple days after the bj-league lifted its league-wide ban on media access for me and The Japan Times. The ban began in October 2013.
Here’s the column as it appeared on the Irish newspaper’s website, http://www.businesspost.ie, on March 28, 2015:
SPORTS COLUMN: Persistence makes the difference
It’s no secret that the media is under increasing pressure in the modern era, but how that impacts on sports often gets forgotten.
We live in an age where players, teams, and governing bodies exert greater control over coverage. When Micheal O Muircheartaigh stepped down, Mickey Harte and Tyrone tried to exert influence over who the lead voice on RTE Radio 1’s GAA commentary was.
Player unions across many sports worldwide are trying to have more of a say in how and where they speak to the press. Governing bodies, such as FIFA, have made no secret of their own desire to push for more friendly coverage even when it wasn’t warranted.
For the most part, this isn’t a matter of conflict for the sports press. The vast majority of stories aren’t about the rights and wrongs, they aren’t in areas that are about speaking truth to powers. Sports hacks however know that when those issues arise, it is their duty to do so and they are just as capable of standing their ground.
One of the most important things most journalists hear on their way up is one older hack telling them to always remember that when they are on the phone, to ask themselves “Why is this [insert expletive of choice] lying to me?” It’s about knowing that on-one and nothing is beyond investigation.
The Japan Times is a newspaper that doesn’t need to carry such strong ethical concerns. It is an English language newspaper with a market made up either of English speaking ex-pats looking for news or Japanese people looking to improve their English, but it does. The sports section of that paper certainly doesn’t have to stick to such values — but it does with one man in particular standing strong on this front.
In October of 21013 the bj-league, one of two professional basketball leagues in Japan, barred The Japan Times from covering its games or from any access to players or personnel of the clubs involved. Japanese basketball is about as small a deal as you are thinking right now, but the action taken mattered.
Edward Odeven was the reason, pure and simple, that the paper was barred by the league.
Odeven is exactly what one wants in a journalist. He’s obsessive and utterly fearless. Ever day, Odeven peppers the inboxes of journalists across the world with information on the latest happenings in the sport there even when it is distant from our minds. Recognising the issues that were affecting the sport in Japan, which led eventually to global body FIBA suspending Japan, Odeven took no prisoners and was willing to cover parts of the game that weren’t working.
This didn’t sit well with the bj-league. It expected to be covered in a certain way and Odeven was a problem. It took the ultimate sanction but Odeven and The Japan Times were unmoved. This sanction and the response led by Odeven made a tiny league on the far side of the world matter to journalists across Europe, the Americas, and wherever else Odeven’s daily missive landed.
Having cared little for the happenings there beforehand, Odeven brought the actions of the bj-league to a global audience that would listen and respond.
On 26 March 2015, the bj-league lifted its ban on The Japan Times in its entirety. It’s an obscure league you will never care about and a journalist you have never heard about, but Odeven’s stand and its success matters. He held his ground. That’s all anyone could ever ask of him.
Post-published note: Emmett Ryan can be found on Twitter: @action81