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- Reaction blown out of proportion, says Chris Gayle
As those who know Mel McLaughlin would tell you, she'd be embarrassed.
Chris Gayle's interview fail
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Chris Gayle's interview fail
West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle has been slammed for making 'inappropriate' comments during an interview with Network Ten journalist Mel McLaughlin.
Not so much by Chris Gayle's schoolboy comments – "Don't blush, baby" – but all the attention.
McLaughlin is an oddity in television: humble, devoid of ego. She's a sports nut and when it comes to football, she is probably best described as a "nerd". She'd take that as a compliment.
She's not on television because she wants to be on television. She's on television because she wants to cover sport on television. How many talking heads could sincerely admit to that?
Gayle, who is probably the Big Bash League's shiniest superstar, has been widely condemned for putting McLaughlin on the spot during a boundary interview as his Melbourne Renegades took on the Hurricanes in Hobart on Monday night.
The Jamaican cricketer said he was keen to be interviewed by her "just to see your eyes for the first time".
Seriously, big fella? It's up there with the oldest pick-up line in the book: "Is your dad a thief? Because he stole all of the stars in the sky and put them in your eyes."
Gayle continued: "Hopefully we can win this game and we can have a drink after."
It embarrassed McLaughlin.
"Don't blush, baby."
She didn't. She knocked Gayle back down the ground, clearing the fence.
"I'm not blushing," she said.
For possibly the first time in his life, Gayle had been put back in his box.
From this column's armchair, it immediately conjured two things.
The first was the scene at the hotel pool where the West Indies were staying in St Lucia the morning after the host nation had been knocked out of the Twenty20 World Cup.
Gayle – the captain of the side – and his teammates were lounging around, smoking cigars, drinking rum punch, with reggae playing in the background. They were surrounded by a posse of G-string clad young girls, slowly moving to the music.
For a moment, I thought I'd walked onto the set of a Nelly music video. I should also add it was about 10am. Good times.
McLaughlin's interview with Gayle also brought back memories of another time when a sports star ambushed her on live television.
In 2009, Socceroos star Tim Cahill threw his toys out of the cot in a post-match interview after scoring two goals for the Socceroos against Japan.
He was angry about a newspaper story that revealed he had been kicked out of a Kings Cross nightclub.
McLaughlin, who was working for Fox Sports, asked questions about the game. Cahill responded time and time again with "I just want to thank the crowd …"
She had nothing to do with the story, but was now wearing the blame for it. Just like the Gayle interview, she handled it like a pro.
Interestingly, Cahill tweeted to Gayle on Monday night: "On fire tonight brother".
Yeah, bro. On fi-yah.
While Gayle has been condemned, many have suggested that this is another case of political correctness gone mad. The same people would argue Adam Goodes should never have called out racism and that David Pocock should never have shouted down homophobia.
What's happened with McLaughlin is not a scandal, but an incident. What it does is highlight how far Australian sports coverage is behind the rest of the world.
Ever watched ESPN or Fox Sports cover the NFL or NBA or any number of sports? Front and centre in the coverage – especially on the sidelines – are female reporters. It's been happening that frequently and for so long it stopped being tokenistic years ago.
Australian sports still maintain the "boys' club" feel. Indeed, if it was ever more obvious that Nine's cricket coverage needed a reboot, it has been this summer. A female voice would freshen the coverage.
That said, there are exceptions.
Channel Nine has used Yvonne Sampson and Erin Molan in its rugby league coverage with great success in recent years.
Sampson slots in seamlessly on a game-day panel alongside the best players to ever lace on a boot. Molan efficiently reports for The Sunday Footy Show all season.
Fox Sports – where McLaughlin made her name as part of its football coverage – has been the leader in using female reporters, from Jess Yates to Tara Rushton to Lara Pitt to Megan Barnard, who was subjected to "good sort" remarks from Manly's Peter Peters after a judiciary hearing in 2011.
Nevertheless, there are still walls that need to be brought down.
I have been told numerous stories about female sports reporters who have been told by executives and veteran colleagues that "they will never make it if they don't lose 10 kilos". I know of one who has been stonewalled from a mainstream gig because she wasn't thin enough.
Maybe that applies to all areas of television, regardless of gender, but it's certainly an issue in sport.
While Channel Ten condemned Gayle's behaviour, commentators could be heard laughing in the background, while the network played it up on social media before quickly deleting it and back-tracking.
It should've been protecting its own, because McLaughlin is one of the battling network's greatest assets.
When she defected from Fox Sports to Ten in 2014, becoming the face of the BBL coverage and then the Winter Olympics in Sochi, there was genuine sadness in the football community.
Ten is said to be the free-to-air frontrunner to host A-League matches in the new broadcast deal being negotiated.
That would be a massive win for the game and for Ten, which is desperate for live sport.
If it happens, McLaughlin will be back behind the desk, covering with aplomb the sport she loves the most – as a broadcaster, not a woman with pretty, sparkly eyes.