The sage of French sports journalists, Nelson Monfort, Friday criticized the "winner-takes-all" attitude of the English-language media.
A veteran Olympic Games correspondent and also the voice of tennis and figure skating on the France 2 channel, Monfort told a meeting of the American International Club of Geneva at the Hotel InterContinental in Geneva that there was "more humanity" shown in sports coverage in Europe.
And speaking to GenevaLunch, he says that the new star of French tennis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, is his kind of sportsman. Tsonga was the Australian Open runner-up last weekend who will soon be resident in the farming village of La Rippe in Vaud.
Monfort says: "Tsonga appeals to me very much because he is a good loser. He won six of seven matches in Melbourne but I thought his attitude after losing the final was very gracious. That I like.
"He is gentle and modest and his head will not swell. He is one of a new generation of tennis players who are very charismatic."
Monfort is famous as the man who interviewed former United States president Bill Clinton outside the men’s room at Roland Garros and has earned his popularity and affection from audiences in France by conducting interviews of rare insight with stars in the moments after their triumphs – and defeats.
He shared his compassionate philosophy with 100 members and guests of the AIC. "The camera always follows the winner at the moment of victory but I look for the loser. I think it is our task to celebrate with the winner and console the loser. That is the story of life."
Monfort, who was educated in the Lake Geneva region at the Institut Le Rosey in Rolle, said that his style in 16 years as a television journalist was to use humour and ask about the personality of the athletes he interviewed. "These days we treat our sportsmen and women as icons, more so than actors and singers and even religious figures."
He voiced his disapproval of a typically American and British media style of reporting sport in a harsh, approach where winning is the only thing that matters. "I know all the effort that sportsmen make and sometimes I think they’re not always very kindly treated."
Monfort spoke movingly of his special relationship with Hicham El Guerrouj, the Moroccan middle distance runner who finally won the 1,500 metres gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens after heartbreaking defeats at the two previous Games. Monfort convinced the tearful runner in the minutes after his surprise loss at the 2000 Sydney Games that he had not let down his king and country, and to go on television showing that he was proud to have won second place.
The victorious interview proved to be such a redemption for El Guerrouj that after he went on to win four years later in Athens, Monfort received a letter of thanks from King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Monfort also enjoys a close on-screen friendship with Roger Federer, though he chose to talk with GenevaLunch about the dream interview he would like to have been able to conduct, with the black US sprinter who defied the Nazi propaganda machine at the 1936 Olympics.
"It would be Jesse Owens at the Berlin Games because he was a victim and at the same time he was a winner and I like that dual situation."