A little preparation for Euro’s 2012 led me to this.
Last year, Brian Phillips wrote a short essay at Run of Play (my go-to football blog, now exiled to tumblr) about stupid rage in football world. While it caters specifically to football fans, rage-tap behavior is inherent in every fandom. People get butt-hurt. Sometimes for valid reasons, which authorizes anger as response. But other times for stupid, idiotic reasons, undeserving of time or attention, yet people give it their time and attention.
It’s a precarious balance between commitment, love, and righteous anger that occupies a fan’s feelings towards what they care and support. But so many times, metamorphosis takes place and commitment, love, and righteous anger becomes delusional, unrighteous, petty, toilet talk.
Phillips breaks it down:
The problem is (and again, I’m not the first person to notice this) that for a lot of people, that rage-tap is getting harder and harder to shut off. Anger is increasingly becoming a default element in how people interact with the games they follow, and that’s true for soccer fans to a much greater extent than most sports fans. It’s becoming a constant…
This is just one way of looking at the issue, and again, it might sound overblown. But it seems persuasive to me that the insane digital-age fragmentation of the experience of being a soccer fan—endless replication, endless mediation, endless interpretation—has meant that fans are no longer in a position to define the meaning of what they see: there’s always another angle, another opinion, another giant voice from the media echoing in your head. Something is always slightly wrong with your perceptions. And when meanings come unmoored in that way, hyperpartisanship becomes extremely attractive. Hyperpartisanship promises to give everything a clear meaning, because it gives you a single, simple principle to test all meanings against. Your club itself becomes the index of all meaning in the game. But hyperpartisanship is always running up against the limits of its own efficacy, both because the games still have to be played on the pitch and because it’s incapable of triumphing over either other people’s competing hyperpartisanship or the displaced media narratives that hyperpartisanship was an alternative to in the first place. There’s still reality, and there are still other explanations. Reality and other explanations are both irritants to the hyperpartisan worldview, but hyperpartisanship can never admit this without admitting that it’s basically delusional. The result is that mysterious, low-grade rage.
…the truth about hyperpartisanship is that it is an absolutely miserable and unpleasant way to be a sports fan. No one talks about this, because (a)people who complain about rage in sports tend to want to mourn some lost standard of politeness, which has nothing to do with anything, and (b)because hyperpartisan fans are the most outwardly invested in their clubs, so there’s a presumption that they’re the most authentic or admirable supporters, even if they’re also, everyone knows, unbearably obnoxious.
The problem is that by doing so, you condemn yourself to a life of always being at least a little angry about a thing you supposedly love, a life of storing up slights and spinning them into bitter little stories, a life of basically hostile, suspicious, and un-fun commitment to a thing that only exists to give you joy. The sole and entire point of sports is to enjoy sports; even if you think athletic competition has a deeper purpose, that it helps with moral instruction or enforcing community ties or whatever else, it’s only able to serve that purpose because it’s fun in the first place. If your love of soccer has brought you to a point where you’re no longer really able to see the game as something wonderful and amazing except in narrow moments of unequivocal triumph, then you are doing it wrong, no matter how many kills you rack up on the internet.
So look: don’t be like this. There’s no reason to. It’s really, really easy not to be, once you decide you don’t want to. The secret is to care, I mean really care, about something other than your club. That thing can be the game itself, or the truth, or just being a reasonable person. You can care about something other than your club and still be totally super committed to your club. It doesn’t mean not supporting your team through thick and thin; it just means being able to tell the difference between thick and thin, and not thinking that your favorite forum, or your group of like-minded supporters, is so important that it throws reality on the wrong end of a greater-than sign. It means doing this for fun, and not for revenge or for a sense of deep-down defining identity, even if you’re a crazy tattooed ultra. You can be a crazy tattooed ultra and still be fine, for that matter. You just can’t be an idiot.
Once again, oh, hello friend has another reader appreciation giveaway. This time with the Instax Mini 7s by Fuji, an instant mobile printer, some film for the camera, and a camera bag to hold everything. Click here to enter.