Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Being a Modern Day Football Fan

If transfer silly season has taught us anything, and for the most part it hasn’t, it’s that football fans are the currency of media more than ever.

It is in the interest of news websites to get views. That is the long and short of it, and the best way to get that is through sensationalism. 

French and a striker? It's a lifetime of Arsenal transfer
links for you Mr Benzema!

Every football fan wants to believe their club has a chance of signing a top player, so the media will latch onto tenuous information to create a sensational rumour. Of course, deep down in our hearts we know that about 1% of transfer rumours have any credibility, but if someone is suggesting Benzema to Arsenal is on, I am sad enough to want to believe that information. Once I’ve clicked, the credibility of the article is almost irrelevant.

Pedro to Chelsea is a fine example.

A lack of game time will surely make you a prime
candidate for transfer speculation. Add to that a team's
rumoured need for a player of that position, and you've
got yourself a transfer rumour!

Once it had been established that Pedro might not be happy with his playing time at Camp Nou, and that Manchester United were open to bringing an attacker in, it served media interests to attract United fans with stories of Pedro and Woodward enjoying a romantic meal before the Spaniard agreed to come to Old Trafford and bring back the glory days. Or something similar.

‘Surely a winger will make United title challengers!’

I’m sure United fans, who are by no means the first to get carried away by such talk, thought it was on.

When it turned out United had not signed Pedro, the media turned pretty nasty. ‘Foolish United, missing out on Pedro! Woodward’s let another one slip through his fingers!’

I am no stranger to this as an Arsenal fan. The number of players I’ve been told Wenger has let slip through his fingers, knowing full well that either A) He was never in for them, or B) He decided he didn’t really want them, is a great many.

Of course, the media has built this story up for a week now based on very little, so there is an anger there that United have shown them up.

Ultimately, this doesn’t damage United so much as it damages their fans.

They are the ones on Twitter, desperately searching, like all fans, for possible transfers. They are the ones who will feel the sting of the memes, the derision. The new brand of media outlet is the worst for this, where vines and memes poke fun at any team depending on the prevailing wind.

Certainly it helps to be able to laugh at one’s own fortunes, but football ‘fandoms’ are filled with those who, media outlets know only too well, take their club very seriously. The constancy of these vines and memes, a stream of football consciousness, serves to stir fan rivalries, and while supporters argue armed only with bare statistics, the designers of this madness watch as the likes and shares pour in. 

It’s pretty irresponsible, but it is the perfect representation of the internet age.

The fan-blog is therefore the saviour of the modern supporter. Like taking refuge from dismal weather, these fan-penned websites offer the warming embrace of honest and surprisingly self-aware assessment.

Fans are the harshest critics of their own team, but the criticism comes from a good place. On these blogs the team’s interests are the sole currency, rather than the ire of fans. Of course this isn’t the case for all fan blogs, but many I have come across seem to have admirable sentiments.

I have been reading Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’, and above all, what struck me was the hopelessness of it all. Supporters go through so much disappointment and joy in equal measure it is hard not to feel sympathy for them. I don’t consider myself a hardcore supporter by any stretch. An hour after a disappointing result I have usually simmered down, and equally I can put a win into perspective.

But for some football means a great deal more, and to me it seems greatly unfair to emotionally manipulate a group of people made vulnerable by an unbowed belief that things might get better.  

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