Touching The Void

Football is obviously a fairly divisive past-time. Very few things can split opinion while also bringing people together in such a way. This is clearly a fantastic thing, for anything to elicit such passion and such strong feeling can be nothing but a positive, even though this may negatively effect your own life in certain ways. Anyone who’s team has suffered a late-goal to lose a game and has subsequently spent the next week sulking can surely attest to this. I certainly can.

Now through the emergence of the blog culture and the proliferation of social networking we are seeing genuine changes in how we consume and communicate the sport. But how real are the opinions being put out? Can one truly be honest to themselves and still operate in a discussion based community? Or, as I theorise, do we simply end up operating in certain opposing roles?

There seems to be two very distinct tribes that you see operating within the football social-network community. The thinkers and the fighters. From the off-set I want to state that this piece is not going to try and state that one of these groups is right and one group wrong, or that one of these groups is more morally superior. It would be arrogant of me to try and push a single agenda so I’m going to try and remain as neutral as possible. So, how can we define these two categories?

The Thinker

Often writes their own blog pieces.

Uses social networking to engage in debate.

Will largely not wear their clubs heart on their sleeve.

Participates for respect.

The Fighter

Deliberately divisive behaviour, prone to aggression and volatility.

Will largely push their own club loyalties very hard.

Craves attention

Participates to re-enforce beliefs of own club and hatred of rivals.

This isn’t to say that writers specifically targeting and writing about their own club can’t fall into this first category, I can name you many writers that write fantastic pieces about the passion for their own clubs. Same can be said the other way, occasionally you’ll find non-affiliated fans who seem to crave volatility. Though by and large there are a majority that you can fit very loosely around these two groups.

The funny thing is that these two groups continue to rile up and antagonise each other, and in doing so, make there own logic and methods sustainable. They may look at each other and believe that their opposition is everything that is wrong with the game, though they need each other to sustain what is so fantastic about it, and that’s division. The thinker may look at the fighter and state that he’s not engaging in any type of discussion, is not opening his eyes to see greater possibilities and new experiences. The fighter will look at the thinker and state that they over analyse situations, that they have built themselves up to a state where they have potential lost touch with what they fell in love with in the first place. And that’s a simple game. Neither of these people is right. Passion should be the life blood of the game, but greater understanding of the game will come through research. Outright passion dictates a move away from logic, meaning there is always going to be an opposition between these two camps.

A good example of this would be the, in my opinion, fantastic site Zonal Marking, run by Michael Cox. For those not in the know Zonal Marking is a site focusing on the tactical analysis on the game, using chalk boards and such diagrams to demonstrate analysis of certain matches or players. ZM is clearly a “thinker” of the game. Interestingly in the last couple of months an account has been set-up called Zonal Bullshit, which then playfully (sometimes nastily) mocks the work of Zonal Marking. So on one hand we have a character who uses his time conducting in depth tactical analysis, on the other we have a character who uses his time parodying and mocking the same process. The second account is a deliberate attempt to antagonise the first, and quite the rational behind it is peculiar. Peculiar in the sense that it’s not surprising. Football, like every single entertainment strand, has it’s flows of opinion and some people like to draw attention to themselves by deliberately going against this flow. They push themselves away from collective conscious to try and find belonging by being unique. The Zonal Marking site is largely, and rightfully, revered in the football writing community. Zonal Bullshit is simply trying to find the same type of belonging but through a method of distancing himself from the popular culture.

This again brings up a point I raised within my last piece. How far would you go to feel like you belong? Would you alter your own thinking to fit in with the party line? If you’re operating in the methodology of the thinker then you’ll be aware of the social confines that apply. Essentially that if you want to be heard then there is a manner in which you should speak.  In operating within this system you will often have to tone down the ferocity of your own views so that people will still listen and people will still respect you. After all, nobody will take a ranting man too seriously all the time.

Economists have commented how society now goes out of it’s way to show that it conforms to it’s own rules. Take racism for instance, even subconsciously people will have at some point overtly made the point that they are not racist. We as a society likes to push ourselves to show how open, understanding and “modern” we are. The way we act in social networking is just the same. Economy is based upon benefit and reward, and there is a logic than can be applied to both the groups suggested here. The reward for both is this sense of belonging, whether that is through recognition or aggression.

Now I can’t comment on everyone, but a few that I have spoken with have agreed, that since engaging more in the likes of Twitter and engaging in writing blogs I have felt my own views softening on certain issues. I certainly am nowhere near as forthright as I used to be. In the process of taking in other peoples views and trying to remain open to discussion I have possibly lost part of the value my own views. Has a society that demands some level of conformity altered how we handle our own views and beliefs?

Perhaps it’s the thinker who could take a leaf from the fighters book. Be gone with the pure logic, for right or wrong they fight with their heart, not with their head, and there is something to be cherished within that. As Blaise Pascal once said, “The heart has arguments with which the logic of mind is not acquainted”.



Filed under Blog, Football

5 responses to “Touching The Void

  1. H&V

    Congratulations, great piece on a tough subject matter. I think the reward rather than being a sense of belonging, really does come down to the recognition you receive from your peers. On occasion at, we’ve taken a line or point of view which we don’t necessarily agree with, but which we ‘think’ deserves further analysis and discussion as sometimes the more divisive the subject matter, the more engaged becomes the audience. As well as this, I don’t think bloggers necessarily need to dumb down their views and opinion in order pander to audience expectation, in fact I think a balance of ranting outrage and reasoned evaluation is important and provides a more interesting read. A little “thinker” and a little “fighter” can go a long way.

  2. Thanks very much for your feedback. I agree that the fine balance between the two can certainly work wonders, though finding a consistancy to that, especially if you are so close to a subject or team it can be hard . We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve been pushed to the edge by opinions that enrage us. I certainly have many a time.

    This was of course generalised slightly, I’ve been trying to look at the subject of football and apply a notion of socio-economics to it and see hat conclusion could be drawn. Guess we’ll see how much legs are in it!

  3. Really good piece Jamie. Someone once told me that you shouldn’t say anything in the comments section of a blog that you would not be comfortable in saying to that person were you to be invited into their front room. You may disagree with a person’s views but one can argue without becoming abusive. At the moment, the football blogsophere is remarkably free of vitriol. I am really hoping it will continue to be like that.

  4. After much consideration I’d be hard pushed to to completely endorse either side of the discussion. would it be completely out of the question to suggest that it would depend on who you support? Or even which country you were from? I dare say being from Ireland my expectation of my national side differs from England’s perpetual disappointments.

    Perhaps in the chalk board vain of Zonal Marking, we could categorize with a ven diagram? Very thought provoking article,really enjoyed it.

  5. applebonkers

    Off to google Zonal Bullshit…

    Nice article, points two and four of ‘the fighter’ (basically the bias points) particularly annoy me. Whilst the site owner may poke fun at their own tinted specs there will be hundreds of readers who just gobble it up and become brain-washed, abusive disciples.

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