On the Guardian website at the moment there is a 1000 word article: Football’s boos problem: why are we so quick to turn on our own team?
It is written by Paul MacInnes who is defined as a “reporter for the Guardian” and it goes through ten possible answers to the question posed above.
The theme is clearly set out in the opening paragraph: “The treatment of the England team and Gareth Southgate by their own fans at Molineux on Tuesday was loud, consistent and, in the words of those there, quite “unsavoury”. ,,, But perhaps we should also wonder a little more as to why it happened in the first place.”
In summary the answers to be found in the piece are
1: The performance was just poor. Four players are particularly noted (although the implication is that everyone was poor) and two of those are Arsenal players: Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka. I am sure that is just by chance that the writer picked 50% of his examples from Arsenal, but he gives no explanation.
2. The fans don’t like the manager because he supports taking the knee.
3. The style is boring and the manager doesn’t make enough of Jack Grealish (which the writer says is a legitimate complaint).
4, 2,000 children felt it was appropriate to boo after the 0-0 draw with Italy. Quite why that is a reason for this latest failure I don’t know, but there it is.
5. Gareth Southgate has been celebrated as manager for much longer than is normal, but all hero worship comes to an end.
6. Southgate is not Pep Guardiola. “In terms of personality and approach it is almost like Southgate is a man out of time.”
7. “Booing of the team you’re supposed to support” has become quite commonplace as fans now think anything other than perfect fails to justify mind-boggling wages.”
8. “People now invest so much in their identity as a fan that every failure is taken personally. This is compounded when it’s England: it’s not just you but your country that’s been slighted.”
9. “The lack of temperance common to online exchanges is seeping into the real world, that Southgate and his men simply received in real life what they would otherwise get on Twitter.” In essence, we are consumers and contributors to the debate. We can object so we do.
10, We’re fed up with everything, not just the football.
That’s a fairly comprehensive set of explanations, and yet one huge explanation is very noticeable by its absence, and this absence points to the very heart of the problem. The writer acknowledges there are other explanations but the fact that they aren’t mentioned suggests they are more fringe and less important. Yet the missing explanation is a biggie.
It is the notion that the way the media reports football influences the fans, and the way the media never accepts that its interpretation of football can influence fans is itself a big influence on fan behaviour.
Take this Guardian article for example. Nine different reasons for fans booing, and no mention of the notion that the way the media presents football in general and this match in particular, might itself have had an impact on fans is ludicrous bias.
The media (including this article) presents football from a distance – one or more experts passing on to us mere ordinary people what has happened, because (not to put too fine a point on it) we are not capable of understanding what has gone on without the media’s interpretation.
The media men and women get to sit in privileged positions, don’t pay for their tickets, don’t have long queues to negotiate, get paid for being there, get free “refreshments” and then tell us what we have witnessed. And why do they do it? Well, they never explain why, but one obvious reason is because they think we are so dumb that we can’t interpret the match ourselves and so need their help.
But once we include that part of the reality two new views are apparent. One is that the whole football journalist thing is a con, and we don’t need to be told how to see the match because we are quite able to do that ourselves. The other is that fans do need the help of journalists, and it is through the journalists’ help and support that we have come to realise that booing England at this point is a good idea.
In short, people boo the England team because the team are not living up to the hype created by the journalists.
To amend Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2, “the first thing we do let’s kill all the journalists”. I don’t mean that literally of course but at least to acknowledge that they are one of the 11 reasons why fans are so ready to boo might be a good place to start.
After which we could also acknowledge that the fact a 1000 word article on why people have the attitudes toward football that they do, makes no mention of the impact of journalism on the way people respond, either shows a total lack of understanding of journalism or is deliberately misleading.
Either way, it’s not good.
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