For something that we choose to do in our spare time and which we often lavish daft amounts of money on, it seems as if all that football does, especially at the top level, is make us miserable. Every now and then a club will overachieve, beyond even the ludicrous expectations that we supporters have of our squad of journeymen, and for a while, we will bask in some rare sunlight. Leicester City are this season’s case in point in the EPL, a land where all is milk and honey, though let’s come back in 12 months time and see if everyone is still in the throes of ecstasy shall we?
By Dave Bowler
Beyond that, all seems to be doom and gloom. At Manchester United, you have Louis Van Gaal waking each morning to headlines that tell him he’s about to be sacked. Roberto Martinez gets roundly booed at Goodison as often as not because his side aren’t in the top six. Arsene Wenger seems to be perpetually on a tightrope with the Arsenal fans.
It isn’t just managers either. Plenty of players have turned off the twitter account given the abuse they get after games while Albion’s Chris Brunt took a coin in the face last weekend, thrown by his own supporters, after they were beaten in the FA Cup at Reading.
Wherever you go, crowds seem to be full of people who are either angry or looking for something to get angry about. The Premier League in particular has become a melting pot for dissatisfaction, presumably brought about by the relentless hype that surrounds the league and the hefty ticket prices they have to pay to gain admission to this velvet world.
Winners and Losers
The trouble is, with professional sport, especially when you are watching as a partisan and not a neutral, the cash to rewards isn’t that simple. In the arts, the bigger ticket price you pay, generally the bigger the star, the fancier, the spectacle. But when Springsteen walks onstage, he hasn’t got a bloke standing opposite trying to take his guitar off him or trying to make a different, louder sound to drown him out.
The Premier League crowd, understandably perhaps at those prices, wants its cake and something to eat it with. Football doesn’t work that way. It’s a competition. Competition, in whatever sphere – and pay close attention to this in a political season when candy floss heads would have you think differently – means winners and losers. And the darker truth in sport is that generally, there are a lot more losers than winners.
The idea of losing has become such anathema to that Premier League image of wins, goals, celebrations, that it cannot be tolerated. Even the most hardened football fan is lulled into this illusion that they are going to the game to watch a riot of success when as often as not, they will end up defeated.
Time was that they presented a useful life lesson to us all, because life is full of those ups and downs. But not any longer. Now our football teams have to win and, if they don’t, there has to be a reason, a scapegoat. It’s a microcosm of a society that says where there’s blame, there’s a claim.
Just wait for the day when someone takes Jurgen Klopp to court for making the wrong substitution, losing a game and cause someone terrible psychological distress. It won’t be far away.