Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp
Last Monday week Liverpool went to London and had the temerity to draw 1-1 with West Ham.
Big deal, you’ll say, and you’d be right. As if Liverpool were going to win every game between now and the end of the season. As if the Hammers, erratic and therefore a dangerous proposition for the top teams, were going to roll over on home turf.
Not so, according to the reaction in the media and on social media. Liverpool were “bottlers” (that cheap, lazy and very modern verdict on the slightest setback). They apparently had handed the title to Manchester City. They at any rate had handed the initiative to City.
And so on and so forth to the point of tedium, with Jurgen Klopp being accused of every offence from fraudulence to murdering Bambi and kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.
And all of this after the draw against West Ham had pushed Liverpool three points clear of the champions..!
The communal bedwetting prompted a fine article from a chap called Daniel Storey on the website Football365. These days, Storey argued, nobody wants to read that everything is fine.
“Nothing sells like bad news. Call someone a fraud and people click to enjoy them being called a fraud and get angry about them being called a fraud. Easy.
“That tendency towards crisis reporting has been exacerbated by the glamorisation of extreme opinion, a phenomenon that applies to far more important subjects than football. ‘Twitter reacts’ has become an undeserving but common headline… Social media has enabled antisocial people to become social. Someone who would normally have had an outrageous opinion dismissed can now find like-minded and often anonymous individuals who share it.”
Exactly. Whereas the rush to judgement has always existed, the rush to judgement is now facilitated and exacerbated by social media.
No nuance. No context. A refusal to acknowledge the big picture. A Gadarene rush to apportion blame because, well, I have a Twitter account and by God I’m gonna use it.
Like the Miller in Rumpelstiltskin, many of the Twitterati say the first thing that comes into their heads. And why? Because they can. There is no other reason.
As the acclaimed French false nine Rene Descartes put it all those years ago: Tweetio, ergo sum.
By way of a contrast, ponder the following.
It is not every day that Kilkenny hurling fans react with near-unanimous equanimity to a heartbreaking late defeat. Last July at Semple Stadium marked one such occasion.
The All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick was an epic struggle. Brian Cody’s team were pipped at the post by a bunch of youngsters in green who produced a screamer of a finish. They might have won had John Donnelly been awarded a stonewall free with Kilkenny a point ahead in the closing stages. They might equally have been well beaten but for the brilliance of Eoin Murphy.
What was refreshing was that the reaction from the Kilkenny fans took all these factors into account. The fact that Limerick were slightly the better team on the day and had timed their late run to perfection. The fact that an emerging Noreside outfit, badly missing Walter Walsh, had died with their boots on. The acceptance that a place in an All-Ireland quarter-final was about the county’s limit in 2018.
Above all there was the realisation that the problem with an epic struggle is that, no matter how epic it may be, someone still has to lose.
Hence the context, the nuance, the acknowledgement of the bigger picture and the absence of a rush to apportion blame. Unlike with Klopp and his boys last week.
Liverpool are having a terrific season. There’s just one problem. They’re having a terrific season in an age where Manchester City’s stupendous – and stupendously artificial – wealth has torn up the rulebook and made the Premier League title infinitely harder to win.
Someone has to finish second in 2018-19. Chances are it’ll be Liverpool. But that won’t make them failures or frauds or bottlers. Please try and remember this.
Having said all of the above, I wouldn’t be advising Kilkenny to lose another epic All-Ireland quarter-final in the last few minutes this year…
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.