When a small section of Chelsea fans disrupted the minute’s silence during the FA Cup Semi final against Liverpool, I wasn’t thinking ‘ignorant morons’ as I should have been, I was contemplating when football fans had lost the ability to be silent.
This wasn’t the first time my thoughts had meandered through this subject. Watching Liverpool’s FA Cup 3rd round match against Oldham I came to the conclusion that people have lost the capacity to be silent and still.
Before the Liverpool v Oldham match the players gathered around the centre circle and an announcement was made that there was going to be a minute’s applause for the late Gary Ablett, who had sadly died the week before at the age of 46. As I watched the bored expression on Steven Gerrard’s face I couldn’t help but think that he didn’t even know what he was clapping for. He was just doing it because everyone else was. No silence, no remembrance, no thought.
The gesture of offering a silent minute of contemplation to show respect to those that have died is dignified and traditional. It is a time to think about that person and remember them in your own way and how they touched your life. It’s a tribute to their life and their death. Now I used a word in there that isn’t always associated with football fans and that is the word ‘think’. It takes thought and the ability to sustain that thought for a whole 60 seconds. Easy you would think but in a world full of distractions 60 seconds for some people is an eternity. Clapping fills an uncomfortable void.
It’s not just the minute’s silence that has been modernised with its own little hand jive; football itself is no longer enough to maintain a football fan’s concentration.
I blame Rupert Murdoch.
If he’d never given Andy Gray that bloody electronic pen would it have all been different? Watching football used to be just about viewing what was happening in front of you, watching the game, analysing the play and discussing the action being played out for your own entertainment. Then Andy Gray turned up with his magic marker. Suddenly football had to include drawing on screens to show us what was blindingly obvious but took away the ability to realise it for ourselves.
Sky then produced a most disturbing development, Player Cam. Now you could watch the match with an added sense of voyeurism by selecting a player to follow around for 15 minutes, watching his every move through a lens. You’ve never felt grubby until you’ve watched David Batty scratch his bollocks whilst he waited for a ball to be passed to him.
It isn’t just televised football that has to be multifaceted now, actually being at the ground has to include a multitude of distractions. There is a fan who sits in front of me at Hillsborough who spends much of the match scrolling through his iPhone checking out what is happening at other matches. It’s no longer deemed enough to be physically watching the match; he must be watching clips of Jeff Stelling and tapping at the interactive scoreboard on his Sky Sports app. This man also misses about 20 minutes of each match going for beers and a piss but that’s another story. My point is that footballing action is happening a few metres away from his face but his hands need to be fiddling with something else like a chronic masturbator.
The recent episode that cemented this notion of football multitasking happened at Hillsborough during the 4th Round replay against Blackpool. My iPhone friend had been replaced by a lad of about 17 sitting with the rest of his family. About 20 minutes into the match he pulled a pair of Craig David headphones out of a rucksack and a netbook. Fascinated by what he was about to do I watched him set up the laptop. I was wondering if he was a sports journalism student about to make notes on the match. I was wrong. The lad loaded up WWF wrestling match and watched it for the rest of the match.
Now this wasn’t the greatest match ever, we were already losing 3-0 and the temperature was -5, but there was football being played (by Blackpool) right in front of him. He must have also paid money to get into the match but yet he decided to watch two greasy looking men in fluorescent pants, fake a fight. It made me angry. If I had to suffer watching Wednesday then so should he!
If these fans can’t even concentrate when something is happening in front of them then what hope does the minutes silence have when they have to stand and be reverent? Clapping has become the acceptable alternative as it gives fans something to do whilst they pretend to remember the dead.
It won’t be long before there is an app for football fans to download that will do the clapping for them and no energy will have to be exerted at all.
I for one will continue to respect the silence until my attention span begins to…….