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Why the instant coffee of football scandals should be a concern to us all

Let’s talk about Jamie Carragher spitting. No really, lets.

Firstly, let’s talk about how that opening line made you feel. Confused maybe: as if you’d stepped into a time machine or accidentally clicked on an article from Football Fancast’s archives. It’s certainly fair to assume weariness on your part. What, this again? Hasn’t it been done to death already?

And it has. It has been done to death but a little over a fortnight ago a very famous ex-footballer and pundit whirred down his window and, with a camera recording every moment of the lunacy, spat an arcing globule of phlegm into the face of a 14-year-old girl.

Already this astonishing development has been carbon-dated to the distant past. We have hitched up our wagons and moved to a new town to find something else to be amused, obsessed or offended by and should anyone bring it up now they may as well quote a line from Wayne’s World or make a joke about Pogs for all the relevance they bring to the discussion.

Does nobody else think this might be a little concerning?

At least in this instance – one of numerous scandals and talking points that this season has thrown up and that every season throws up – there was a rare example of closure with Sky’s suspension of their star putting a full-stop on the drama. It’s brought up here though because the Jamie Carragher farrago perfectly illustrated our short-term appetite for a story these days; a collective attention deficit that has us compelled and exhausted in a very short space of time meaning that scandals – mostly just titillating but occasionally in the realms of corruption, misfeasance and of the utmost seriousness – have the lifespan of a mayfly.

It’s a lifespan that naturally begins with the story breaking and for the first 24 hours there is mass excitement and shock and appalment peppered with some genuinely insightful initial takes. Whether it is Antonio Conte suggesting that a fellow Premier League manager has dementia or four West Bromwich Albion players nicking a taxi when drunk or Jose Mourinho indulging in a 12-minute unravelling or Dele Alli getting his tackle out (it’s surprising he didn’t dive at the sight of it) or the latest dishonour to befall UEFA we recoil and absorb then respond.

The following day all hell breaks loose. There is moral indignation and castigation. We want something done about it because this is the worst thing to happen to football since the last thing. Nothing else is discussed and it consumes us all. Timelines are uniform outrage.

On the third day – usually – comes acknowledgement from the guilty party and perhaps too an apology. Accompanying this are the ‘alternative takes’ from bloggers and journalists alike because simply stating that it’s a ‘bad thing’ isn’t enough anymore to gain any traction. So now there must be some form of revisionism a mere 48 hours after the scandal was revealed. An example of this occurred this week with the sight of a crying Steve Smith prompting all manner of tweets and articles that were disdainful of the mockery that greeted an Australian cricket team in disgrace. Enough now, the articles railed. We’ve punished them enough.

Oh so revealing were these think-pieces. Punishment? Is that what sporting scandals have solely become now? A sport in itself? Metaphorical lambs brought to slaughter for the falsely puritanical masses to feast upon? Sadly there is probably some truth in this just as there is substance to the claim that we have sated ourselves of umbrage at an event that has only just come to light.

Jamie Carragher laughing

It used to be where a newspaper would unveil a wrongdoing and hold back a juicy secondary exclusive to ensure the story had legs. Once that story was in the public domain other newspapers would investigate and unearth their own discoveries and over a period of time that story would mushroom into a sustained controversy explored from every angle.

Our collective outrage only formed a part of this. As the story evolved not only were there recriminations for those involved but crucially change would be demanded and consequential questions asked. How was this allowed to happen? How can we make sure that it never happens again?

Now, to use a rather clumsy and lumpen analogy, the protagonist of the scandal is an escaping convict tip-toeing along the outside of a prison wall. Our flashlight catches them and for 24 hours we hurl abuse at them then for another 24 hours we bicker among ourselves about whether they deserve further abuse. A sound is heard elsewhere – another escaping convict – so we shift the glaring light onto them. Meanwhile the original convict absconds and at no point do we avert our gaze on the hole in the wall, wondering how it came to be made never mind putting any thought to repairing it.

In the instant, intensive new way of reacting to scandal these considerations could be dealt with on the fourth day but here’s what happens then – I, along with hundreds of other bloggers, writers, and journalists, will pitch article ideas concentrating on such concerns to our editors. They will be declined out of hand because the subject is no longer topical. It’s old hat. People have grown bored of it and we’ve moved on.

Let’s talk about Jamie Carragher spitting. No really, lets. Let’s talk about what were the underlying reasons for a reasonable, rational, clearly fundamentally decent man, to emotionally implode in such a manner. Let’s talk about how we can address a corrosive culture in football that leads to players for a bottom of the league side to have the sheer arrogance to break curfew and get stonkingly pissed. Let’s talk about the staggeringly unfair expectation of maturity we place upon 21-year-old men such as Dele Alli.

Let’s talk about all of this like level, normal human beings.

But not yet though because there’s a new storm brewing. There always is. It’s time to get outraged all over again for an intensive three-day cycle before discarding the cleaned-off bones to history.

Article title: Why the instant coffee of football scandals should be a concern to us all

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