Cynicism is good for you. A necessary and highly amusing evolutionary benefit. It protects us from Trojan horses, Ponzi schemes and being the kind of people who like Keith Lemon. Yes, cynicism is good for you. In large, frequent doses.
But mainlining cynicism can land you with a debilitating addiction, slowly eking the joy out of everything until one day you wake up, cradling your new born baby to realise you’re only able to enjoy it ironically.
In the world of football writing/blogging/tweeting/polemicising (which is less a world, and more a sort of virtual early 90s smoking pub, only one where the opinionated guy who gets too drunk and refuses to engage with anyone else’s opinion is EVERYONE!) the trendsetting cabal of 25-35 year old males who vaguely remember pre-Premier League football in the same hushed, halcyon, semi-mythical tones that Junior Conservatives imagine Thatcher’s Britain, have decreed that everything about modern football that isn’t the actual modern football, is awful.
In an attempt to stave off my own personal cynicopalypse, I’ve been striving against my better judgment and instinct to see everything as a glass half full (except actual glasses, if they contain alcohol, which is only fair.) Some things, naturally, are impossible to be optimistic about or spin positively. Stubbing your toe. Paul Dacre. The concept of homeopathy, for example. But modern football and all it’s insidious horrors is much, much easier. So if you feel yourself slipping into cynical curmudgeonry whenever talk turns to your favourite pass-time, your one weekly escape from the slow creeping death and crushing disappointment of real life – try thinking about why modern football is actually, brilliant. I’ll help you….
All-seater Stadiums – They’re safer, cleaner, child friendly, female friendly with better views and less chance of being soiled, or encountering urine in any of it’s forms outside of the appropriate setting. Only in England could the significant improvement of socially exclusive death-trap facilities be a source of genuine complaint.
Small Plastic Flags – The kind of stand swamping tarpaulins and 20ft protest banner-cum-rugby goals that make up many an evocative 70s terrace photo may be visually impressive, but are also, frankly, rude. Who’s going to explain to little Timmy that he’s only allowed to see his beloved heroes in occasional sporadic bursts because some selfish melt 10 rows down has spent all night sewing the likeness of Rafa Benitez onto a parachute? Little plastic flags not only allow for the aesthetic illusion of fun, but also the awe-inspiring organised spectacle of a fascist rally. And what’s wrong with plastic? It’s a perfectly viable cheaply produced material. What do you want them made of, hemp? Hippies.
Kick Off Times – Once upon a time, all football took place at 3pm on a Saturday. Even midweek games. But Three 0’ clock is an awkward time. Neither late enough to completely sleep off a hangover nor early enough to do anything else with your day. 5:30pm however is perfect, allowing for a stress free journey, a full rewarding use of the daylight hours and deposits you back to earth from planet football at perfect pub patroning time. Even early kick offs, far from diminishing the jolly, actually make it much easier to pull an all-nighter, thus significantly increasing the length and enjoyment of your Friday/Saturday night. Win-Win.
Sky – Staggered kick off times are of course the product of the Sky Revolution. Once upon a time you had to spend a significant amount of your free time having conversations, cooking, visiting relatives, or humouring your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/little Timmy. This living hell was finally shattered by the arrival of Sky, allowing you to legitimately use the excuse “but the football’s on” quite literally everyday. Not to mention it’s superior coverage, punditry and analysis, it’s myriad of previews and retrospectives, it’s continued dedication to provide programming for the young and slow of mind in the form of Soccer AM, it’s completely unnecessary employment of exclusively attractive women…Sorry, what was it you were complaining about again?
High Wages – As long as football remains popular, it’s going to make money. Nothing short of the complete overthrow and destruction of our pig-dog capitalist system is going to change that. However, as capitalist systems go this is at least one where the workers own the means of production. In this case their feet. Football clubs rarely turn a profit, and certainly don’t do so at the expense of their labour force. The players themselves, strongly unionised as they are, can be handsomely rewarded for their graft while the higher ups are constantly encouraged to shell out millions to placate their consumer base. From each according to his need, to each according to his ability. It’s close enough.
Foreigners – What are borders? Merely arbitrary lines drawn on our ancestral colonial treasure map. But while we live in this myopic Farage-ian world, accusations will abide that ‘them lot over there’ have come over here, and made our lot over here, not as good as everyone else’s lot everywhere else. Once upon a time, before Eric Cantona and Dennis Bergkamp ruined our national game, the England team was replete with titanic talents such as Mark Hateley and Alvin Martin, and conspired to achieve sparkling feats such as one semi-final, a hand full of quarter-finals and several ignominious exits at international tournaments since 1966. Once the beastly foreign hoards had swamped our shores with their hideous technical skills, our brave Three Lions had to be content with cloggers such as Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, failing miserably in only reaching one semi-final, a handful of quarter-finals and several ignominious exits at international tournaments since 1994. Yes, foreigners have undoubtedly ruined our national team. But not theirs. All those Brazilians, Argentinians, Spaniards etc who’ve ventured beyond their national borders to experience other lands and cultures all seem to have returned a benefit to their national teams. So perhaps the problem is not the amount of ‘them lot over there’ we’ve let over here, but the paltry amount of us lot over here that refuse to go anywhere else.
MK Dons – Lets be honest, there are too many teams as it is. London for one can happily get rid of at least four. Where is Charlton anyway? The MK Dons may have come to symbolise the corporate raiding of a cherished community institution, but it’s nothing that Arsenal didn’t do a hundred years ago. In fact the Gunners’ journey from Plumstead to Highbury takes almost twice as long to travel on public transport now (let alone in 1913) than the relatively rapid 35 minute jaunt from London to Milton Keynes. In another century’s time a thriving institution will have grown up in the desolate concrete landscape of Buckinghamshire, while the people of Wimbledon, with their commons and their Tennis, will barely remember a time when Vinnie Jones was anything other than an annoying presence in grainy 2D standard definition films. All of which will hopefully have been destroyed in the great cultural purge of 2045.
The Big Four – The impenetrable bracket of privilege that is the big four has long been an unflinching signifier of the inequality and dull predictability of our Premier League. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are always…. Hold on, no, it’s Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. Wait, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea? Are Spurs in it? Either way it’s embarrassing in comparison to the open and expansive Spanish….No, sorry, Italian….Actually, erm. German? Yeah. There’s about three in there isn’t there. Is there? At any rate, Manchester United winning everything has ruined football. It was much better before, when Liverpool won ev…..Ah. Yeah well, kids these days, ey? And that music they listen to. Grrr! *shakes fist*
Corporate Hospitality – It may not seem like it, but Corporate Hospitality provides one of the most crucial and valued services in modern football. They prevent things like this from happening in pubs and on the terraces. Instead it happens where it rightfully should, in purpose-built mini novelty airport lounges.
Mascots – Mascots may seem at first glance like an indefensible aberration. The sight of Gunnersaurus solemnly bowing his big fluffy dinosaur head during a minutes silence for a nightclub fire or the idea of something like Moonchester even existing may seem unforgivable, but in this age of austerity they provide crucial job creation for even the most useless in society. They’re also good fun for the kids. God, why do you hate kids so much? What’s wrong with you? You monster.
If you can just take the time and effort to view modern football like this, it’s far more tolerable. Sure it’s forced, disingenuous and soul destroying, but then isn’t that what life’s all about?