Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Furies: The Mark Clattenburg Moment 2

On the face of it it does seem rather convenient that the club most recently in the press for racism should level the same charge at an official that has upset them.

It may be possible to wreak immediate vengeance on a referee for giving bad decisions (yes, they were bad decisions). It may be a way of warning referees off future bad decisions.

It may be that in the heat of the moment such possibilities arise unconsciously yet be looked for.

It may be there is a misunderstanding. It may be nothing has happened (one of the players withdrew the charge almost immediately).

It may be that Clattenburg was himself was so het up he resorted to racial slurs. With his experience and in the current heated circumstances, it seems unlikely, but it's possible.

It may be that Clattenburg is a racist in this sense.

Anything may be. For a referee, more than for a player, it is a very serious charge that may end their career.

How far you believe any of the above possibilities might depend on where you stand vis-a-vis the two teams involved. Or a third team that is uninvolved but with a particular like or dislike.


Hyperbole is the standard mode of discourse in sport. I am looking at The Guardian's minute-by-minute account of the match. In it the reporter, Scott Murray, who is neither better or worse than most Guardian sports reporters, employs the following vocabulary throughout: clowning, egregious, eejit, risible, horrendous, snoozing, aimless, appaling, preposterous, faffs, woeful, impotent, clumpish, inept, dismal.

The reporting, in itself, is neither risible, nor egregious. It is, in some respects, an example of what Reader's Digest used to call, Toward More Picturesque Speech.  That mixture of the posh schoolmasterly report (egregious, risible) and the streetwise (faffs, eejit) is a Guardian specialty, the slightly patronising cream on top of some bitter dregs composed of less picturesque, more limited language it thinks it is rising above. It works. It's what The Guardian reader likes and identifies with.

Don't misunderstand. I like picturesque language. It is my pictureque business, it's just that it is one of the conditions of the job that I mistrust it and get the full juice out of it right down to the dregs. If you are a poet the dregs too are part of the business and have to be.

I read football fan-sites with a mixture of fascination and horror. The intensity of fury, aggression and stupidity displayed by commenters is predictable. Talking tough is important. Hatred of rival teams is important. Personal hatred of rival teams' players is important until your club buys them, then, providing they are successful, they become favourites, their old hated characteristics slewn off as though they had never been. Unless they decide to ask for a transfer in which case the hated characteristics return. Hatred  of your nearest geographical rivals is vital, as is contempt for them.  Hatred of your historical rivals is also vital.  All the above are sine qua non for the fan.

In regard of your own team on bad days, immediate judgment in hyperbolic term is important. So and so is useless. The terms are not precisely The Guardian's but the emotion is the same. Calling for heads under those circumstances is important. Culprit seeking is important.

Loyalty to the team, is the chief virtue under all circumstances (the worst charge being disloyalty). Power is important ('We do what we want').  Moral superiority is important. I repeat that. Moral superiority is important. Other teams, supporters of other teams, are best characterised as moral trash, ie classless, idiots, crooks, degenerates. This is the door through which racism may enter.

The one saving grace is irony, but that is generally practiced by teams used to losing. Losing humanises you. Big successful clubs don't do irony, preferring the occasional shot at heavy-handed sarcasm.


There is something of the charade about all this of course. The fandom collective is the charade pit. Those who enter it may be like the old woman I once saw at a wrestling match who advanced from her seat to the ringside and attacked the 'villain' wrestler. The wrestler pretended to be afraid. Having spent her fury, the old woman turned to the spectators for a moment and giggled. Then she returned to her seat. A real fury was really vented - but for a moment she saw herself venting it - then she returned to the fury of the contest. It should be no surprise that the good 'blue-eye' wreslter on this occasion was from Norwich while the 'villain' wrestler was from Ipswich. The closer the enemy the greater the fury.

Neither the old woman nor the wrestler was hurt.

One more post perhaps.


Mark Granier said...

'The one saving grace is irony, but that is generally practiced by teams used to losing. Losing humanises you.'

Nicely put George. Outside of sport, I have always detested the term 'loser'. It smacks of ignorance and tunnel-vision. Give me irony any day.

George S said...

As you may guess I am entirely with you there, Mark. Incidentally John Mole writes to say how much he enjoyed your contribution to In Their Own Words. Thank you again.

Mark Granier said...

My pleasure George. And thanks for letting me know.