Twitter has become a part of the vocabulary of my life; in a good way I think. It’s going to sound laughably pretentious if I say for example that I have used it to watch Jeanette Winterson give a lecture on four modern sculptors but that’s true. It’s also true that I’ve tweeted a virtual beer or two with a certain former England cricketer and other matie mates in a way that fairly authentically replicates semi-pro quality blokeish banter (and I mean that most sincerely, folks) in a snug north country pub.
It is of course hugely addictive – particularly if, like me, you seek to use it at least partly to seek some mysterious ‘breakthrough’. I am sad enough to defend it, passionately even, on the grounds that my personal experience on twitter has been both enjoyable and even enriching. It depends on who or what you follow, I say. You follow morons you get banal or offensive crap. You follow @tate, let’s say or @paulmasonnews, @_PaulHayward, @DeborahJaneOrr or @adliterate, then you aren’t very often going hear “Just had me tea”. It’s about choices.
I’m choosing well I think and consequently am in touch – and it does feel that way – with really good people whom I may never meet but who contribute generously and importantly to my understanding and enjoyment of the daily flux. So I really was delighted when my mate @LineoutCoach (whom I’ve never met) landed a slot on the USA Eagles coaching roster. And I really was delighted when my mate (whom I’ve never met) @talprofs sharply deconstructed a contentious argument over bonus culture. There are other people – some now members of a near daily mob, bless’em – who likewise I have come to view as either supportive/like-minded/interesting or hilarious individuals that I look forward to seeing up there in the timeline. So I’m lucky.
Because twitter ain’t always like this.
I’m big into sport, right and forgive me for going over old ground but though I work in cricket and just about favour rugby over anything, I grew up in a footie household. Looking back to rosily or at least colourfully bruised-knee-days of endless, endless Backs and Forwards with rare but pleasingly radical eruptions of Kick Ball Fly, a football was all we had or wanted. Or so it seemed.
I still treasure hilarious pictures of me as Alan Ball, in my ‘flash’ (orange/yellow) Everton reserve kit with a number 8 imperfectly sewn on by Mrs Rawson. My shin pads extruding sideways from threadbare orange socks, my legs – my shins! – spookily skinny and almost entirely unprotected by the flapping but sartorially essential accessories. Playing first to ten goals and then change round; so matches twenty goals minimum. (Do the maths! Thirty-plus more likely.) Hours. Wonderful, daft and inspiringly communal games on the local park or legion field. That was footie.
Over this weekend, however, I’ve had the misfortune to see stuff on twitter and elsewhere that shockingly betrays that same game. After a seemingly endless campaign by Manchester Utd and Liverpool Football Clubs to undermine all possibility for proportionate or –dare I say it? – civilised sporting engagement, the despicable racist tweets many of us have seen or been subjected to(?) landed both shockingly but predictably. It seems very difficult to avoid a conclusion that points to a very deep ignorance somewhere. Much of my own heart feels that there are just unavoidably some low-slung losers out there with too little brain in them and too much bad. To hate that much, or to allow that much hate to well up over a football match – or a football issue – is… is sick, actually. But that’s a pretty dumb response. One many of us may need to revisit.
I know about and understand football or sporting rivalries. However I do not understand what’s been going on in the minds of Messrs Dalglish and Ferguson and everybody else allegedly charged with steering those two undeniably massive (but how could I use the word ‘great’ right now?) clubs. It’s been obvious for years that the rivalry has gotten out of hand. Therefore those men at the top simply have a responsibility, if not an inclination, to show some intelligence. Before somebody gets hurt. Before, actually, the game – remember that? – suffers through somebody or other letting the floodtide of bitterness spill over. (Ooh gor blimey look! There it went!)
How Dalglish can continue to be so darkly and so bitterly intransigent when the game needs a little lightness and a little help, quite frankly, is unreal. Even assuming, as I suppose we must, that he feels Evra has lied and cheated to get Suarez banned, is it not extraordinary that either Dalglish himself or someone close to him in the Liverpool hierarchy has not counselled for the bigger picture? The one that includes THE MEANING OF ALL THIS. To fail to accept that WHATEVER, it’s really important to show the world that (sports)people can get on and get over political or personal difficulties because sport is wonderfully freeing and generous and selfless by nature. Sadly nearly everything that Dalglish has done and said in that bluntly ungenerous way of his has been unhelpful in this and nearly every other regard. And Ferguson hasn’t been much better.
The Terry saga was likewise depressing last weekend in particular. For the gentlemanly handshake to be abandoned at QPR because certain players were going to refuse to shake the hand of an opponent is in itself a beautifully and ironically wrapped take-away symbol of designer-label cheapness. Sure it was a difficult situation. (So difficult that I’m not at all sure that I agree with myself as I stride so confidently towards the penalty spot that is my judgement..) But for professional footballers to be taking some high and mighty view of anything is pretty questionable (cue the dive) yet sure… understandable. Teammates want to stick up for teammates; quite possibly more than they want to stick up against racism(?) I can buy that. Maybe some of them even did feel deeply about the issues. But either the two clubs should have agreed that neither player would play, or the handshakes should have taken place. All of them. Because the game is the thing. And we need to keep talking and tweeting …about that.