I think I’ve just about reached breaking point. Whatever fun is left from the spectacle of football – which still brings me great joy, and is rarely bettered than Liverpool’s first goal at Watford – is lost in the maelstrom of hate, negativity and just downright nastiness. It’s spiteful, immature and depressing, with spoilt brats seemingly incapable of handling their team drawing a football match. Mostly it comes from men, many of whom may also be fully grown.
Warning: there will be rambling. And foul language (nuns and priests, click off now). And it may take up 30 minutes of your time. There will be a look at Liverpool’s current predicament, but also my (latest) despair on how general football discourse is going, and how everything gets skewed by fury.
…Remember, remember: the more you want and need something, the more you grasp for it, and the more your world dissolves when you don’t have it. Because, if you need it, then you are in a state of “lacking”. Only wins, or the title, can remove the sense of unworthiness, which spreads around Twitter due to the constant “banter”, in the echo-chamber, and in the way misery loves company.
He may sound like an aspiring Buddhist who hasn’t quite got the knack of keeping his equanimous poise, but Tomkins is just a long-time journalist and a diehard fan of Liverpool FC who has arrived at a conclusion already occupied by many others: social media makes everything worse, even — or especially — the things you love.
My father once asked if I regretted not pursuing a philosophy degree. I laughed it off by noting that my former professor lived in a townhouse and drove a Ford Pinto, and I had already achieved that level of success without the crushing debt of graduate school on top of it. I was being jocoserious, of course; a lack of passion for teaching, rather than a fear of debt, was the reason for that particular road not taken. But even had I pursued something like what Damon Linker described — a humble existence as a teaching professor at a small liberal-arts school — I doubt I’d be happier than I am now as an autodidact and anonymuncule. I knew when to stop, and that has made all the difference.
Like a sideways-8 infinity symbol, the dogged pursuit of happiness often seems to wind around and turn back upon itself. It seems perfectly logical — what could be more fulfilling than a job that requires a complete focus on your favorite sport and your favorite club and pays you to write about them? What could be better than doing so in the company of countless other people who also share your passion? And yet, we always forget — those same people love to complain incessantly. They love to pick fights over nothing. They love caviling and kibitzing even when they have nothing valuable to add. And social media amplifies, magnifies and intensifies all the negativity to the point where even a Buddhist master would struggle to avoid being dispirited by it all. Maybe, like George Carlin joked, the answer is to ignore your team when they’re doing poorly, and only jump back on the bandwagon when they’re winning again. Life gives you more than enough opportunities to build character through suffering; it seems perversely masochistic to turn a beloved hobby into yet another one.