Fulham play Tottenham today. It’s too bad Harry Kane is injured, because seeing him and Andre Schurrle in close proximity always makes me think of a certain cartoon duo:
Fulham play Tottenham today. It’s too bad Harry Kane is injured, because seeing him and Andre Schurrle in close proximity always makes me think of a certain cartoon duo:
On being nine points clear at the top of the table…
I would really wish that you would all try to, I don’t know, we switch – you come here and I go there. Tomorrow it could be seven and then we play against Man City and it could be four, it’s possible. I’m not the smartest person in the world but I’m really not an idiot – not always at least! So it’s really nothing, it’s absolutely not important how many points you are ahead in December, even if it’s the end of December. So what you all create, and I get that, how can you not be positive about us? But all of you are the first, if we drop three points, the next headline is ‘Are they nervous now?’
So that’s an easy job. I would love to be in your situation. We cannot play that game and we don’t do it. Before the game, we all heard about the result of Tottenham, but do you think the party started already? I didn’t see a smile on any face in the dressing room. We came here in this situation with 54 points after 20 matchdays with completely being focused on the situation, and now it’s not about creating headlines, creating stories, it’s still about preparing football matches, play them as good as you can and try to get as many points as you can. That’s it.
On whether it will be different going to Manchester City as the league leaders on Thursday…
What do you think? When we went to City last year, do you think I had the table in the dressing room and said, ‘We are fourth, they are first?’ It’s just not important, we wanted to win the game. We wanted to win the game – the league game, which we obviously didn’t do but we wanted to win it that day and I think everyone who remembers it saw that. The only thing that has changed is that you all ask [about] it, that’s all. It’s not a problem, you can ask what you want. We go to City not with whatever-point distance, we only go there to try to play the best football game we can play. 100 per cent.
On whether the challenge is different depending on whether you’re chasing or leading at the top based on his experiences at Borussia Dortmund…
No, it was not for us [at Dortmund]. That’s the only thing I really remember, that it was not for us and we never thought about it. We were four points ahead for a while then we had Bayern at home. We won the game and Bayern missed a penalty, then we had six or seven points but the next game was the derby and stuff like that. It is a supporters and journalists’ game [talking about the points gap at the top] – and that’s absolutely OK, play it. But we cannot – we cannot be part of it, absolutely not. The only thing that can get annoying after a while is answering the same questions, so maybe you think a little bit about what you ask and not all the time the same! Then you will make my life easier!
You might think there’s nothing sweeter about being a Liverpool fan right now than seeing the club leading the Premier League while playing fantastic football, but I don’t know, I think I enjoy seeing Klopp treat the British sports media with the acidic contempt they so richly deserve just as much, maybe even more. And like I said before, he gives good copy, so they have to keep coming back for more, even as he reminds them again and again how trifling they are.
Instead, the Sterling affair has been blown up into a political football to be used in the favourite game of British snobs: giving all common football fans a kicking as racist thugs, sticking the boot into the tabloid press for allegedly stoking prejudice and violence, and demanding stricter policing of both. Behind all that lurks the fashionable belief that working-class Brexit supporters are a bigoted mob.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Spiked article about the snobbish Elites looking down upon the People with fear and contempt. Spiked, the stopped clock of online magazines, has found its twice-daily occasion to be correct. (It’s even more touching that Hume, a torch-carrying Trotskyist, should finally have the chance to be right about something for a change.) For those blissfully unaware, during the Chelsea/Manchester City match a couple weeks ago, the television cameras caught several Chelsea fans shouting abuse at City winger Raheem Sterling as he went behind the goal to retrieve the ball for a corner kick. Thousands of amateur lip-readers quickly formed a consensus that one fan in particular had called Sterling a “fucking black cunt.” (American readers may or may not be aware that the dreaded c-word doesn’t carry the same offensive gendered connotations among our British friends; the outrage was over the modifier.)
This sparked a great National Conversation about the specter of racism in football. The Daily Mail, which never saw a barrel-bottom it wouldn’t lick for clicks, helpfully published the scoundrel’s name, age, and address, with a bonus picture of his house, no doubt to facilitate healing conversations between him and well-wishers in the community, and later gleefully snickered at his “having a moan” over losing both his job and lifelong season tickets. The Guardian, which responds to a hint of social injustice the way a flaccid male member responds to a dose of Viagra, temporarily eased its attempts to proselytize for women’s football in order to testify to the omnipresent menace of racism. Nike, fresh from sponsoring Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling rebellion, quickly bolstered its own woke credibility by producing an ad with Sterling. The media spotlight attracted plenty of other people looking to insert themselves into the story somehow. Inevitably, we were reminded that racism is always and forever everywhere, even, or especially, when it doesn’t seem to be anywhere.
Lost in all the furor and soul-searching was the villain’s insistence that he had called Sterling a cunt of the Manc variety, not the black one. (I assume residents of Manchester don’t yet qualify as a protected species under hate-crime laws.) There seems to be a question-begging circularity to the whole spectacle — how do we know he didn’t, in fact, say “Manc” instead of “black”? The shape of one’s mouth appears plausibly similar in both instances, and unless Britain’s CCTV surveillance has gotten even more quasi-totalitarian in recent years, I’m pretty sure we don’t have conclusive video analysis of how, precisely, the blackguard’s tongue was pressed to his teeth in order to form his consonants. The answer seems to be, well, wouldn’t you expect a racist to feign innocence like that? A cynic might suspect that we’ve invested too much in the story to have it all fizzle out over something as prosaic as the facts, so even if it’s not literally true in this instance, it’s generally true that there are racists out there who would say such things, so we should testify to that higher truth anyway. Besides, who would say that there’s anything wrong with a mass revival denouncing racism? I think you know who.
All in all, there’s no redeeming moral to the story. It’s just a sordid spectacle that makes a misanthrope out of the observer. But yes, when the man’s right, the man’s right. This was largely a solidarity-building exercise for a familiar type of pious liberal for whom the threat of racism would have to be invented if it couldn’t be found already existing. Like war games on the cultural level, it’s an opportunity to rehearse maneuvers and test weaponry. But if there’s one thing British sports journalists love more than sermonizing, it’s reveling in drama surrounding Jose Mourinho, and a merciful God delivered just that opportunity this week by having Mourinho finally get fired as Manchester United manager, thus sparing us from further ritual penance.
“Look, I think my smartest decision in life was not to use social media,” Klopp said. “I don’t read it if people criticize me on social media. They can write whatever they want and it never would faze me because I don’t know it. I don’t read it, so I don’t feel it.
“I never really thought it right if you listen to people, they don’t show you their face — if you want to tell me you’re not happy with me, tell me now, but don’t go out and write it on your smartphone and put it on Facebook, Instagram, whatever.
…”Obviously, in their rooms when they write, they don’t care about the person. Not only Loris — [they care] about nobody. They don’t care. It’s like they have a lot of power in that moment and they use it, but power is two things. When one has power, the other one who feeds it and so I really would say it’s a good idea in life to really don’t get in these things.
“I’m not sure that it will happen, but maybe one time, we can start talking again and don’t write messages to each other.”
I’ve joked before that I could compile a bunch of wise sayings into a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Jürgen Klopp and Cesar Millan. Maybe I actually will, just for my own amusement and edification. But seriously, I love this man. He’s a Stoic sage for an emotionally-incontinent age that doesn’t deserve him. I’d vote for him in a heartbeat. Hell, forget voting; he could seize power in a coup and I’d just shrug and say, “Eh, democracy was always overrated anyway.” Good thing he’s just a football coach.
It is not my cup of tea. I am not interested. I am interested in what we do that is best for us. That is all. And all the stories around? You can not imagine how cool life is when ignoring them. They are not important. In football, and in the world of news, the next day they will chase another pig in the village, as we say in Germany. You talk about this today and tomorrow something else.”
British football media, especially during the biannual transfer window, is like an ultra-concentrated example of everything that’s wrong with media in general in the age of 24/7/365 “news” you can’t use. Granted, in a field which on most days contains very little substance worth reporting, journalists are forced to get creative in throwing text against the wall of a deadline to see what sticks (I laughed at this recent example, where the writer spends the first two paragraphs acknowledging and half-apologizing for yet another column about a tired old topic, before enlisting Dante’s help in meeting the word count). Still, it’s impossible to not feel contempt while watching journalists run around like hyperactive toddlers, first chasing this ephemeral story, then that one.
But rather than hand out anodyne answers like a beleaguered homeowner on Halloween glumly resigned to participating in the sugar-coated protection racket in hope of keeping his house from getting egged, Klopp always manages to slip a little razor blade of media criticism into his responses. So often, the subtext to his answers is, “This is a tedious question, and you are a shallow person for asking it.” It’s especially funny seeing him call reporters out for their favorite meta-game, asking for comments on irrelevant narratives which they themselves invented to fill out their talking points. And yet, he gives good copy, so they can’t stop coming back for more. “Please, sir, may we have another?” It’s almost as entertaining as watching Liverpool on the pitch.
“And all the stories around? You can not imagine how cool life is when ignoring them.” This little maxim holds true even, or especially, outside of its original context. I’m tempted to print it out and tape it to the top of my monitor.
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.
Oh, yeah, just so you know, if I’m not around as much for the next month or so, I’m busy. Today, f’rinstance, I just wanted to enjoy the Spain-Czech Republic game without encountering my longtime nemesis, Commentators Whose Pattern-Seeking Software Has Gone Haywire. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so.
Alejandro Moreno: If you’re a Spanish national team fan, you may want to turn away right now and not listen to this.
Max Bretos: *Giggles*
AM: Spain — this is fact —
MB: A great tease, by the way! You have my undivided attention!
AM: Spain has never won on June thirteenth. Never. Five matches. One draw —
MB: Start the bus, everybody!
AM: Four losses, including the catastrophe and the disaster against the Netherlands in the World Cup.
MB: And this is — it’s just a date, but then you said, it’s a, it’s a big sample size of games, so suggests there’s something more to it.
AM: Just make of it what you will. Just giving you a fact.
A fact! Why, it’s practically a scientific certainty, I’d say! How’d that turn out? Oh. Even with that, uh, big sample size? Golly!
Anyway, once I pried my palm off my face, I promised the gods a year off the end of my lifespan if they would let Spain win. Well worth it.
That was one of the most incredible games I’ve ever watched. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight. Mother of Gawd, what a stunner. Just…just…goddamn.
Like any Liverpool fan, I was elated by the appointment of Jürgen Klopp as manager in early October. Having been a longtime fan of the Bundesliga, and of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund team, I was giddy with anticipation. And while the style of football has already begun to live up to high expectations, the real treat has been listening to the man discuss his philosophy as a manager.
I’ve seen exquisitely talented players, exciting teams, and thrilling games as an LFC fan. The current signs of renewal at pitch level, while certainly welcome, isn’t completely novel. What has been a delightful surprise is the way he’s dealt with the typical breathless and brainless manner of the English media — their ubiquitous tropes, their fatuous clichés, their shallow obsession with titillating gossip, their self-serving narratives with unwarranted sweeping conclusions, and, of course, their relentless, frenetic hype.
In this extended interview with Sky Sports, we have almost a “greatest hits” compilation of the themes he’s been expressing since his arrival. In vain, he once again tries to make clear that superstar players do not appear, fully developed, from a vacuum — they are made through training, management, and above all else, time and patience. Football, like life itself, he keeps reiterating, is mostly about hard work with a little bit of luck, but journalists, like impatient children, want something more glorious and glamorous. The press desperately wants to hear stories of superstar players being bought for ridiculous prices, but he keeps reminding them that today’s superstars were yesterday’s squad players struggling for playing time (while being dismissed by an attention-deficient media as expensive flops or has-beens). In response to a generic question about what would constitute a success for Liverpool this season, Klopp reminds him that even successes, such as Liverpool winning the Carling Cup in 2012, are treated with bored indifference (whereas an early exit from the tournament would have been gleefully pounced upon). Arsenal have won the FA Cup for two years straight, but, as he points out, the dominant media narrative is to scorn them as perennial failures for not having won the league in over ten years. Nothing is ever good enough by these standards, and the only thing that seems to matter to journalists and fans alike is affecting a smug, knowing, jaded posture — “Oh, isn’t it all just so obvious.”
“Why should the world be like this?” Klopp asks this about the callous disregard the media have for players who have — in their eyes — outlived their novelty or usefulness. When you demand that I should buy these four players who will supposedly help me win the league for sure, he says, you’re overlooking that four other players will lose their jobs as a result. What happens to them? Do we care? Do we blithely assume that they will do fine somewhere else, in some faraway league we’re not interested in, where all the losers and second-rate players go? Do we secretly resent all of them anyway for being young, beautiful, rich athletes and take a small measure of delighted revenge upon them by gloating over their fall from grace? What a petty, sad way of going about “enjoying” your favorite game. Why should the world be like this? Klopp is far too savvy to ask this out of innocence; it comes from his self-assurance. What matters most, he dares to say, is treating people like human beings and having fun without concern for what others will say about it. The fact that this is absolutely heretical to a class of noxious, superficial people who care about nothing but money, status and gossip makes it all the sweeter.
I had always daydreamed about a manager who could win big games and titles for LFC, of course. But a manager who could puncture the fraudulent bubble economy of media self-worth by speaking plain common-sense truth? I never imagined such a thing was possible, so much so that I didn’t even know I wanted it until I saw it happening.
My first thought upon hearing about the arrests of FIFA officials was “What, only six?” But as I read some new posts and revisited old ones, I found myself feeling more skeptical about the moralizing zeal surrounding the whole thing. Eh, whatever will be, will be. Qatar 2022 was probably just a bit too blatant to be ignored, and nobody likes the nouveau riche anyway. The real takeaway is the escalating tensions with Russia. It amuses me to imagine trying to sell the Myrrhkin people on that: “We’re going to war over the fuckin’ World Cup?” If anything could cause this nation to suddenly discover its inner peacenik…