I DON’T LIKE CRITICS, OH NODon't you walk thru my words
You got to show some respect*
By JIM WHITE
IF EVER I am feeling a little too pleased with myself, whenever I think that I might have the answer, on the occasions I smugly reckon I have hit the nail right on the head, I have a simple method of pricking my own pomposity: I check out the comments under any piece I have written on the internet. Then I realise that I am, in fact, a worthless illiterate moron with an agenda bigger than Clarence Seedorf’s rear end who should never be employed writing about football again. The other day, beneath a piece I was reasonably pleased with, the first comment was succinct in its analysis: “another ten minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Why anyone pays this jerk for his opinions is one of the great mysteries of life.” And that was one of the more positive comments.
I can at least take comfort that I’m not the only one. Even the most distinguished of our trade are routinely beasted in the comments section. Martin Samuel, Paul Hayward, Patrick Collins: all of them are apparently idiots. I was recently enjoying a piece by Richard Williams which was so brilliantly argued and beautifully composed it should have been immediately placed at the centre of the curriculum of any university journalism course. And the first comment? “Another load of manure from the world’s most boring man. The sooner he retires the better.”
It is everywhere this vituperation. Broadsheet and tabloid, liberal and conservative outlet, every football writer is routinely soaked in vitriol. John Cross wrote a piece on the Mirror website a couple of weeks back saying that he understood Southampton’s owner Nicola Cortese was on the brink of sacking Nigel Adkins and was going to appoint Mauricio Pochettino in his stead. The first three comments under the item were instructive:
“What an absolute piece of garbage story,” read the first.
The second was: "The Mirror understands how to make up stories to make us laugh. Saints fans understand the Mirror is changing hands and that Nicola Cortese is to be appointed consultant to the new board who are about to clean out and clean up the rag. I wonder which story has any truth?”
While the third patrolled new frontiers of literacy to inform us that: “whoever wrot this is a f**k wit haha”.
The truth is whoever wrote this is a first class journalist with first class sources who had provided readers with a first class story. As was evidenced by the turn of events of the very next day.
But the commentators were not interested in such niceties as the truth or accuracy of Cross’s story. All they wanted to do was soak him in verbal ordure. And this is a rough summary of what any football journalist can expect the moment they venture into print these days. Or indeed on to the airwaves.
As Stan Collymore has long been aware. He was obliged recently to defend himself from sneerers on Twitter who had attacked him for being an ex-pro who didn’t go to university. What does he know about journalism? In his very cogently argued riposte, he pointed out how much hard-working pundits like him and Gary Neville bring to our understanding of the game. You wonder, though, whether any of those attacking him would have bothered to listen. They were probably too busy trolling Henry Winter for being a non ex-pro who did go to university. What does a snooty chap like him know about the working man’s game?
Of course, we have long known that Twitter and the comments section of any newspaper website are these days simply an extension of care in the community. They are the province of the goggle-eyed, providing an instant electronic reservoir of green ink for the socially unreliable.
The football section, however, does seem consistently to be the most hate-filled and ugly. And that, given what can be found under any item by Julie Burchill, is saying something. Football writing, it seems, has come to be regarded as an extension of the game, and football writers reckoned to be legitimate targets for the same kind of raw, personalised haranguing to which footballers are now routinely subject. It makes me wonder, perusing what passes for debate in the comments section: has there ever been a time like it?
*With apologies to 10CC’s Dreadlock Holiday