Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Is football damaging to society?

This is an article made partly in response to Kyle Norbury’s poem, arguing how football is damaging for society. You can read it here. While there are aspects of his argument that I can understand, I would argue that football has enriched my life and that of other peoples.

Kyle is a follower of football himself, but with regards to non-football fans, they often come up with wild assumptions about the sport. They feel it is damaging for people, and that they themselves are 'better off' not following it. I am not arguing that football fans are necessarily better off, merely disputing the fallacy that football is not as worthwhile as other ‘meaningful’ subjects, as many people seem to claim.

These opinions come from the state of 1980s football, when a lot of fans spent their time either being racist, or looking to fight another group of fans. My experience of the modern game is that it is not like that. If you go into a pub near a ground on a Saturday afternoon, which accepts home and away fans, there is no hostility at all. There might be a bit of mild banter, but there are no aggressive attitudes by any means. If anything, fans are interested to know how each other’s teams are doing, or which players to look out for. The idea that a thug culture is still prevalent is ridiculous.

Another reason some people don’t like football, is because of the money involved, yet the truth is there is money involved in everything. For example, Art is seen as a tool which gives people freedom of expression. To me, it’s nothing more than a get rich quick scheme. For example, there is a painting called ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’ by Pablo Picasso. It features a head, a plant, some bizarre body of what looks like a sea creature, and a bit of fruit. The piece was sold for over a billion dollars.

I would not want to criticize art for that, because I would be leaving myself very much exposed to the argument about footballers’ wages. However, the claim that it is better to be interested in art because there is unjust sums of money involved in football, is ridiculous. There are unjust sums of money involved in everything, yet football often gets the blame from those taking the moral high-ground.

Let’s look at politics. People take an interest in politics, but personally I feel quite apathetic about it. I have a semi-sympathy for politicians, because they are the only people who are enough of a bastard to want to be in a position of power. Without ‘bastards’, a country would go into a political vacuum of indecision. People criticize them for not being open and honest, yet if they were, they would not be in power, because the majority of people would disagree. The only way for a political party to get anywhere electorally, is to lie to people and make a series of promises that they know perfectly well they cannot keep.

If you ever watch Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, all you see is the Labour and Conservative parties bickering with one another like school children. They are not even addressing the real issues, simply looking for a way to win the argument and say whatever makes them look better to the public, or demeans their opponents. A lot of people have very strong opinions on politics, but I do not care too much. Most people I know hate the Conservatives, but I’m not so sure that they are any worse, or better, than Labour.

Since Tony Blair, things seem to have remained a constant. We’re still at war with Iraq and Afghanistan, all of our prime ministers have been completely in bed with Rupert Murdoch, because of his power. On a more global scale, we live in a society where almost half of the world’s wealth is owned by just one per cent of the population. Politicians could try to do something about this, but the catch-22 is, anyone who would initially want to do something about it would, generally, not choose to be in a position of power. And yet, it is somehow healthier to be interested in politics than in football?

Football does not matter at all, but who cares? The fact that it does not matter - the fact that it is so pointless - is what makes it brilliant. The idea that something has to be intrinsically meaningful and poignant to be worthwhile is a very flawed argument.

Personally, I’m quite a deep thinker. And that is something that I don’t particularly like. I would never choose to spend time worrying about the concept of infinity, what created the universe etc. They are quite daunting subjects, and nothing positive comes out of trying to answer them. Somewhat insular and self-limiting though it might sound, it is better to get engrossed in something that does not really matter, rather than worry about things that do.

For example, I used to get really worried about the possibility of Birmingham City getting relegated. Nowadays, I still care, but not quite in the same way. We went down from the Premier League three times in my first eight years of supporting them, and you learn to cope with it. Deep down, I know that if we do get relegated, it has no impact on my life as a whole - plus there’s always next season - and that thought can be quite comforting.

By contrast, if you spend time thinking about politics, that is by no means more rewarding. The only way to know about politics is to read the papers, most of which prefer to stew in the negativity to make money, rather than address anything positive. What is to be gained? Personally, I’m bored of the lies politicians come up with, I’m bored of hearing about the inequalities of the world. Ignorance is bliss, as they say.

In Kyle’s poem, he argues that kids’ passion for football disrupts their academic progress and hinders their future career. I would agree that if, as a boy, you put all your energies into following football, it means your grades suffer. By playing it in the playground, going to matches, watching games on TV, looking at stuff about it on the internet, you don’t have as much time to focus on your school work. Having said that, I would also point out that subjects like Textiles, French, R.E., History, Art, Music, are nearly as pointless as football, but evidently not as interesting to most young lads.

However, a knowledge of football can actually benefit people in their careers. Football is one of the most popular subjects in the world. At most work places, there is office banter about who supports who. Football gives people an opportunity to join in, become part of the group, and develop strong working relationships. In this situation, it is the people who consider themselves ‘above’ football, who are ultimately left out.

A lot of people find football interesting, and it gives meaning to people's lives. It might be mundane and it might not actually matter, but who cares? I'd rather be thinking about football, than get bogged down by the bigger issues. People who aren't interested in football might have more money, but that doesn't mean they are better off. They will never know what it feels like to beat your rivals, or win the cup. To me, the things that actually matter are quite boring. A football match or a meeting at the House of Commons? I know where I'd rather be.

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