Lee Dixon is my favorite Arsenal player. I always loved the way he played the game. He is without a doubt my favorite football pundit. His insight is amazing. But his remarks on selfies are completely out of touch with the current era of football we live in.
Any Arsenal selfies out there tonight? Sorry petulant comment but you get my drift #playwineatsleeprepeat
— Lee Dixon (@LeeDixon2) December 13, 2016
It’s not just Lee either. It’s a wide cadre of pundits and swathes of fans – who criticize every little thing current players do they would never do – back in the day.
Back in the day.
This isn’t back in the day. Hell it’s not even sort of near the day. The back in the day crowd ignore this one simple fact – football has changed.
Now, you can argue whether football has changed for the worse or for the better. There are definite things that are for the better and some that aren’t.
As an overseas fan I love the globalization of the sport. It gives me access to my favorite team and I don’t have to spend around $1500 (airfare, hotel, food, drink, tickets, etc) every time I want to see them. It has also spread the beautiful game and England’s national past time to shores that may never have been exposed to it.
Globalization is also a scorn on modern football because it has made football a business not entertainment or sport. It has hurt the game with the insane amounts of
money that come into it that take the sport away from the everyday fan. Sport should still retain a local feel to it but the money that has come in has hurt that.
Gone are the days when teams were chock full of local lads or academy products. And while that has hurt the English game as a whole, many can’t argue that having a league that features players like Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez in it, is that bad.
What the current trend of social media has provided is access to a world we didn’t have access to before. Which is what many of the “old timers” seem to feel is that this is bad – the changing room is sacrosanct and shouldn’t be viewed by the outside world.
And it’s not just social media it’s their interviews and access to the media. Look at the furor Gary Neville, his brother Phil and Jamie Carragher started by telling Liverpool keeper Karius to “shut up” and just do his job after a poor performance where he was interviewed after it. Martina Hyde’s piece “Karius, the Nevilles and the worst of football’s established hierarchies” in today’s Guardian does a great job of covering this.
For these old school players and like-minded fans there are “third walls” that aren’t meant to be broken. Access to a players is one of them. But it ignores the changing dynamic of the world we live in.
Now, whether or not 24-hour information cycles are a good thing is another subject but the instant gratification of social media and the media in general is something fans crave for now. We want access to the players. We want to know more than just the score. And clubs, media, and the players are more than willing to participate in our newest obsession.
The current crop of players are more than happy to oblige. Okay, Lukas Podolski’s Instagram habits were over the top, but the guy comes across as accessible and gives a view into the life of our stars.
In the heady days of Hollywood we lived off of the tidbits of Hollywood beat reporters. Sports though never ventured there. Reporters merely covered the sport. It was left to the tabloids to try and cover our sports stars lives. And when the tabloids did, it was usually because something seedy and untoward was occurring. Now, however, we can look across a wide swathe of platforms and know more about our favorite players than ever before
Fans today young and even some older ones don’t mind getting this glimpse into their lives. We enjoy knowing what goes on behind the “third wall” that we don’t normally get access to. We like seeing our stars as teammates, friends and more importantly human beings.
Maybe this part of what the old timers are frustrated by – players are more than their club now. They are in the case of the big stars – brands. Brands have to have interaction in order to stay relevant as brands. It gives them exposure that maybe they would’ve liked back in the day. But the game has changed. Unfortunately, they are not part of the current paradigm that exists in modern football.
Players today want us to know they are people just not the entertainers. Many of them are young – most are young enough to be my son. That means like all young men, they like the latest toys and gadgets and trends and like to use them. They shouldn’t be crucified for doing what the rest of society is doing.
We are a voyeur-society now. There is nothing secret. Yes, it’s sad. You can find out anything you want to know about anybody. It’s a Pandora’s box and we’re likely not to get it back in – at least any time soon.
These are young men. If we want to criticize them for abject performances (like last night) fair enough there is plenty to be critical of. We shouldn’t ever loose that part of rights as fans (and even pundits). With regard to their social media habits – please give it a rest. If you’re a pundit be a pundit and criticize their performances on the pitch – not off it.