GOATs and absolutism; in football and life

After every El Clasico or, now, every round of Champions League matches, it rears its knackered, ugly head. One scores a goal, the other ‘merely’ assists a couple. ‘He’s a flat-track bully’. ‘Look at his stats’. ‘He’s a more pure footballer, you just don’t appreciate it’.

The Latin ‘ad nauseam’ wasn’t designed for this argument but if the cap fits…

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Few subjects will polarise football supporter’s opinion more than that of the tiresome, on-going Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo debate.

Actually, that is a massive fib. These days, nearly all football topics, primarily debated on the World Wild West that is the Internet, will feature some form of disagreement, ranging from a mutual doffing of caps at the end to threats to stab someone in the eye with a rusty fork. And that’s just pre-season friendlies.

Football managers, players and clubs as a whole will be relentlessly compared to each other. Various statistics and reasonings will be used in order to determine who is the Champion of Trivial Football Discourse.

Battles are often as furious as they are frequent. Your club’s history, your club’s current style of play, your Mum; all fair game. To be heard these days, it seems, one must shout louder and louder.

But even then, that is not enough. With social media, we have all had the microphone thrust in our faces. Everyone is looking, not even for minutes, but their fifteen seconds of fame. Hoping to get likes or retweets and the sweet, sweet dopamine hits that come with it.

But how does one get noticed in this regard? Well, sadly, it seems, the only way to stand out in the maddening crowd is to be the maddest, the most extreme.

You appear to be frothing at the mouth/keyboard regarding an assessment of Paul Pogba’s stint in England? You will most likely generate an equally robust response.

This argument will burn brightly and quickly until the next topic de jour plonks itself down at the table, like the weird, drunk uncle at your grandmother’s funeral, showing scant regard for the good crockery he’s just rattled.

This type of ‘debate’ isn’t just limited to the hyperbole of football. It seems to be evident in society as a whole. The Internet and Social Media has given a public voice, or forum, for us all to wax lyrically about anything we choose.

These days, it seems politics is the most prominent topic discussed. And why wouldn’t it be?

As an Irish person, with America to the left of us, Britain to the right, its nigh-on impossible for Steeler’s Wheel lyrics to seem more apt than ever (and that is saying something).

Both our near and far neighbours seem to be imploding at alarming speeds. With Donald Trump, partisan politics in America have never been more, err, partisan.

Supporters of both the Republicans and the Democrats are viewed through extreme prisms.

GOP supporters may be Southern, rural, ignorant or perhaps alt-right fan-boys. Democrats are middle-class, woolly-liberal snowflakes, who love chai lattes and being indignant about everything.

With Brexit, Leavers are deemed to live outside London, be ‘Little Englanders’, be avid readers of The S*n, whereas Remainers are considered of a similar chai latte-ilk as above.

While there may be elements of truth in both, as ever, when presented with two extremes of opinion on any subject, the answer will most likely be found in the middle ground.

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Given the split of votes in both America and Britain, both sides seem intent on shouting the other down, telling them their opinion is wrong. Yet no one is listening to the other side.

For the record, I am not a fan of Trump and I think Brexit will be a big mistake. But one cannot ignore the opinion of large swathes of societies.

People voted as they did for a reason. And they may be just and valid reasons. This can only be discovered through discussion, by engaging with one another.

Social Media has inadvertently given us the soapbox platform for all our views. Like when you go to use the camera on your phone and it opens on selfie-mode, we are caught out and are scrambling to avoid being seen how we actually are but how we perceive people want to see us (I seem to, invariably, look like a thumb with crudely drawn facial features and a wig FYI).

Opinions must be solidified and strengthened in extemis firstly, before being thrust out into the cruel, callous, often-pointless world of online debate.

Bigger divisions or disconnects between people appear to be emerging now in our society and it’s genuinely frightening.

People who have lots in common are drifting apart as they deem society values more the shouting of their differences as opposed to the more ‘low-key’ enjoyment of all that they have in common.

We need to engage more with our friends and family right now, opening the channels of discussion and appreciate what we have now or else, like with Lionel and Cristiano, we won’t know what we had got til it’s gone.

The Author

Niall Lanigan

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