My name is Alex and I’m taking over this column from the shamelessly lazy NFFC Blog. I used to be the editor of the Forest fanzine and website lost that loving feeling (LTLF), which is still going strong under a new editor. For just under a decade, LTLF has been providing fans with a place to air their views (including the aforementioned lazy git at NFFC Blog). I know that sounds like blatant self-promotion, but bear with me, because it leads me nicely onto my topic for this article: the joys, and perils, the internet holds for football fans.
Due to other commitments I wasn’t at Saturday’s vital win over Coventry City and wasn’t able to listen on the radio, so I had to rely on internet match reports to gauge how the Reds fared. The consensus seems to be that it was “most definitely a game of two halves, albeit one in which Forest earned their three points”. You see, the internet in all its wonderfulness allows you to get instant viewpoints from committed fans such as Alex Campbell who writes on Just Got Back or the guys at eighteensixtyfive who share their verdicts in a weekly podcast.
When I miss a game I don’t have to rely on the scant press coverage our league receives to get a summary of the game – I can get detailed reports, home and away, from people whose quality coverage belies their amateur status. Of course, this means I could easily indulge in some top notch blagging and pretend to my mates down the pub that I actually went to the game by appropriating the opinions I’ve read on the web (or use this column to recycle those opinions). The only thing worse than a football bore is a football bore banging on about a game he wasn’t even at.
In many ways the internet has been both the best and the worst thing to happen to football fans recently. It killed off many football fanzines, but spawned such brilliantly imaginative sites as HTFC World and Ormondroyd's Virtual Match Report. It lets real fans who live away from their club keep updated, listen to commentary, watch highlights, buy match tickets and replica shirts and generally feel connected to their side, but also allows intolerable so-and-sos from London to swan into Old Trafford and intolerable so-and-sos from Manchester to do the same at Stamford Bridge. And while home to a great deal of informed and educated discussion, it is also the domain of endless unfounded transfer gossip.
|Itandje (right) smirking at Hillsborough memorial|
Last week the world of football, and in particular the cities of Nottingham, Liverpool and Sheffield, were remembering the Hillsborough disaster. As the 20th anniversary of that tragic day came and went, the internet again played a big part. On LTLF, for instance, Forest fans recounted personal memories of the disaster while the debate about the who's whats and whys raged. The net was also the basis for a flurry of outrage at the childish antics of Charles Itandje. I can understand why people are upset by his tomfoolery, but is smirking during a memorial service (see right) any more inappropriate than heckling during a memorial service?
The video of Anfield erupting into song during culture secretary’s Andy Burnham address made me strangely angry – I had to hold myself back from Twittering about it! Whatever the case for the Justice campaign, was a memorial service really the right place for a protest? It just reeked of bandwagon-jumping, mob mentality and crass insensitivity towards the memory of the victims themselves, and I nearly launched into a Boris Johnson-style rant about the emotional Tourette's of Liverpudlians. Thankfully I didn’t (I’ve no wish to get death-Twitters from overwrought Scousers), but if I had, I would have been indulging in the same kind of hot-headed internet abuse that has resulted in calls for silly old Charles Itandje to be lynched.
The main trouble with the internet is that it’s so instant. The only chance you get to yell ‘Stop Press!’ is the split-second it takes to press down on your mouse button. Once that’s gone your forum post or blog entry is irretrievably cast away via RSS, email and social networks. But then again, the beauty of the medium is its ephemeral nature. It’s taken me an hour to write this column and I’m glad to have got a few things off my chest. But has my calm, collected approach to writing about the ill-advised Hillsborough protest been as therapeutic as an outburst of furious Twittering?
Over the next weeks, as Forest’s position in The Championship hangs precariously in the balance, I know I’ll be using the internet as a platform to relieve the relegation battle tension, both as somewhere to let off steam and as a source of distraction. And during this time I’m sure my outlook will range from supreme confidence to manic pessimism from one day to the next. By the time I next write on Left Brian my website waffling will be submerged in the sea of similar drivel from thousands of other fans, but I might just look it all up to see how accurate my predictions, both hopeful and despondent, have been. Maybe then I’ll decide on whether the internet really is a source of insightful opinions or just a place for me and other morons armed with PCs to embarrass ourselves.