Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Wisdom of Crowds

D’yer know what I might do?

I think I’ll go to the Japanese restaurant in town with a group of friends, order some sushi and then as the waiters bring it out we’ll start chanting ‘Tsunami! Tsunami! Tsunami!’

What?

Too soon?

Now let me make something very clear before I continue, this is not something I would ever take part in or ever have any inclination to do but by the same token, it’s something I have sat back and watched people indulge in without ever once having the courage to call them out.

Allow me to explain.

I have sat in a football crowd amongst people singing ‘Bradford City’s burning down’ to the tune of ‘London’s Burning’ and while I didn’t join in, I didn’t say anything either.

I have also been in a crowd who delighted in singing ‘Who’s that dying on the runway…’ to the away Manchester United support and once again, said nothing.

I have witnessed Manchester City fans constantly refer to their neighbours as ‘Munichs’ and write it off as ‘banter’. I have heard Manchester United fans justify themselves singing ‘Murderers’ at Liverpool fans as apparently one human tragedy doesn’t stack up against another. I have watched clubs taunt Leeds United with Turkish shirts & ‘Istanbul’ chants.

I have watched all this and just stood by.

If I saw someone screaming ‘nigger’ at a black man, I would step in and in certain circumstances I would be among several people looking to chin the perpetrator. I’m not advocating violence but illustrating the anger racism rightly creates. It is a destructive force than only serves a slave to negativity and football worked that out. Utter a racist term at a game and watch a sea of high visibility vests descend upon you like angry moths to a racist flame. It is the way things should be.

But delighting in death is fine.

Isn’t it?

Iain Macintosh wrote on this subject in a far more erudite and intelligent way then I ever could here. Human tragedy can’t and shouldn’t be measured. No one stadium disaster, murder or accident is ‘better’ than any other. No one horrific moment of violence is okay because another occurred in a slightly different manner. We wouldn’t compare the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 with this year’s Japanese earthquake and delight in the fact that Indonesia was less prepared than Japan so deserved it more. It’s abhorrent to even think in such a manner.

But the same people who would be appalled at such a suggestion will also gladly make themselves into an aeroplane if their club faces German opposition.

Football is a game of passion and none of us would ever want that passion removed. The atmosphere at a big game is unlike anything you can ever experience elsewhere and is what keeps us coming back for more. However the time has come to draw a line and say supporting your team doesn’t mean delighting in another’s tragedy. Just as football eradicated racism like a disease, so now must these chants and attitudes also be removed from the game.

And that’s where I come in.

I’m not going to stand by anymore. If I hear someone revel in the death of a group of football fans - no matter how large or small, no matter why, how or where they died - I’m going to voice my disapproval. The time has come to take action, the wisdom of a crowd it seems is not always to be trusted.

The clubs themselves have a part to play but as ever, they will only bow to an idea when they are certain the greater mass of their supporters agree.

It is up to us to say ‘no’ yet again.

I know it looks like a mountainous task but if you asked Cyrille Regis if he ever thought we could reach the level of intolerance of racism we now enjoy when he received a bullet through the post accompanied with a death threat, he would have said no. It was only when the fans realised the madness and hypocrisy of their own actions that the game as a whole reacted. It proved football can heal itself.

And the situation is coming to a head right now, in grounds the length and breadth of the land.

The point I’m trying to make in my clumsy and slightly angered way is these chants aren’t about a football club or a rivalry, at their core they’re about the people who lost their lives and didn’t deserve to. It can’t and shouldn’t be tolerated. Just as you wouldn’t mock death on these scales in any other walk of life, I now urge you to make the stand the game needs us to make to eliminate this morbid delight forever.