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12 (Million) Angry Men

As Liverpool's season looks set to peter out disappointingly, those inclined towards irrational hatred are having a field day. It's getting tiresome.

"Oh dear...I've made a terrible mistake. Those English football people are freakin' nuts"
"Oh dear...I've made a terrible mistake. Those English football people are freakin' nuts"
Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Today's begins with a caveat. The following is not as news-based as usual and veers indulgently towards the autobiographical. I'm a little hacked off at the LFC world and this is what came out. You should feel free to stop reading at this point.

The somewhat exhausted comparison between football and soap opera is as unoriginal as some of the snide abuse, known euphemistically to exponents as banter, that seems to get flung at most of the characters in the Premier League's own telenovela. At any rate, the behaviour of supporters is far more histrionic and extreme than anything in the game itself. As rivalry turns to naked hate, the outlandish extremism of some fans is so immoderate that even the writers of your favourite slice of daily melodrama would consider it over-the-top.

It really does bring out the baser side of humanity, this game we love. Racism, homophobia, xenophbia and intolerance of all kinds bubble to the surface before too long. Even when one is careful to surround oneself by open-minded and tolerant types, the incursion into one's calm enclave of some bile-spewing troglodyte is sickeningly inevitable. "Hell," as that clever French bloke once said," is other people."

As a man who puts his meagre creative abilities up for public scrutiny several times a week, this limited scribbler is well positioned to comment on the random and entirely unsolicited reactions of Jo(sephine) Q Public. 98% of the comments and responses I receive via Twitter, whether they be to the writing or the podcast, will be rational (one or two are even complimentary, if I haven't made a complete balls of it) but when the trolls emerge from under their bridges, faces contorted by hate, well, it can get ugly.

A hoary old-stager, with caveman tendencies of my own and real-life difficulties to contend with, the occasional idiot is little but an hors d'oeuvre in the troubled banquet of my life. Sometimes, the extremity of the contempt is just comical, like the fellow who called me a POMPOUS MOTHERFUCKER (all caps meant he was shouting, you see) for using some words he wasn't familiar with. What was I thinking? There are, however, many who are badly and understandably rattled by the kind of vitriolic hate that anonymous keyboard warriors vomit across the internet with impunity.

What is it in a person's nature that allows them to bypass any concept of morality and decency and consider the deaths of football supporters to be viable subject matter for their abuse of a club or an individual? What makes a collection of apparently lucid professionals, irked by what they believe to be the absurdity of an individual's opinions, feel it's okay to group-ridicule and cyberbully that person on social media? What the hell, essentially, is wrong with people?

Any trawl across the internet will yield up a wealth of opinions one might find abhorrent. Hell, I'll hear them daily in my place of work. This is the rich tapestry of life, but since when was it okay to gather a posse, wild west style, and harangue the perceived wrongdoer in question until they submit to the vehemence of the groupthink or disappear from mortification? It's just incomprehensible to anyone brought up with a modicum of empathy and decency.

My folks were big on manners. My brother and I were regularly reminded that respect for one's elders and courtesy in every scenario were basic requirements in our family. My own daughter has been imbued with the very same set of values. A source of constant pride to her old man for so many reasons, I'm never prouder of her than when she eschews the stereotypical teenage strop in favour of a reasoned and dignified explanation of why she feels aggrieved. Tragically, this type of clear-eyed circumspection has been roundly ignored by masses of dyspeptic adults, veins popping in their foreheads, as they mash their keypads into submission with a torrent of antipathy.

Brendan Rodgers, whether you are a fan of the man's or not, has been on the receiving end of more abuse than most from these splenetic types. Incandescent with self-righteous indignation and fury, they will lambaste the Antrim man in ways that have little or nothing to do with the reality of his performance as Liverpool boss. Objectively speaking, Rodgers has done much to give fans (your scribbler amongst them) pause, but I have heard these concerns and issues articulated calmly and rationally by many. It's not difficult, but such basic civility seems beyond some.

Now, picking up on the seething vexation amongst the rage-monsters in the Liverpool fan base, journalists are floating stories which seem to have no attributable sources but are guaranteed to garner reactions. They get clicks, the angry folk get to wallow in irascibility. It's win-win. First of all, Jurgen Klopp is relentlessly linked with Rodgers' job for very vague reasons. Something about emotion, I believe. It really doesn't matter.

Then, we are told that the Liverpool gaffer has been "summoned" to Boston. The choice of verb is essential here, as it nicely suggests a boardroom of displeased Americans waiting to grill the errant Irishman. This is a picture to please the vexed masses. To complicate matters further, another tale emerges. This one details the £45M warchest that Rodgers will have to spend in the next window. Oh dear. The reaction here has been special, with ireful punters jostling for primacy to decry the idiocy of presenting the Carnlough native with any more money, before then venting spleen about the paltry amount mooted in this entirely fictional story.

The problem I have, as a Liverpool fan for the best part of four decades, is not that folk dislike Rodgers or would prefer an alternative manager. Both are eminently reasonable viewpoints. I've defended the manager against stupid criticism from the start, whilst retaining a touch of healthy scepticism about one or two things, and yet I'll admit, part of me would be quietly thrilled if Liverpool could attract Jurgen Klopp to the club, just as I would if we were linked, in realistic terms, with Lionel Messi.

It's just infinitely preferable when these opinions are articulated in a way that allows me to follow the argument and see some kind of logic. Too often, as one scrolls through the thinly veiled assaults on the manager, one can almost imagine the shower of spittle on the aggrieved party's computer screen and the puce shade of their face as they work themselves into a frenzy of infuriation. Seriously, do these people have no real problems into which they could funnel some of that terrifying focus?

At any rate, there will always be a tremendous amount of intelligent and perceptive Reds with which to interact and the whirling dervishes of choler can be mostly avoided if one takes sensible precautions. It will simply never cease to be a disappointment that one must do just that. Whilst the jury remains undecided on the fate of Brendan Rodgers, both the man himself and his team can provide us with a little cheer in the club's remaining Premier League matches. Woe betide the poor fellow if he cannot, for it seems there is but a thin veneer of civility and manners, through which the straining hordes of angry rebukers are always threatening to smash.

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