‘Twas the night before Christmas when Ian gave to me... a tale of insouciance, anger, and glee.
If I were the sort of “Hey, guys!” blogger who seeks New Year’s resolutions just for the because of it:
a) you wouldn’t be reading.
b) I’d probably choose “lowering” my anger.
But seeing as no-one’s reading anyway I’m going to:
a) do as I darn well please.
b) relate the tale in a censor-friendly, yet 100% faithful form.
c) make no resolutions, especially regarding my anger. It’s a gift.
The only necessary back-story for this tale is that I’m a Northern Irish guy with rage to burn. Like many of my fellow countrymen and women, I’m not above venting. I could rant for Ireland, as we say. And few things are better to rant about than football. Now, I realize that some of you may just have consciously switched off at the thought of this being a “sporty” post* Rest assured, no knowledge of football is necessary to understand this post. I’ll be the Yoda to your Luke, the Basil Exposition to your Austin Powers, the Drama to your Vince. Err, hang on…
For the purposes of discretion, identities will be concealed.
On Monday, a high school friend of mine - let’s call him Bob Contraband - posted an item on a popular social networking site. Let’s call it Countenance Tome. Bob, a huge fan of Northern Irish football, was delighted that his beloved Crusaders** had earned an impressive weekend win. He posted a link to the game’s Irish league page on BBC Sport, so that he might share his joy with the world; so that he might acknowledge that, though our local game may be less than stellar, though our “stadia” are Dickensian at best, though tickets are laughably overpriced, love conquers all. Bob loves the wee Crues and wanted everyone to know.
As a casual yet committed follower of the Crues, I complimented Bob on his actions. More power to ye, I thought (and come on the Shore Road Brazilians, we can still go all the way this season!) But somewhere along the line - Doncaster or some equally depressing sounding English burg - the plot got lost. Not by Bob or myself, you see. No, it took that most ignorant and hate-filled of football fans to do this. It took an Englishman. Specifically, a patriotic Englishman.
Now, first off let me start by clarifying a few things:
a) I love England. I studied at university there and (generally) had some of the best times of my life.
b) I (generally) love English people. During uni, I met the most wonderful people I’ve ever known, many of whom are nationals.
c) I (generally) love English Football. Like the vast majority of football fans from all-across Ireland, I support an English Club.***/****
d) I love me a list.
With the inevitable “anti-England” retort dealt with, let me just add that I’m nowhere near the wrong end of the list of bad football fans. I’m the Mary Poppins of football fans. But, you know, angrier. There’s nothing wrong with getting behind “the lads.” As long as you don’t decide to crack a bottle over the head of your rivals-supporting opposite number, it’s all (mostly) brown and water.
Back to Monday. So Bob posts the item. He and I have already had a quick chat about the win so I smile and click there to check out his typically heart-warming happiness and contentment. (All speech not mine paraphrased...)
Bob: Anyone who doesn’t like this doesn’t like football. What a great advert for our local league. Come on, ya wee Crues!
Here here, Bob. That’s pretty much my reaction. Within 20 minutes, an anonymous, ignorant friend of Bob’s responded thusly:
Bob’s Ignorant Friend: Ugh what the *expletive deleted* is this? This is *expletive deleted* What an *expletive deleted* standard of football. Lool xoxoxo
Untoward, right? Bob, ever the good-natured sort, responded in kind.
Bob: That coming from a Leicester City fan?
Bob’s Ignorant Friend: Ugh. Yeh. Datz rite. Innit. (LOOOLZZZ)
Bob: I don’t see how you can justify saying that, when our players are on a par with yours.
Ok. Bob took a few liberties there. Leicester City would destroy Crusaders any given Saturday. But Bob didn’t say that ‘cos he knows the chances of the two meeting under competitive circumstances are negligible. So Bob rustled the cage. Harmless fun… or was it?
Enter the Mega-Tool! No, that’s not his real name (though it ought to be! Fnarr fnarr.) No, this tool is cut from a more regular, bland cloth and goes by the name of - oh, yeah - um, let’s just call him Mega-Tool.
Mega-Tool: Bob Bob Bob… think I’m gonna have to disagree with ya there, buddy. Your patriotism is commendable. Your league, however, is primarily semi-professional and, as such, is filled with predominantly sub-standard players. You really think players from your league could even begin to cut it in (English) League One or Two? You’re wrong. They couldn’t, which is, of course, why they ply their ‘trade’ in lesser leagues.
Ok. Some fair points (re: the league itself, Bob’s patriotism) well made. Others (re: our league’s players) less so. Though, he’s far from a “mega-tool”, right? Keep reading…
Bob’s Ignorant Friend: LOOLZ, BOB! Watch it again. Look at the defending! It’s *expletive deleted* shameful. My *expletive deleted* Sunday League team’s well better. Old *insert his mate’s name here* would well be bangin them in in that ‘league.’ PONED!
Then, a random Irish League enthusiast/Linfield fan chimed in:
Random Linfield Fan: Come on, Linfield.
At this point, I made my debut comment. I offered a list of players that disproved the Mega-Tool’s earlier theory about our players “cutting it” in England and concluded with a nice non-offensive Crues chant. Bob took this thought and ran with it yesterday, adding players to my list. One of whom being Gareth McAuley, an ex-Crues defender who made it all the way to (ironically enough) Leicester. Content that he’d made his point, Bob finally added:
Bob: Leicester, though, simply aren’t good. ‘Nuff said. “In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.”
Nice touch that at the end, I thought. Now, pay attention. This was where the Mega-Tool could no longer conceal his grotesqueness and revealed himself. He commenced his slip with:
Mega-Tool: Ugh, you just about managed to name about 3 players out of countless others. You are both wrong. I am right. That is that.
Gloves be gone, then. At this point, Bob’s Ignorant Friend spouts some guff about that Leicester thing again, but that’s unimportant. So we’ll skip ahead to my verbatim response to yer man…
Me: Yeah, the first three players that came to mind (far from a representative list, right?) Also, we’re not Brazil… we’re Northern Ireland. The proof lies here:
(If, for some reason, this doesn't link properly, copy and paste yourself there. It's well worth it.)
The crowning touch? “Motty’s” sarcastic jibe moments before King David goes medieval. In the words of a wise man, “thank you and good night.”
I don’t need to not be me to know that my comment was obviously a bit of playful fun from a passionate Northern Irish patriot.***** Nothing more, nothing less. Anyone who’s seen their beloved “massive” club or country thrashed/humiliated/knocked out of a cup in the first round by minnows knows what me and Bob were at. We were giving the aforementioned cage a good rattling, then letting the cat inside it free amongst a whole mess of pigeons. As Northern Irish football fans, it was our right. It is our right. Or, to use Harp’s expression, “it’s our thing.” Why? Because it’s all we’ve got. We have a population of around one and half million. Not long since, we were the wrong side of 100 in the FIFA world rankings. What do you do when you can’t beat ‘em? Rage against the machine. Joke around with it, at least. Part of football’s fun is taking one another down a peg or two.
Pity no-one told Mega-Tool. Like the coming of a rancid tide, his response smothered all that was good and true almost an hour later:
Mega-Tool: I recall that game. 2005. Correct? I also recall beating you 4-0. I was unable to find any video “proof”, though. Perhaps, that’s because it was just another win for the great England. Oh well. Perhaps, that is just the price of greatness. Might I also reveal to you how most of your players play in England. Most of whom being in the Championship, I believe. Nonetheless, this is all apropos of our original discussion’s theme. In conclusion, your league isn’t the best league in the world. Personal opinion dictates everyone’s favourite choice of league. Nonetheless, the fact remains that there are myriads of reasons why our leagues - especially the weaker ones - are better than yours. Your league has never and WILL NEVER be the best league in the world. *expletive deleted* ELVIS LEFT THE BUILDING!
Meow. It’s easy to see how this response came almost an hour after mine. It takes faux-erudite poseurs a little longer than us proles to formulate a response. I didn’t discover the comment for hours, let alone get a chance to reply, because even I leave the house sometimes. Needless to say, I was none too amused. The pleasantries were dispensed.
In the interest of impartiality, I now present, verbatim for the second time, my response:
Me: Yes, 2005's correct. Speaking of internationals, I don't remember "the great" England in the Euros this summer. Oh, that's right, they failed to qualify. And were outstripped, outfought and generally outquaffed in every way by - who was that again? - that's right: the Green and White Army in the qualification process. Did any of England's strikers match Healy's (internationally recognized, award-winning) magnificence? Did they beg. Furthermore, shy of a crystal ball, I think we are both ill-placed to provide speculations on which league "will or will not" become the greatest in the world. That said, let's keep it grounded in facts shall we, and leave outlandish, defeat at our hands-inspired statements like that aside? The conversation's starting to go off topic again.. As for most of our international class players playing across the Irish Sea: Money is a factor. Someone must have broken out the smelling salts, 'cos Elvis just re-entered the building and he's doing the bouncy!
Yeah, I know. I got a little cooked, but I'm OK. Resisting playing the game would’ve been a missed opportunity to try reaching a deluded dude, while giving myself a chuckle in the process. I couldn’t pass it up. They can’t help but bite. And never, NEVER resist the last word. Sure enough…
Christmas Eve (!) - Late morning (!)…
Mega-Tool: Awww, somebody’s trying a widdle too hard to be wintawectual! Aren’t they? Yes, they are! Yes, they are! I shall only make one further comment before conclusion. This conversation threatens to get out of control (!) and just go in circles (!) When England didn’t qualify for the Euros, it was a big deal. If Northern Ireland qualified for a big competition it would be a big deal. Here endeth the lesson!
I was stunned. I was, literally, astonished, after I stopped applauding. (Tense shift) Thank you, Mega-Tool. Thank you, for this wondrous bounty. Northern Ireland - a team who haven’t qualified for a major tournament since the year I was born, who are currently ranked fifty-second in the World, behind Lithuania, Iran, and Honduras - would celebrate if they qualified for a major tournament. That’s something. That is really something. There you go now. Yesterday’s article just keeps on bringing the truth.
I didn’t delete Mega-Tool from my friends list. Every fiber of my being urged me to. We only “met” through Bob and I know nothing more about the guy than what he revealed above. I’m glad I didn’t delete him. That’s not how I roll. Like the Corrs before me, I forgive, not forget. I didn’t do anything wrong. He crossed the line and, when he realizes, I’ll enjoy the apologetic message in my inbox (‘cos it’s private, see?) If I reach that one person, it’ll all be worth it.
Merry Christmas (even You Know Who!) Thank you and good night.
* Look out for Broken Dream Theatre, Part 2: Footballer, coming January 09!
** “We’re red, we’re black, the hatchet-men are back! Super Crues, Super Crues!” etc.
*** UNITED! - clap clap clap - UNITED! - clap clap clap - UNITED! etc.
**** If you’re one of those people who’s thinking right now “Ugh, you can’t support more than one team!”, you don’t get it.
***** The origin of my eponymous Premier Football team’s name on Mug-Volume, but of course.
Ian Pratt has this message to the football-loving, patriotic citizens of Northern Ireland: Sure our league is far from significance, sure our national team may languish in a low seeding, and we may be all but out of hope of qualification for Africa in 2010, but you can thank your lucky stars we’re not from Turkmenistan.