Why do football players, managers and owners pay so much attention to the endless noise on football forums?
More has come out about Bobby Zamora’s little fit towards his own fans on Saturday, after a rare goal for a striker who has received some criticism from fans on Fulham forums, including the official version (if only more would read our defence of Bobby). The Guardian’s David Hytner explains:
The forum is sometimes browsed by the players in their lounge after matches. It is a source of predictable banter. Yet some of Roy Hodgson’s squad, Zamora chief among them, have wondered why their club has offered such a medium for them to be abused. Zamora has taken flak for his poor record in front of goal.
But here is the other thing. There are precious few posters to the forum. Zamora knows this; he has been told so time and again. The overwhelming majority of Fulham fans appreciate the shift he puts in. They know not to measure his contribution solely in goals. The Hammersmith End regularly sings his name.
If this appears a case of the stereotypical “noisy minority”, it is one with a 21st-century twist. In generations gone by it would need scores of fans on the terraces to communicate an angry message. Now, all it takes is an anonymous handful and the touch of a button.
After his goal against Sunderland, Zamora repeatedly yelled “Shut your fucking mouths” in the direction of the Hammersmith End. He pushed away two celebrating team-mates, John Paintsil and Damien Duff, to give him room to shout some more. At full-time he made straight for the players’ tunnel in the corner of the ground and did not acknowledge the crowd at all.
“Maybe he reads too many of these blogs that people write in to,” said Hodgson. “These people who write into the club’s blogs, they’re the real experts.”
There are two points I’d like to make in regard to this:
Firstly, it’s absurd but natural that this online criticism has pissed Zamora off. I’ve heard first-hand many a story about players, managers, staff and owners being pissed off by stuff they’ve read on fans’ forums, from England to America. It’s natural because they are human, and curiosity doesn’t only kill cats: their profession is public, and they want to know what other people are thinking about them. Even if they know it’s a tiny minority of fans, who get their kicks and make their reputations on fora by being as outrageous as possible.
Still, it’s an exercise in self-flagellation, and if the same folks are going to accuse fans of being childish for their own forum posting, they ought to grow up enough and realise this is the monster that’s a necessary 21st century condiment to the football profession they’re making their living from — and a largely harmless one at that.
Secondly, forum posters and commenters on blogs are not by default “bloggers” (paging Buzz Bissinger…). I have a bit of a beef with this piece for both the title (“How the bloggers got the better of Zamora”) and the evidence presented to support the claim made by Hodgson: all of the mean quotes about Zamora’s goalscoring rate cited in this piece (see the part entitled “What the bloggers have to say about Zamora” at the end) appear to consist of either forum posts or comments to blog pieces.
Not that I particularly care to defend the reputation of bloggers; like journalists (who are lucky enough to be paid for the pleasure), there are good ones, bad ones, disreputable ones and disgraceful ones. And there sure are lots of us.
But I would at least expect a media outlet to be able to tell the difference between a blog and a forum, or a blog article and a comment to it. If we want to start picking through the comments to the Guardian’s football blogs, we could be here all night criticising “Guardian bloggers” for their idiocy.