Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's all crips and bloods in the footblogosphere

So over the past couple of months, things have maybe gotten a bit hostile on the football blog scene.

I apparently played a part.

A while ago, a certain writer well known to most of you from the entertaining blog Surreal Football, wrote a piece on ESPN Soccernet about the new tactics snobbery. I countered his piece with one of my own, explaining that "tactics" was not some sub-category of post-match analysis but deeply integrated with everything we know about the sport.

This apparently sowed the seeds of some sort of enmity of which I was unaware, which came to a head when I jokingly remarked on Twitter over the Guardian's Rob Smyth use of the term "New Seriousness" in regard to an army of tactics nerds ruining the game for everybody. I later felt bad striking up a fuss over the term because he's probably among my favourite Guardian football scribes, particularly when it comes to his insane historical short-hand on the English game, which comes in handy for the unfailingly entertaining Joy of Six pieces.

Anyway, I got the sense from Smyth in a quick twitter back and forth that he felt that the atmosphere in the football writing sphere in general was getting "toxic." I've encountered that toxicity a few times since starting this site, mostly with regard to one or two bloggers in isolation. I met one of them, Fake Sigi aka Matt Rolf, and it turned out he was a perfectly nice person. Having a beer with him last year before the MLS Cup final, I remember this intense feeling that all this football writing stuff was straw, and that feeling personal grievances with perfect strangers over stuff written about kick ball on the internet just seemed incredibly silly.

More recently though, it appears I've upset Surreal Football, and so I've been slotted into a "cabal" of pretentious football bloggers who own the Internet. We now have our own links section on Surreal Football. I can't say that I was offended (I actually thought it was tongue-in-cheek, and I generally like the writing there quite a bit). But it seemed odd. Then I was blocked from Surreal Football's twitter feed and things got...odder.

Now I've read Fake Sigi's piece from last month on why he doesn't like the Run of Play, which is fine, everyone's entitled to their opinion, although dedicating a blog post to slaking someone else's work is unfortunate. It would be narcissistic in the extreme to point to my own isolated experience as some sort of evidence that football writing is taking names and building walls, but there does seem to be some sort of growing sense that things are getting a bit nasty out there.

The reason, as far as I can gather, is some football bloggers think that other football bloggers are "self-appointed arbiters" of what constitutes an acceptable opinion on the game, that there are a limited number of eyeballs available and so it's open war for legitimacy. This must look hilariously amateurish to someone paid a living wage at a newspaper to churn out match reports or provocative tabloid-esque fare (Winter, Hayward et al), and downright boring to the average reader in search of something to fun to read about football.

Which is also why I feel embarrassed even writing this post, because a) it has nothing to do with football and b) we're all just a bunch of people who like football who write about it for chump change (or nothing at all) on the interweb. Surreal Football has already achieved more success (deserved) since its inception than this blog has in its near four year history. In any case, even a writer with no online profile whatsoever is free to pitch an opinion piece to any major football publication and get paid for it, so I don't think there's an economic incentive to "own" the blogosphere discussion, over whether it's better to talk about tactics, or write romantic pieces on Barcelona, or dedicate several posts to sexist MLS ads, or make fun of the media attention over the Premier League fixture list (all are interesting to me, btw).

This is the internet: if you don't like what you read, you move on. The only people you should care about are your readers, and if you want to make any money eventually, publication editors. Unless a fellow blogger is saying libelous stuff about you because he or she disagrees, who cares?

This past week, I wrote a piece for The Score rebutting a When Saturday Comes writer's argument against video replay technology. The writer of the WSC piece wrote me on Twitter to say he enjoyed it, and I responded by saying his piece inspired me, and apologized for the snark. The writer in question didn't have a massive Twitter following, but he's a great writer, writing for one of my favourite football mags on the planet. He's doing what I want to do, and probably got there because he doesn't waste a lot of time on bashing out ranty posts on whomever he doesn't like or disagrees with.

I know I haven't always practiced what I preached on that front, but this will be the last you hear of me on any football blogosphere politics. It's all football from here on in, inside baseball is over. Onward, pace Ben Knight!


Anonymous said...

Sit down man.

Anonymous said...

You could have mentioned that there would be nothing about football in the post at the BEGINNING!

elliott said...

I will not rest until you and the rest of this sinister elite football writing cabal are brought to justice before the proper authority.

I also am insanely jealous that I was not included on that "blogs I hate" list. My backlinks SEO profile could really use the boost.

Pompey Canuck said...

I think that this is an aspect of the polarization of society in general. I enjoy the wide variety of football writing on offer. I enjoy reading Annie Eaves, Matt Slater, & Kristian Jack. All three write about football in very different ways. I enjoy them all, they make my football experience more complete. I don't understand the needless polarization going on, it is still possible to hear something that you don't like and repsond without getting into a battle. I have had a few agree to disagree discussions but they are a chance to discover why people take a contrary view, not fun all the time, but nothing wrong with the odd one.

Dr3 said...

So this post is a commentary/indictment on the footblogshpere people monitoring the footblogsphere people too much?

I agree though .

Grant said...

Hey Richard. Are you sure that the Surreal Football thing truly isn't just an exercise in piss-taking? I notice that they have themselves listed in that "sites we hate" list too.

Lanterne Rouge said...

I agree with Grant - I know we British are so cringingly unable to face up to our muddy past that we can only view things behind a cloak of sarcasm but I have read Surreal Football as a very tongue in cheek exercise (an exception, and not the only one, was one brilliant article about unions that I hope was meant in the spirit I read it).

It, in common with A More Splendid Life is a brilliant site. I like it because, in many ways, it does provide a more irreverent angle and this is a nice counterbalance to the earnestness present in most football blogs (a characteristic I also like a lot). Plus, Ethan Dean-Richards from the site sounds like a very sensible, well brought up young man when he makes appearances on the Gib Football Show (I wonder if his Mum knows he uses the c word?)

Not read Fake Sigi's piece yet though.

Kevin said...

Football blogosphere is becoming quite weird. It's turning into who can attain the most hits, something I'm guilty of trying to achieve.

There's certainly a bitterness/jealousy when it comes to the blogging 'elite', the people you want to read your site and want to RT your work, and the lower levels.

I'm sure you Richard have been around long before me (started in 09) but I've witnessed football blogging explode in that period, along with Twitter, and it's been frightening.