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!