Heroes: Who need ‘em?
As a youngster, like most kids, I had heroes. A collection of idolised individuals who seemed to signify various ideal future versions of myself. After all, surely being a grown up wouldn’t be so bad if I became a perfect amalgam of Thierry Henry, Rik Mayall and Spider-Man.
There were lots of footballers I admired as a boy. Many of them I have subsequently written about. They exist in my memory like flaming torches, casting a warm glow over my childhood reminiscences. But they don’t just exist in the past, in my memories, they also exist in the present too - as older, retired men, with thoughts and opinions of their own, and crucially, various platforms on which to express them. This can be problematic.
Recently, a former footballer who was a boyhood hero of mine did a tweet. A bad one. Not like career-ending bad. No airports have been closed, no right-wing groups are taking a noble stand in defence of ‘banter' as a result, no televised apologies will be demanded because of this tweet. It just wasn’t a good tweet and the world won’t notice it - but I did it, and to be honest it just made feel sad and old and very aware that nobody in this world is just what we want them to be.
I just wanted this person to exist now as a totem for the great player he once was. Ideally, if he did have to tweet, his feed would consist entirely of grainy goal compilations set to uplifting music and snappy dressing room anecdotes that let me know that those really were the best of times. A return to those halcyon days via the means of social media, that’s all I ask. That is the CONTENT THAT I WANT.
Alas, instead, it turns out one of my heroes has a taste for really quite problematic jokes. Oh well, it could be worse I suppose, I could’ve grown up worshipping Ian Holloway (who has seemingly committed to a crusade towards political and economic oblivion in the name of protecting the…handball law).
Of course, the ex-player that did the shit tweet that I’ve been banging on about won’t care what I think, and nor should he. He’s not a role model, he’s not a hero, he’s just a bloke and I’m the one with a problem.
But I suspect it’s a common problem. Surely everyone, at some point, has been let down in some way by someone in the public eye that they admire. It’s not a nice feeling, and certainly not one you’d want to inflict on someone. No one wants to let down the people that love them.
That’s a lot of pressure we put on famous people. It’s no wonder football players are now relentlessly media trained and counselled on all things concerning their public image. Christ, I know if I were in their situation I’d never tweet anything again. I certainly wouldn’t read the replies and comments. So, credit where it’s due. Those footballers who go above and beyond and genuinely do use social media to stand up and be counted and have a positive impact - Raheem Sterling, I’m looking at you - deserve all the credit in the world. They certainly shouldn’t be expected to do that. And if ex-pros do sometimes do bad tweets (and it was a bad tweet), then selfish pricks like me probably shouldn’t worry about it so much.
Have heroes, but expect to be disappointed. Being a hero though, that’s the real nightmare.
P.S. I realise this article wasn’t really about football so: David Luiz has replaced Granit Xhaka as a ‘quarterback’ passer and transformed the way Arsenal play; The departure of Harry Maguire will only serve to highlight how important Jonny Evans is to Leicester; Crystal Palace literally don’t have a single striker who is actually good so they’re probably fucked.