Considering my undergraduate degree was in philosophy, it’s high time I attempt to apply some of the “knowledge” I picked up in between yelling at TV screens in various bars around Montreal. So on that note, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a moral spectrum when it comes to the reasons we watch football, with two extreme and opposing views on either end.
On the one extreme side, you have the Football Hedonists. You’d know them to see them, perhaps by their assortment of replica shirts; they support not one but several “big clubs.” They don’t see any problem rooting for both Real Madrid and Barcelona or Manchester United and Chelsea (Serie A has long been out of favour with this crowd), as long as the pace is quick and the goals spectacular.
Their reasons for watching football are simple; they want to see big stars play each other in big games, the higher the score, the better. When it comes to football news, they rarely stray from the Eee Pee El, they get excited on transfer deadline day, and they have no problem whatsoever with the idea of a European Super League. They’ve never seen a Major League Soccer match, they skip the Carling Cup, and they avoid internationals except for the World Cup when they root for Brazil. They also tend to be open to things like video technology and the increasing incursion of television on the pitch.
On the other extreme, you have the Categorical Imperative crowd. This concept, c/o of 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, holds that your actions are right only insofar as you could “will that it should become a universal law.” It’s a moral system based on obligation, and to that end these football fans follow the game out of a sense of duty. They believe watching soccer for the purpose of being entertained reduces football as a means to an end (pleasure) rather than an end itself, something to be enjoyed for its own sake.
These are the supporters who dutifully keep tabs on the Blue Square Premier League, who write two thousand word comments on articles on the Esiliiga, go on YouTube to watch Liga Panameña de Fútbol highlights, refuse to acknowledge that the Europa League might be too big or boring, or that the CCL is not in fact as important or as interesting as the Champions League. During internationals, they PVR Lithuiania vs. Estonia and are apt to use the expression “tactically fascinating” to describe games that are in fact giant, mundane turds.
All of us fall somewhere between the extreme ends of this spectrum. Although I don’t have the studies to prove it, judging by the content offered by football websites who rely on clicks to live, the majority of soccer fans fall sympathize with the Hedonist view, with the Categorical Imperative crowd reliant on the publishing freedom of the web and a sense of community to spread their message. Many Football Hedonists want to move toward the Categorial Imperative side, but they usually meet their limit.
For example, I have a lot of time for the Europa League, even with its Group L. But trying to follow the CONCACAF Champions League, even when Toronto FC is playing, is about as far as I’m willing to go. Last night I attempted to watch as Tauro (from the Panamanian league mentioned above incidentally) faced off against FC Dallas, and ended up Tweeting this:
Tauro? Something. Man. I’m sorry. The CCL is a giant black hole into which everything I enjoy about football disappears. Did I write that?
So now I know my limit. And this afternoon as several big name clubs like Udinese and Tottenham put out second string sides against unknown opposition like Shamrock Rovers and Celtic, this afternoon many more soccer fans will discover their own limit. Do you know yours yet?