Football, perhaps more than most professional sports, is a game of choice for the spectator. Pick your team, pick your league, pick your players, pick a game to watch as a neutral.
Anywhere there is choice—particularly the choice offered by the contemporary market place—there will be hipsters.
Now, a lot of us carry around this caricature of a particular hipster in our minds, and while they’re broadly similar—they like coffee, city walks, mustaches with curly ends, bowler hats, plaid shirts, vernissages—they all differ from one another too, so much so they avoid easy definition.
In fact they differ so much that the hipster as such doesn’t really exist. There is no Platonic form of hipster. Ask yourself this: if the guy ordering an Americano in a plaid shirt in a pretentious Lower East Side cafe is a brilliant computer game programmer from a poor Midwestern family, does he still fit your internal hipster definition? If that asshole with the sockless loafers walking the streets of Berlin of his pants is a Christian conservative evangelical, is he still a hipster?
Even the admittedly cathartic and now-defunct website Diehipster.com seemed to push a definition of hipster that was primarily economic in nature—privileged brats slumming it for fun. Those people are the worst, but they’re not hipsters. They’re just disingenuous (in any case, this type of urban hipster I described above is on the wane. I don’t keep statistics on this sort of thing, but my guess is since the HBO Show Girls, the hipster as downtown NYC faux-Bohemian is in its Last Days of Disco stage).
What in the hell does this have to do with football?
I’ve noticed the use of the term ‘football hipster’ on Twitter lately, and of course it’s entirely pejorative. But like the urban hipster, defining them is tricky. Here’s one definition from Mark Booth, written last year:
Football hipsters are a relatively new phenomenon and there are two types that require profiling.
The first type seem harmless enough. The lower league football hipster. They support a team from League 2 down and exist on a diet of crumbling football grounds (note, not stadia). They are down to earth, defined by the authenticity of their support and have grown weary of the commercialisation of the game.
The second kind are more dastardly. You might find these on Twitter or running football blogs, these hipsters are the type who ruined your favourite band for you by sneering at your for coming in at the second album stage but get out themselves before the third’s arena tours.
Except everyone hates the commercialism of the game. Sun readers are as beleaguered with the ‘modern game’ as any Guardian-reading London Fields market-goer. What Booth means is the non-old person who might not hail from the same small town as said Lower League side. In other words, someone who decided to support a lower league team to “look cool” (which raises the question—look cool to whom exactly?).
As for the second kind of football hipster, Booth uses Napoli as his example. Which essentially is like saying if you watch continental football and like a team slightly outside the top four, you’re a football hipster.
Well, no, I suspect Booth would argue you’re a hipster if you’ve started supporting them lately. What if you don’t tell anyone you support and watch Napoli? Well, no, you’ve got to spread the word to look cool. What if you admit you’ve only started watching them recently and are curious? No, you’ve got to pretend you’re an expert.
So Booth’s problem doesn’t seem to be with hipsters, it’s with disingenuous people. In fact, anyone who ever complains about hipsters are in fact upset with disingenuous people who try too hard to look cool. The question of hipsterism is one of authenticity.
If you’re the type of person who needs to loudly proclaim your love of all things obscure and untold in the game, that might make you annoying. If you’re the type of person who tells us we should watch Skakhtar v Dortmund instead of Real Madrid v United, that makes you an idiot. If you need everyone to know you’re planning to watch Porto Malaga tonight instead of Arsenal Bayern, that makes you seem a little insecure, in need of attention or validation.
In other words, it makes you disingenuous. All of these cute Tumblr examples are essentially disingenuous statements or behaviours.
So the far more interesting question is why they bother you so much?