Last night, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series aired Daniel Gordon’s long-anticipated two hour documentary Hillsborough. The film documents the 1989 stadium disaster in Sheffield during Liverpool’s FA Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest, and the efforts by the South Yorkshire Police—with an assist from the Sun newspaper—to paint what was essentially a deadly failure in crowd control as the tragic result of hooliganism.
Thought the story is not new, rarely has the moral of Hillsborough been made so clear. Hillsborough is not about football, nor is it about the place of Hillsborough in the ritualism of Liverpool fandom. These are elements of the story, but they’re not at its core. Gordon wisely focuses his lens elsewhere.
Hillsborough here is about the overwhelming, exhausting burden injustice places on the shoulders of ordinary families. It is about the parents, children and siblings of 96 victims traveling on buses to countless inquests and inquiries, carrying on in the face of the South Yorkshire Police who took blood alcohol samples from dead children even as they kept them from their parents’ final touch, constables who thought nothing of altering countless police statements to suit their ends, newspapers which printed police lies verbatim, politicians who made off-hand jokes about the death of just under one hundred people.
It is about the tendency of power to preserve itself, even at the cost of victimizing the very people that power is intended to serve.
It is fascinating to read the reactions from younger fans of football clubs of all stripes on sites like Reddit, beginning to comprehend that “Justice for the 96″ is more than a Kopite chant. It is a battle cry for all fans of the sport, and a warning for anyone who still comforts themselves with the belief that something like this could not happen again. Try and catch this doc when and if you can…