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The Madness and Genius of Football Crowds


Frankie

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A mate from my site wrote this earlier today. If there's a better bit of writing on this subject this season I've yet to see it.

Enjoy:

Life’s all about dramatic tension. It’s full of competing urges; it’s animated by struggle. When things resolve unhappily, you know you are watching or experiencing a tragedy. When they resolve amusingly, you know you’re part of a comedy. When one boot, at the bottom of one sore leg, connects perfectly with a ball, against the dramatic background of tension and pain, and sends it flying top-corner-wards, you know what you are watching is nothing short of a genuine fucking triumph.

So much of the moment in life is bypassed in favour of memory. We barely enjoy something as it happens; we savour the memory of it as though it were the thing itself. We enjoy telling stories about our lives more than we enjoy living them. One of the reasons I love football, and all forms of excess, is that you are forced into the moment.

Last night was a uniquely placed football match in dramatic terms; our first home game since getting to the UEFA cup final but also the latest in a uncharacteristically, and statistically, bad run of league form. It was against these two competing urges - the congratulatory elation of European triumph, and the get-your-arse-in-gear-you-need-to-bloody-win-this nervousness of potentially throwing away a title – that the game was set. This Pride & Nervousness set against each other provoked the sense of drama and occasion you normally don’t associate with home games; Ibrox is often so quiet, in most areas, because it can be genuinely hard to be worked up for dour run-of-the-mill type games. I say, “most areasâ€, because I’ve been lucky enough this season to spend any time I’ve been at Ibrox in the Broomloan Front, with the TBO, for whom it would seem there are no run-of-the-mill games.

I don’t think I can say enough in praise of TBO; it seems to me frighteningly like common sense that if you are going to support your team, enjoy the madness of being in a crowd, you should make the most of it. Our society isn’t too fond of that many people being together in the one place. Football supporters, perhaps more than most people, understand how life works out in terms of stories. Shifts in balance of power, the inevitability of a goal following pressure, the inevitability of a poor result when not taking your chances – these are the bread and butter of following football. I’m quite sure that it flashed through at least one Fiorentina fan’s mind that after bombarding us for nigh on 120 mins to no avail that it might be that the universe was conspiring to put them out on penalty kicks.

The thing I like about the TBO, though, is that they understand that stories can be directed. You can’t make us score a sitter, but you can create the environment in which it’s most likely to come about. I think if there was one turning point in the game – one clearly defined turning about that best represented the pulls of tension - it was the collective pause of disappointment as the half time whistle blew. In that moment all the stories touched by nervousness, the pessimistic patterns of thought, took a firm hold – but with the exhalation of air came defiance, and Ibrox in its entirety rose to cheer the team off. It was thus to be a night of defiant triumph, not a night of missed opportunities.

And so it turned out to be. At half time a mate said “We have 45 minutes to save this titleâ€, and when he said “we†he meant it. Football brings out the collective joy of the moment in crowds of individuals – the same man who despairingly berated a player for a missed opportunity, sung his name loudest as soon as he was done. The same player who berated his team mate for a misplaced pass made sure he encouraged him as soon as he next got the ball: Nervousness & Defiance, Fear & Solidarity.

There’s an honesty when emotions are laid bare – it’s the sort of honesty, when harnessed, that tends towards greatness and fearlessness. There is a long way yet to go in the league, it could still go either way; with that result, though, the sort of stories that had us hideously imploding under the weighty burden of games & Europe & tiredness are banished for the moment, and a new tone has perhaps been set. Defiance over Nervousness, Solidarity over Fear, Singing over Silence, Rangers over every bugger else.

Here’s hoping!

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nice one frankie i enjoyed reading it. (tu)

As did I mate. I found it strangely comforting and quite inspirational actually.

Perhaps if mischief-makers like Graham Spiers and his ilk could genuinely relate to the emotions of a football fan they'd think twice before their childish name-calling and unfair generalisations. Not that he could dream of writing anything of this quality.

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Brilliant Frankie, every now and then somebody sums it up.

He's so right about the applause at the end of the first half, from The Bill Struth Stand you could see that the players appreciated it.

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Great piece of writing - and great summation of what happened last night. There was a siesmic shift in attitude just on half time that carried the team through to the end. Last night the crowd - ABSOLUTELY - played their part in getting a win from a draw. Great article and great reactions from the crowd last night.

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I was actually expecting some booig at half time but I was delighted when the opposite happened! We were not going to lie down and give up the title last night and neither were the players! IT turned out well and 6 more 1-0 wins will do the trick for me!

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There was a siege mentality among the fans and the players last night.

I hope it lasts till the end of the season.

exactly right.

Great article Frankie. More defiance, more points, more silverware. :rangers:

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Hairs on the back of my neck stood up reading that, thanks Frankie :)

I don't get to Ibrox very often, I wish I could go more. Every time I do go, being part of the crowd, the buzz, the excitement is a fantastic experience. I hope every single Rangers fan reads that, and uses it to inspire them. Rangers will need their support.

:rangers:

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