I write this despite wondering if it will get less readers than normal – which may in itself be part of the solution. More and more people are perhaps realising that taking yourself away from the poisonous division of social media is the most productive thing for everyone’s mental well-being. (Unless of course you manage to get yourself banned). But I promise this blog is supposed to skew positive, not political.
The past week, for various reasons, has been one of the most painful in modern history to watch via the news, never mind engage in. I try not to get too involved in twitter debates anymore, whether it’s gender equality or politics or racial injustices – all things I have opinions on – because I’ve seen firsthand how the most reasoned points can spark vitriol of a level it’s hard not to have lingering when you’re trying to fall asleep at night. If you’re going to use social media at all though, it’s hard to let certain things slide – and engaging in real debate is something that can actually be positive. It’s how needed change is enacted. It’s why I (among many) called out the Golf Channel, called out our beloved sport for apparently feigning ignorance at Trump’s role in what happened in DC this week, and engaged with some comments about Justin Thomas’ choice of derogatory term while competing. That last one was balanced, I think, because it was a genuine discussion. And yet, cue someone finding the time and necessity to tell me to “shut up and leave the country”, amongst other less meaningful words. (I’m sure he would retract if he found out I’m not in the US, but I chose to ignore it).
There’s offence in every statement, every opinion, every apparently disputed fact. Which brings me back to sport – because that’s what brought this particular corner together in the first place.
I don’t know about everyone else, but sport right now feels like the only outlet. And I don’t say that as a competitor, nor in a “keep politics out of sport” way, because every athlete is a human first and they have a right to put what they believe in above their sporting prowess, if they desire. But I say it as a fan, because inherent in every sport is an irrefutable truth – the final score. Whether that’s a 64 or an 80, a 5-0 defeat or a 3-2 victory with a 95th minute VAR winner – there’s number that can’t be undone.
There are pictures and stories and messiness within the number, and that’s where the relationship with our sport truly lies, but there’s a grateful finality that seems impossible to find in every other part of life right now. The vague words and beliefs on every side of every debate – freedom, justice, rights, fraud, discrimination, even justice – have become so loose and undefined it’s impossible to know what people truly mean by them. But sport gives us some kind of solid ground, some result – be it an adrenaline fuelled high, a calamitous downfall or something fairly mundane in the middle – it’s a result. The ebb and flow that precedes the result is filled with the knowledge that it will end, in something. Something real. Something that we don’t have to flick through multiple news sites or Twitter feeds or reputable sources to find – once we’ve found it, it’s over. And isn’t that the most (depressingly, as a Newcastle fan) reassuring thing in the world?