Saturday night football highlights packages can sometimes be a bit dull. It may just be my ever increasing age, but after three games on Match of the Day, I am looking to go to bed. It should not be the case, but after checking out what happened on the pitches via a variety of sources such as the internet, car radio, or even via the red button, I am fully able to sleep through a Saturday night without breaking out in a cold sweat with score nightmares.
Last Saturday was slightly different. It was only via the car radio that I began to hear about the Pardew head 'movement' at Hull. I have been out and about on the Saturday afternoon. I knew very few details about from sensing the outrage from various pundits. Therefore, I sat down in front of the TV to watch the Hull v Newcastle game thinking that Armageddon would break out on the touchline at any moment. When the butt was shown, it really did feel a bit like an anti-climax. What Pardew did was wrong, stupid, idiotic and pointless, especially as Newcastle were winning at the time, but after hearing the previews, I half expected a full fist fight on my TV.
Fines are being handed out. Formal warnings are being issued, and the FA are reviewing the incident. What message does it send out to players, other managers, the footballing public and the state of the national game? It is not hard to think about what that message is, but before I fell into a vortex of Pardew inspired anger and despair, I had to be honest with myself. If I was a Newcastle United fan, would I be soul searching to quite that extent?
Passion is such a big part of the English game. The 'three lions on the shirt' thinking is engrained on the national psyche. Come June and July, people will be out and about in the blistering sun in England shirts from across the years, talking about their pride and passion in the national team, even when the side is just about to lose a penalty shootout. The newspapers will stoke the national fervour to a frenzy. TV camera crews will be out and about at the biggest venues looking for a drunkenly excited fan to kiss the badge in front of the camera. Tears will be shed after the failed shootout. Then the hangover will begin.
Passion is such a big part of the weekly national game. As football fans, many of us have had the privilege of spending time at a game when the atmosphere is roaring around the stands, the players are going hell for leather to win the game. A truly rumbustious local derby lingers in the mind for longer than the next game. When your team is trying to find that winning goal, and you are screaming the ball passed the goalkeeper, it is heartening to look to your manager to see that he cares about the crucial shot as much as you do.
When that winning goal is scored, you want to know that star striker really cares about what he just did to make your Saturday night seem a bit more special. Just a single wave will not do. Being passionate about what it means to play for your club, means that you want your striker to reel away from the goal, possible throwing his shirt off into the crowd, falling onto his knees beside the corner flag, and fist pumping the air in delight. Any badge kissing will go down well too. That is passion. Walking away as if you do not care will grate on you. Why does your player not care? Does he want to move to another club? Has he fallen out with the manager? Has the manager lost the dressing room? Should the manager be sacked? Is the club going to get relegated? A lack of passion plays on your mind making you feel the worse, when there is really nothing that bad to think about.
When does passion step over the line? I have been in grounds where the star player has lunged into a tackle, has been justifiably awarded a red card, and some fans clap their player who has just broken the rules of football, and whose tackle has possibly caused physical damage to an opponent. They are clapping because their player has shown passion, and it was down to the 'usual' inadequacies of the referee that their star is heading for an early bath. You will then watch the incident later that night and still think that the referee was incompetent without question. However, you might think that your gut reaction was wrong.
It is probable that the Pardew incident will continue to play out in people's minds for many days to come. It will up the comment pages. The subject will dominate the football discussion shows, blogs, radio phone-ins, and be a water cooler subject to liven up a workplace tea room.
However, with passion being a selling point for the English Premiership, dominating the stands and the changing rooms and virtually seeping through the crevices of the national game, it might be helpful for us to look at ourselves in the mirror before we start throwing our stones around in indignation.