I don’t actually hate deadline day. I should, I know, and there are many aspects of it which make me shake my head silently, but I think what I dislike most is just how popular it is.
That, in itself, makes a statement which some of us don’t want to hear.
Social media is always the same on days like today. It’s full of old-before-their-time people like myself bemoaning the state of Sky Sports News or sneering at the stream of rumour and counter-rumour.
We are so above, aren’t we? The hashtags, the pleas for updates, the emotionally incontinent raging; that’s beneath our level of fandom.
The trouble, though, is that that is a minority mindset. Transfer deadline day and all the comes with it is a product of football’s shape-shifting. The game has evolved and, generally, it has done so to meet existing demand. In 2015, for example, it is more soap-opera than sport because that’s how the majority want it to be.
If people didn’t read stories about players’ wives and girlfriends, they wouldn’t exist.
If people were impervious to click-bait, spurious transfer nonsense wouldn’t be printed.
And, invariably, if the sex toy-wielding White Walkers didn’t descend on training-grounds on deadline day, Sky wouldn’t send their cameras to film them.
Deadline Day makes a vivid statement about the game now is and, inadvertently, about what really seems to matter to the public. Going to the football may have once been about a day out with friends, about aspiration, and about being part of something, but that’s not primarily the case anymore. The day-to-day relevance of the game has been lost to something far broader and to a mindset which cares less about what happens on a Saturday and more over what may or may not be occurring five-to-ten years in the future.
Transfers are part of that road to nowhere. They are the signposts. Whereas once last-minute winners or unlikely away wins were more important to fans than anything else, now their concerns are drawn to statement signings, cumulative spending and to any tenuous proof that, one day, something good may happen.
The trouble with that, however, is what happens when that something good arrives?
Spend enough time on Twitter today and you will probably come to the conclusion that the average supporter is now more sensitive to transfer activity than they are to winning or losing. The final destination is ultimately unimportant, because the modern supporter has his or her eyes trained only on the horizon - and that never seems to change.
Win on Saturday? What about next week. Lift a cup? What does that mean for next season. Tomorrow; next month; next year.
Previously, everything that occurred on the game’s periphery was pointed towards Saturday 3pm. All the injury updates, coaching reports and team news had a half-life which expired once the referee blew his whistle. Now, in contrast, the game is just the fuel for the debate. Before the classified results have been read, fans are using what they’ve seen or heard during the games to perpetuate their beliefs over what their clubs should be doing off-the-field.
It’s a really strange inversion of the old relationship: the games are almost the sideshow now, existing only to provide evidence for use within endless arguments which can never be won or lost.
I think that’s why Deadline Day is so antagonistic. Sure, we pretend that it’s Jim White and we affect disgust over how much money is being spent but, really, it’s very easy to ignore.
Leave your phone off.
Truthfully, though, what we dislike is what it’s representative of. All that hyperbole and Sky-tastic rhetoric is harmless enough in isolation, but it conveys a general truth which is inescapable.
The game has been lost to this movement. It’s owned by the Soccer AM audience, the characters from the Jacamo advert and the LadBible Twitter account. If you’re banging your head on a keyboard today or snarling at your television, then you’re really just shouting into the abyss.
This is football now and transfer-deadline day is the slap in the face which reminds you of that.
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