Monday, February 10, 2014

Pulling Your Fan Card


As the third birthday of Milan Obsession approaches, I was reflecting on some of the reasons that this blog exists. One big one was that I wanted a place where a fan could be a fan – not judged for how long they had been a fan or whether or not they watch every game, or whether or not they know every player, stat, or final score, or how many jerseys they own or how many times they’ve seen the team live. But there is one thing that trumps this basic right to fandom, and that is the very definition of being a fan. Because being a fan literally means we support the team, the jersey, the crest. Most specifically those warriors who wear our colors and fight for our shirt on the pitch. So you are welcome to be any kind of fan you want to be here, except you cannot insult, namecall or unfairly criticize our players here. Because if you do, I’m pulling your fan card.

Why we are fans

I know that in the age of social media, it is nearly impossible to think that such a place could ever exist. But partially because of so many of the people who frequent here, and partially because of some actual moderation, I am very proud of this forum. It is completely unique amongst football and even internet forums. However, being unique means that it is also often misunderstood. For example, some people think the tone and sense of community here is fabulous until they themselves are moderated… with moderation being a necessary evil to creating such a positive community. Others, in fear of being moderated, don’t say what they really want to or don’t say anything at all. It is an irony that is not lost on me.

However, being respectful isn't as complicated as some might think. Fair criticism of a player is criticism of a performance (or a public action or statement that affects the club.) For example, it is perfectly fair to say “Digao was sluggish and ineffective.” Or “He played very poorly again tonight.” Or “I can't believe that he allowed 13 goals in a single game.” The possibilities are endless, more so with some players than others. And I also don't believe in letting other fans criticize the fans who express a fair criticism or opinion here, either. There is room for all opinions here, and healthy debate is welcome, with respect for one another, too.

"Balo... instead of tweeting, think about playing"
Not cool, dude. No correlation whatsoever between his rare tweets and his performances.

But too often, we let emotions supersede our basic human decency. I read things like “Digao is sh**!” “F*** Digao!!” “He is not worthy to wear the shirt.” Those are not opinions as much as they are emotional reactions, insults, namecalling, blaming, etc.  Contrary to popular belief, we don't get to decide who is worthy to wear the Milan jersey. These words do no one any good, and instead breed more negativity, even if sometimes we are blinded by emotion and lose our manners. Which, going back to my original premise, defies the definition of a fan. Because so long as a player is on our roster, wears our shirt, and sweats blood for us, whether it be on the pitch, on the training table, or the bench, then he deserves a measure of respect that I otherwise reserve primarily for deity. Or at the very least they deserve some basic human decency.

Those are the simple examples, and most comments on the interwebs can easily be classified in those two categories. But there is another category that is understandably not so black and white. It is what I call unfair criticism. Things like “I can’t believe Digao, playing as the lone striker, didn’t get all the way back and stop that goal” (even though there were 9 other Milan players between him and the goal and it is not his primary job to defend.) Or “Why didn’t he fly like Superman/score on those 6 defenders/not fall over when triple fouled/etc.?” While knowing the game well is not a prerequisite to being a fan, and is certainly not a requirement for posting comments here, it is also not fair to criticize a player for the impossible, or for not doing something he was not supposed to or expected to do.

So easy to insult, namecall, etc. But that is a Milan jersey he wears, so please choose your words carefully.

I realize this is a bit more of a grey area, but it also doesn’t mean you can’t be frustrated about something or vent that frustration. It means that you should be respectful and fair in what and how you say things when you vent. For example, it is fair to say “I wish our players could fly like Superman.” Or “Too bad there are 6 defenders parked in their goal.” Or “Damn you, gravity!” All of those statements are fair and respectful because they are not unfairly blaming our players or asking them to do things that are physically impossible. Instead, they take away the culpability and place it elsewhere, possibly even lightening the situation with humor that is not at anyone’s expense. And humor is always good. Not crass, insulting 12 year-old boy humor, that falls into that other category. But poking fun without namecalling, insulting, etc. can be a great way to release frustration and make others laugh, too.

Before you think that I’ve lost my mind asking for the impossible, remember this is how this blog has been run for nearly three years now, and the comments are still going strong. I also offer you the perils of social media. Not only have a lot of players closed their social media accounts due to abuse, but the effects on fans in real life and forums online as well as fans' basic perception of reality are devastating. I wrote about this in November, calling it “The Birsa Effect.” But allowing this kind of negative rhetoric to continue creates monsters out of mere men, and turns us into hate machines instead of fans. Even here, when maybe there are only a few people posting comments on a particular day, those comments are read by hundreds of other people, those who read but don’t comment. So if you are going to insult, namecall, or unfairly criticize our players and add to this social media disease, I’m puling your fan card. (Or at least moderating you. Possibly banning you, too, but probably only after you argue with me… or sadly, at least that’s how it usually works.) But it doesn't have to be like this, the choice is yours.

Past players are fair game for what they do after they leave... some easier to criticize than others

My only criteria for being a fan is worshiping the team. In whatever way you choose to. But acting like an internet Neanderthal is not part of being a fan. Some people say these kinds of comments are heat-of-the-moment, emotional reactions. But I’m a woman, I know emotions. And if I can pull this off, you can too. Yes, I have cursed like a sailor. I may have thrown a few things in my time. And certainly the desire to break things or possibly even homicidal urges have been known to surface during or even after a match. But hopefully never at the expense of my fan card. Anyone who reads this blog knows there are players I would pay to leave the club. But only based on their performances, not based on unrealistic expectations or personal reasons. I may not be perfect, but I do my best to not call them names, insult them, or ask them to do things that are humanly impossible.

I have unfollowed people on Twitter for insulting our players (yes, even some that I considered friends.) I have moderated and removed comments here. I have repeatedly called out the Curva for putting their own agenda ahead of their fandom, and also for insulting our players. Everyone is a fan, everyone has a right to their opinion here. And I love it when people share their opinions, I really do. Which is rarely a problem, because most people have a lot of great things to say. But when you cross the line, I’m pulling your fan card. Hate is not a right. Not here. And if you believe this, too, you can be respectful everywhere you go, too.

When in doubt, think WWKS? (What Would Kaka Say?)

I know that this is not a battle I will ever win, but I will do what I can to keep my little area of the internet a respectful place for our warriors, no matter how many of them Galliani buys. Because they are the ones who sweat blood and make my heart beat faster, the reason I do any of this at all. They are the ones giving everything, even giving each other communicable illnesses in an effort to win. For us. For the shirt. For the colors. You talk trash about them on my watch, I’m pulling your fan card.

What do you think about "pulling your fan card?" Do you have questions or suggestions about the moderation here? Do you have experiences with the negative side of social media? Please take this opportunity today to discuss the subject openly here in the comment section.


This post inspired by the interwebs


Our next match is
Milan vs. Bologna
Friday, February 14 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)


Stay tuned for a very special Milan Obsession Podcast LATER!