The anglophile and political junkie that I am, I watched the BBC’s streaming coverage of the UK election for more than a few hours last night. I can’t help these masochistic tendencies. And even knowing what I know about the media, I was still amazed to see a narrative fully created with less than a quarter of the results in.
With hours of airtime to fill, politician after politician was interviewed, and every one was forced into the cliché of ‘we’ll have to wait for the full numbers’ while the hacks fumbled for a storyline. David Dimbleby et al went with whether Gordon Brown “had the moral right” to form a government with a hung Parliament imminent and the Tories with more seats. Evidently, it’s still going on this morning, although I haven’t fully caught up on the “news.”
By midnight US time – seven hours after polls had closed – I was screaming at the computer for one of the random Labour stuffed suits to respond, “Look you nitwit, numbers don’t lie. If no party has a majority, we get first chance at a coalition. It's not rocket science.” Never happened. It didn’t fit with the “Tory wave” narrative that’s been lovingly built for more than a year. If there was any narrative, it should have been “A pox on all your houses, third parties never win, and all politics is local.” But that’s too stunningly simple. It’s evidently easier, and more fun, to fit the facts to the story rather than the story to the facts. As Liverpool fans, we should be used to that.
We’ve watched a narrative forced on Liverpool all season long, one in a long line of unfair criticisms of this club and manager. I hate drawing any parallel between Gordon Brown and Rafa Benitez, but the hacks have long been planning both men’s downfall (a downfall partly of each’s own making, but that’s another essay), and have been willing to mold the “news” – any news, even speculation – to make it fit. Speculation like what we’re frequently forced to rely on in football, and which the pundits had to rely on last night while waiting for winners to slowly arise.
We all succumb to the narratives around Liverpool, and I’m admittedly as reactionary as most. Neither Benitez nor Liverpool has said anything concrete about Juventus or buyouts, but every word from either is diagnosed in great detail for a clue. The recent club statement – or what was lacking in that statement – on the meeting between Benitez and Broughton (and Purslow!) has invited even more. That the Guardian’s article states Benitez won’t hold a press conference before the Hull match invites even more speculation that feeds into the frightening storyline.
It’s little use listing the misguided narratives and half-truths used to bash Benitez, but it makes me feel better: zonal marking, rotation, transfer spending, poor man management, too defensive, never plays young players, etc. Yes, there are truths in many of them, but a quick search of my archives hopefully demonstrates that there are arguments against those myths, as well as arguably more important reasons why he needs to stay.
I should apologize for the weeklong silence, but I’ve been hard-pressed to write anything about the club. Morale is still in the toilet after a long, disappointing season with zero light at the end of the tunnel. Off-field turmoil is as virulent as ever, unabated after the aforementioned meeting. I just haven’t had the stomach for it, and I’d rather wait for reality to play out instead of forcing a narrative into words for once. Otherwise, it’s shouting into the wind.
The preview of Sunday’s match, thankfully the last of the season, will be late tomorrow or early Saturday.