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October 27, 2013
Just back from the FREE conference in Vienna. And still inspired by the keynote speech given by Cornell Sandvoss and our subsequent exchange.
‘Liquid life and solid support’ – a very catchy title, which sums up in two adjectives what football may represent in our times of late modernity. Football clubs as anchors of solidity in increasingly liquid biographies, where everything – career paths, territorial belongings, even family bonds – can be put into question at any moment.
Football is just one those possible anchors. You can have other “objects of transition” that you (desperately) cling to, or “ordinary passions”, as Christian Bromberger calls them. But football happens to be a very prominent one.
Perhaps precisely because of the highly polysemic character of clubs as objects of fandom. Haven’t they become – at least the biggest of them – almost empty shells into which an individual can read or interpret almost any meaning he/she wishes or needs?
There is something very artificial, illusory, sad in these projections of meaning. But for many individuals, an artificial anchor to which you can string particularist, or even essentialist, narratives is better than none. As long as football, in its different forms, is capable of helping you feel different from others, at least a little bit “special” in whatever way, decline in the breadth and intensity of fandom and supportership is little likely.
Cornell Sandvoss produced the expected good laughs among his (excellent) audience when he quoted some football fans saying that if they were in a situation where they would have to choose between their partner or their football club, well, sure, that would be regrettable, but they would no doubt have to opt for the club.
The laughs were of course justified, because statements like these sound so gross and absurd. But come to think of it, they’re not. They actually express a very rational choice. If the attachment to your club is the one thing on which you have a grip, on which you can rely without fear of instability, precisely because you can renegotiate its meaning(s) any time in order to adapt it to your needs for an anchor in a life where everyhing feels unstable, then it makes perfect sense to give it preference on anything else.
This may be a somewhat depressing vision of our times. But just because it’s sad does not mean it’s wrong.
Ah yes, and before I forget: just because a presentation is higly entertaining doesn’t mean it’s superficial. It’s perfectly possible, even for academics, to be dynamic, engaging, and profound at the same time.