One of the many interesting aspects of running EPL Talk is how I get to read and interact with football supporters from all of the 20 Premier League clubs throughout each season.
One of the things I find particularly enlightening is how objective (or not) football supporters are. Take a topic such as the Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey or the ball that hit Robin van Persie’s head and you’re guaranteed to get into a heated debate about who was right, who was wrong and who should be punished.
All of our favorite Premier League clubs have been involved in similar incidents, but are we — as football supporters — able to remain objective when similar incidents happen at our club? Are we able to think and see clearly, and objectively make a decision based on the facts in front of us whether our team was the guilty party or not?
In my opinion, there are three natural reactions to a highly controversial incident involving our teams:
(1) We see the incident through the eyes of being a supporter of our club. This would be a conscious decision in our minds to see an incident in a way that is completely loyal and biased in favor of our club.
(2) We see the incident purely in an unbiased manner, free of any prejudice or outside influences. Hard to achieve, but not impossible to find. We like to think that our football commentators and pundits are in this category, right? And finally…
(3) We see the incident through the eyes of being a supporter of our club, but only subconsciously. We believe we’re being impartial, but we’re subconsciously favoring our club.
This is, to me, the most fascinating reason. It’s partly based on knowing your football team’s personal traits more intimately than supporters of other teams because they only see your team in big matches against them. That intimate knowledge is knowing how your player usually reacts in a situation so you have a better idea of whether he’s acting our of character or not (for example, knowing your player is “not that kind of player” or not if he commits a professional foul). However our support of our team can influence even our subconscious. Even when we try to be objective, our support of our team impacts our subconscious.
It’s hard to be completely objective because our support of our club clouds our vision.
In the Ashley Williams incident, some people were forming opinions about whether he purposely kicked the ball at Robin van Persie’s head or not based on seeing the Swansea captain in action in perhaps just a few live games during the past two seasons. I haven’t missed a Swansea game in the past couple of years, so I formed a different opinion. But admittedly, I may have been influenced in favor of him (I thought he didn’t do it on purpose) based on my allegiances to Swansea City and how “I know him” as a player (i.e. he’s not that kind of player).
The examples of Shawcross-Ramsey and Williams-Van Persie are two of literally thousands that happen throughout each season in the Premier League. The bottom line is that even when we try to be objective, it’s very difficult based on how we perceive things, how well we know the players and whether supporting our club makes a difference on our final opinion.
It’s not just we soccer fans who have differing opinions about incidents in the Premier Laegue. Just as we see incidents in the three different ways mentioned above, so too do football reporters, pundits, managers, commentators and more. At the end of the day, it’s healthy to have different opinions. We’re not all going to agree on everything, but realizing how each of us are impacted in the three ways above may help us better understand why we disagree at times.