Commentary

Love in the time of Corona

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

I love soccer.

Maybe that’s obvious, considering that every week, after I spend a full day at work and my evenings with my family, I sit down and write or podcast about the Philadelphia Union. Of all teams in the world…, I know, but like going to the gym or picking up the guitar, it’s my release.

Love is certainly blind, irrational, and strange.

I hate Twitter.

That cesspool of vitriol, that vile echo chamber of misery is no place for a person who values his or her mental health. Of all the social media forums, Twitter is unquestionably where the worst of us can be found, sub-tweeting inanity and bullying into oblivion even the most banal disagreement simply for the likes. Don’t even get me started on the bots…

Hate is unquestionably learned, inherited, and terribly magnified by our modern world.

Love in a hateful place

When fellow PSP contributor Jeremy Lane and I created the All 3 Points podcast, I created a Twitter account to try and help us market ourselves. I’d never used the platform before and found it to be generally redundant. We had more success in Facebook groups initially anyway, where success looked like 7 downloads instead of 4 (where at least 2 of those numbers were us double-checking the link actually worked). Once we’d gone a year or so and Twitter started to become mainstream, that number increased many times over.

Our platform on PSP was a game-changer, and further increased our interactions on Twitter, which undoubtedly magnified our reach. Suddenly I understood why Twitter existed: it was viral.

We joked about the hundreds of people who would actually listen to a podcast about the Union, our podcast, and about how that number was certainly top-level market saturation. I know for a fact we’re not the most popular Union podcast of the bunch either, and that’s a credit to everyone who is creating content in a truly limited marketplace.

Love is irrational after all.

We loved talking about soccer and started to love our Twitter soccer community too. In fact, we eschewed Facebook and other social media altogether for what was the quickest, leanest, and most interactive space out there, the little blue bird.

Over time, I curated the list of people we were interacting with on social media down to this: soccer people, mostly within 50 miles of Philadelphia, who shared our strange love for the local version of the beautiful game.

That cesspool of vitriol became a welcome and communal space, my echo chamber, where one could make an off-hand comment about freeing Keon and everyone else knew what that meant.

My people.

This flowing, free-form fountain feed of familiarity was a place where, near midnight on a wintery Sunday, I and a bunch of “connections” I’d never met could commiserate over one of the greatest games in American soccer history and a goal by a center back that is possibly still rising into the top corner. I might have been watching the game in my bed, lights off, wife asleep next to me, but I was actually surrounded by friends, sharing an experience that defies language.

Before Jakob Glenses became the whole world’s Goal of the Week highlight, he was ours.

Even when the games weren’t on, I could escape in this feed for a few minutes whenever I wanted. The spinning globe upon which we live our lives turned into a tiny, curling sphere, destined for the back of the net… or Onion Bag.

Until the virus.

There really isn’t anything I can say here that hasn’t already been said. Our world is unsettled and forever changed.

The things that brought us together, even as banal as my Twitter feed, are suddenly things that are pushing us apart. My tiny, quasi-hipster echo chamber was suddenly much wider than I intended, full of anger, frustration, and the raw emotion that I was sincerely trying to avoid in that space.

So two weeks ago I turned it off, deleting the app on my devices and removing the favicon from my bookmark bar. I still have Twitter, but for now Twitter doesn’t have me.

It’s not that I’m closing off the world or pretending the “stick to sports” mantra has any value at all, far from it. My work requires daily, even hourly, focus on this virus and how our country adapts to it. There isn’t much space for a release anyway, considering my day now also includes 7 hours of child care in addition to the frantic 8 of work, overlapping around nap time with my wife’s equally hectic schedule.

Even with all of this, I know we’re among the lucky ones.

What now?

I strongly doubt there will be MLS games on May 10th, same goes for the Premier League, Serie A, and certainly countless others. I keep refreshing this very website every day just like you probably do, simply in case I’ve missed something and that games will be starting again.

I know that nothing new will be posted because I can see what’s been written on the admin page… and yet.

I said love was irrational.

I joked about Cory Burke not playing again for the Union this season, now I genuinely wonder if anyone will. It’s certainly a non-zero possibility.

That Union jersey with a sponsor other than Bimbo on it was supposed to be on sale at the home opener a few weeks ago, with huge expectations. If you can buy it in person by the summer you’ll be lucky, and it’s not even available online yet (this must be what they mean when they say “supply chain disruptions”).

Last time the economy crashed, iStar (Jay Sugarman’s real estate company) lost 98% of its stock value. In the last month, it’s lost 46%.

I feel for the new guys, the guys who uprooted their lives in another country for a chance in MLS and are now stuck in some monthly rental in a locked-down suburban apartment complex.

I could go on and on here, but again, nothing I could say hasn’t already been said.

The simple fact for the world is this: the ripple effects of this crisis will last for generations. The simple fact for me right now, and I suspect some number of you too, is that I just want my soccer team back.

Author’s note: This is a community of people who help one another. If you are in need, please let us know either in the comments or through our Contact portal on the header of this website. Be safe.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post. PSP was always my lunchtime read when I’d work from home, I clicked on it today out of habit, and you’re article was a pleasant surprise. Everyone stay safe and practice social distancing.

  2. SilverRey says:

    The ONLY reason I’m on the twits is because of the Union. All of my follows are Union and soccer follows. I try to keep it soccer centric – and more importantly my tweets soccer centric.
    .
    I have absolutely failed in that regards recently. The vacuum of Union talk combined the pressures in the world right now have forced comments out that I never wanted to put on my feed.
    .
    Viewpoints are just that, and the temptation to assume yours matters in this particular realm is very much a siren song that can overwhelm your instant response reflex.
    .
    I haven’t been too egregious, and generally my rationale kicks in before I hit the post tweet button, but I long for the time when the enticement of those thorns are blanketed by soccer again.
    .
    It is not a nice place to be right now though. There are by far more negatives than positives in my timeline.
    .
    In the mean-time I’m (probably mistakenly) still on in hopes of catching the few fireflies out there in my Union/soccer bottle. Moments like Kevin Casey’s personalized goal-calling, individual wall-papers from the Union, and podcast announcements are the unlikely bright spots that keep me on (for now at least).
    .
    .
    Life has been tough without soccer. Watching, but more importantly for me, playing. It won’t be any time soon, but I’m more than ready to have it back!!

  3. Thanks Chris! I’m not really a social media person. I dabble a bit,but as a retired Union electrician, I worked outdoors away from a computer. So I normally jump out when things get too heated or just cynical! This place,PSP, has always been mostly safe. Thanks to everyone for that! Please stay safe and follow social distancing guidelines!

  4. Auntie Social Media says:

    No Fecesbook. No Goggles. No Twatter. No RedEyes. No InstantGrams.

    NO none of that mess…………..

    Evil.
    U R far better off.

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