The Death of Civil Discourse

Finally. The transfer window is shut for the summer. Four months to forget about potential incoming targets and outgoing surplus. Everyone has an opinion of how their club handled business during the window. Regardless of what you think about the business that was completed these past few months, it is nice to be able to sit back and focus on football. Or is it?

Supporting Liverpool Football Club has become a challenge to endure during the transfer window. As each window passes, it becomes more difficult to enjoy. I’m really starting to struggle with it. I love the club and always will. I have ink on my left ankle to prove it. But social media is slowly killing my fandom. Maybe “kill” is too strong of a word, but the Facebook and Twitter activity I read daily is not healthy. The amount of misinformation, disinformation and the speculative opinions based on them has created an environment that has essentially deflated me. It’s become like American politics, where the polarization of opinions has been exacerbated to one extreme or the other. You’re either with us, or you’re against us. There is no in-between. Sufficient evidence is being posted on social media which will support the side you decide to take. People simply choose what information they want to believe. Being a Liverpool supporter is no different. You can choose to believe the public financial accounts of the club where it seems prudent to maintain course-and-speed on a path of fiscal responsibility. Or you can choose to believe any number of “sources” that claim the club is being mismanaged and about to lose its footing near the top of the mountain. You’re either supportive of what the club is trying to achieve and how they are doing it, or you’re not and want to see #FSGOut trending on social media.

I’m not trying to stake a claim that I’m right and you’re wrong. I can see those that truly know me are raising their eyebrows because most of the time that’s precisely what I’m trying to do. Especially if I am having a pint at the pub with them. I can honestly see both sides of the argument. I understand the want and desire for fans to see new signings. It’s not necessarily because we see our rivals bringing in shiny new toys (or slightly refurbished ones in the case of Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo), but that certainly doesn’t help the situation. Before this transfer window officially opened, I blogged about how I thought we would be risking depth and strength in the midfield with the loss of Gini Wijnaldum. I expected and was hopeful to see someone else brought in. That didn’t happen. I also see how some fans are concerned that the club is getting complacent with talent acquisition at a critical moment. They aren’t satisfied with the idea that Curtis Jones or Harvey Elliott might be the future midfield studs we hope they turn out to be. The keyword in that statement is “might,” which to be fair is just as applicable to incoming transfers. They “might” become the next Fabinho just as easily as they “might” become the next Marko Grujic.

We know transition at the top is in our near future, and it doesn’t appear as though we are preparing for that managerial change by stockpiling players that we think will be needed and useful when that time comes. Michael Edwards is supposedly leaving after this season, which I find amazingly interesting how the same supporters that are bashing his recent transfer inactivity are also the fans starting to panic about his departure. Klopp is leaving after three more seasons unless he can be convinced to extend his tenure again. It’s reasonable to want the club to be forward-thinking about the “big picture” ensuring the best assets are available for the new leadership to utilize when the time comes. It’s also reasonable to want the club to act prudently on financial matters in a constantly changing world with a pandemic that doesn’t want to go away. We still might regress back into the depths of Covid-hell and be forced to play in empty stadiums, which would kill our financial projections for incoming revenue. When the books were closed on the 2019-20 season, the club published that overall revenue was reduced by £43m for the final three months of the season. The numbers for last season are not yet public, but if the loss of supporters for nine matches of the season (nearly 25%) caused that much of a decline, then you can imagine how much of a loss the club took in the 2020-21 season where practically every match was played in empty grounds. Maybe it’s not the right time to splash the cash on that shiny new toy.

Being reasonable about this debate has been lost on most supporters. Trying to have an intelligent debate about the pros and cons of the argument is like trying to convince that craft beer snob that it’s OK to drink a Bud Light (or vice versa as the case may be). There is information overload on social media, and it’s only a matter of seconds scrolling through your newsfeed before you’ve seen an article that confirms what you want to believe. Like I said earlier, you’re either with us or against us. I used to love sitting in the pub, playing devil’s advocate with a mate over a pint. I didn’t always agree with the argument I was making, but I simply enjoyed the debate and banter that would ensue with a good friend. Sadly, those days have gone. This pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has killed the in-person discussion for the most part. Instead, we sit on the couch, scrolling the social media accounts looking for something interesting to discuss. Often, I will spot an irresistible post that will prompt me to craft a pithy response that makes me proud. Depending on how many beverages I’ve consumed that night, I might even blurt out an audible chuckle at my own sense of humor. But then I remember how polarized our world has become. Not everyone will understand my joke. They aren’t sitting next to me at the bar as I smirk looking for a reaction. Instead, they are sitting behind a keyboard with the online thesaurus, ready to reply with vitriol the moment that social media app notifies them that I’ve replied to their comment.

I’ve always been told to avoid getting into discussions involving religion and politics because you’ll never convince someone that their beliefs are wrong. We are near the point that this concept is applicable for how Fenway Sports Group runs Liverpool Football Club. How they choose to conduct its business is honestly not my concern. I won’t lose sleep over the fact that Liverpool didn’t sign another midfielder in this window, even though I wanted them to do so. I just love to watch Liverpool play football. I used to be that guy that would obsess over every transaction my favorite teams would make. I would swear off management on a fairly regular basis, but my love for the team never wavered. Eventually, I matured and learned that it was pointless to fret about the things which I could not control.

That’s what makes this whole #FSGOut movement so comical. I understand for most supporters it’s simply an outlet to vent the frustration of management not moving in the direction you’d like. But honestly, what’s the end game? I dislike what has happened to Facebook over the past few years, but I hardly think if I got #ZuckerbergOut trending globally that he would be convinced to step down. Fenway Sports Group has done a remarkable job with Liverpool. I remember watching us win the 2012 Carling Cup Final at my friend’s man-cave, wondering if that was as good as it was going to get. Hoping to qualify for Europa League while sometimes making it to a domestic Cup Final. I simply could not envision a path that would get us another Champions League and that elusive 19th Premier League title in less than a decade. But they somehow got us there. And I don’t think any group of fans will convince John Henry to rethink his investment now that he’s tasted that success. No matter how many #FSGOut protests are staged at Anfield, or banners are flying in the Kop. FSG is here to stay.

I get that sharing that hashtag might only serve the purpose of informing other supporters whether you’re with them or against them. But there are some of you out there that simply like to wind others up. Trolling on social media with #FSGOut is no different than my neighbor that still has a “Trump 2020” sign in his front yard. Keeping that sign visible only serves to annoy the liberal neighbors that must look at it every day. There’s nothing I can do to change that. Just like I can’t filter through the jackass trolls I see daily on my social media newsfeed wondering why we didn’t sign Kylian Mbappe this summer. I desperately want to engage online again, because I know that there are other supporters out there willing to debate intelligently and professionally. I just don’t think that’s possible now. I miss those days. It makes me sad.

One final point I want to make before concluding this article. You may never get conservatives and liberals to come together in political agreement, but one important fact separates that from supporting Liverpool. Regardless of where you stand on how the club is being managed, we are all still Reds. We all want the club to win. The window is shut and it’s time to focus on the football. This is a special club, and I feel honored to support them. I love that we get to see the lads on the pitch about twice every week, and I can’t wait to share those minutes at the pub with my mates. We’ve got six fantastic Champions League matches to enjoy this fall, and a few derbies to boot. Let’s try to enjoy the moment. At least until January.

Ken Kendra

The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and do not necessarily reflect that of LFC Raleigh or Liverpool Football Club. I am the author of the book “Walking Through The Storm” available on Amazon, Kindle, World Soccer Shop, and other book depository outlets. Follow me on Twitter: @kjkendra11

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