Sergeant Prendergast: Let’s meet a couple of police officers. They are all good guys.
Bill Foster: I’m the Bad Guy?
Sergeant Prendergast: Yeah.
Bill Foster: How’d that happen? I did everything they told me to.
[Picking up the flat hamburger he just ordered, comparing it to the picture behind the counter]
Bill Foster: It’s plump, juicy, three inches thick. Look at this sorry, miserable, squashed thing. Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with this picture?
Bill Foster (D-FENS) — Falling Down
Last night, following the latest flat and anaemic Liverpool performance, your scribbler sat and channel-surfed in dire need of distraction. When we were younger, my brother and I used to desperately trawl through the limited options for some televised football after watching a horror movie. Following the irrational angst induced by something like Candyman or The Exorcist, it didn’t really matter what type of football was on offer. Even a highlights package of non-league hoof-ball worked as a kind of soothing salve for our affrighted minds.
Lately, however, the inverse applies. So harrowing is the experience of watching the Redmen limp impotently through another match, that I’d happily giggle through the disquieting barbarity of Wolf Creek directly after it. Yet for all the perturbation the actual football may inflict, it is the abhorrent outrage that follows it which truly disturbs. Liverpool fans, it emerges, are quite the angriest and most vindictive bunch of folks one could rub virtual shoulders with. The reaction to the team, and especially the manager, on Twitter last night and this morning was almost comically incandescent. Inarticulate fury abounded, lines were drawn in the sand, irrevocable positions taken and fellow fans abused. Reason departed and agendas raged. The latest, frankly batshit, locals vs daytrippers nonsense is a perfect example. Ergo, this moderately sane fan, too afflicted by actual real life troubles to engage in pathetic online squabbling, sought the solace of the movies.
As often happens before I write one of these, the perfect television or film choice insinuates itself into my viewing schedule. Well, either that or I simply project my LFC upset onto whatever I choose to watch and make it seem perfect. Whatever the case, my post-FC Sion blues were eased last night by Joel Schumacher’s 1992 flick, Falling Down, which features a bravura turn by Michael Douglas as Bill Foster, a flawed and troubled man, who finally snaps in a way that every one of us has fantasised about at some point. It’s almost impossible not to relate to the righteous indignation of Foster as he encounters some of the most unpalatable aspects of modern life – the cruelty of strangers, the false promises of marketing, the xenophobia of the small-minded and the angry elitism of the wealthy.
What appeals to me about the fatal odyssey undertaken by Foster in the film is the massive grey area it exists in. His rage is clearly dangerous and uncontrollable but the reasons for it are often valid. Those he violently reacts against suffer horrible fates and yet, for the most part, they have proven themselves to be wretched humans. Foster finds himself the most unwitting of vigilantes, celebrated by some, detested by others and in trouble with the authorities. In LFC fandom terms, his situation is not dissimilar to the sort of person who ventures a fervent opinion in favour of or against the effectiveness of the manager or the suitability of his signings. It’s a dangerous business in an increasingly intolerant world full of ever-more-extreme perspectives.
It is, of course, possible to express one’s dissatisfaction or impatience without recourse to a rocket launcher and a gym bag full of hardware. Not as visceral or rewarding perhaps, but possible. Nobody is happy with the status quo at Liverpool Football Club just now, but some choose to articulate their displeasure in the most violently vehement fashion. Others, keen to be part of some non-existent civil-war, turn on their own for having a different take or for not being as vociferous in their disdain. It’s all marvellously unedifying.
As long as the club remains in what seems to be a kind of holding pattern of damage limitation, the only option this long-suffering obsessive can see is to try and mine whatever positivity and humour one can from life on Planet Redmen. So dour has been the dialogue of late, that the fun has almost disappeared from supporting the club. That may be why I rejoiced a little too enthusiastically in Kolo Touré’s attempted overhead during last night’s game. It was a rare moment of levity and light. Almost inevitably, the Ivorian veteran was forced off with injury in the second half. The universe, it seemed, was insisting that we can’t have nice things. Yet even in the wake of that disappointment, Touré remains the squad’s buoyant, cheerleader-in-chief, rallying the troops ahead of a crucial derby he will not feature in.
“Now we need to focus on Sunday,” insisted the AFCON winner. “This is the derby and it’s going to be a big, big fight. It’s a good time for us to get back to winning and give something to our fans. At the moment we feel that they aren’t very happy with us. This is a good time to show them that we want to make them happy. We can do that by beating Everton.”
Like D-Fens in Falling Down, we march stolidly towards the next match, with every single ugly interaction along the way leaving many more of our number fatally disillusioned. It would appear that not even the unfettered positivity to be gleaned from a beaming Kolo can halt the inevitable slide of some fans into a kind of madness. They are lost to us for now, circling each other viciously in what Brendan might call a “frenzy.” Perhaps an emphatic victory over Everton this weekend might be the catalyst for something better. We can only hope, for as things stand it is hard not to be critical of the “miserable squashed thing” that we’ve been handed, when the poster promised so much more.