How The Nicest Page On The Internet Saved My Sanity

I don’t know when the tipping point was. Sometime in February 2015 I reckon, but whenever it was, there arrived a moment in time when I simply had had enough of not only the internet, but the rest of the human race. Well in truth, it was just a small minority of the human race, but as is often the case, they tend to spoil it for everyone else. You see, I’d felt drained by the constant flow of detritus regarding the coverage of football online for quite a while now. That’s a shame, as social media and the internet has allowed me access to more quality journalism than ever before. Daniel Taylor, Sam Wallace, City bloggers, the crew and many more – you’re not vain and this article is not about you. Nor about journalists in general.

As a Manchester City fan, I’ll be accused of being a bit precious. The fire-fighting that emerged from our 2008 takeover has continued ever since, even if the flames have dulled slightly in recent years. From Mike Calvin imploring Sheikh Mansour to abandon City and take over FCUM instead, to Mark Lawrenson asking why the sheikhs weren’t spending money on hospitals and schools instead of City. Then there was Barry Glendenning, expressing his disgust on Twitter at the nerve of City for releasing a picture of Samir Nasri scoring a goal in a Manchester derby on FIFA 15, due to some tie-in with EA Sports. A computer graphic of a player kicking a ball. A player kicking a ball. Apparently it was in bad taste, and that’s when I realised it was all downhill from there on in – the battle was being lost.

Net spend. A billion pounds on players. Empty seats. Oil money. Arabs. Mercenaries. No history. Earned money (20 times). Organic growth. Plastic fans. Where were you when you were shit? Financial Fair play. Na$ri. Fake club. DNA. Emptyhad. Council house. Citeh. Oil will run out. 3007. Massive club.

All from actual adults, with jobs and partners and children and stuff.

Some of it came from other City fans too. Players slagged off after two games, the horror of anyone with any association with THEM possibly coming to the club, the disrespect shown to our current manager, executives, or anyone that doesn’t meet our now exacting demands. Even the pies aren’t good enough for some (all crust).

This really isn’t about Manchester City though. It’s about football in general. The need to fill the internet’s endless space by click-baiting. This is about keyboard warriors thinking it is acceptable to send racial abuse to footballers (or anyone, for that matter) and the stupidity of the arguments of such poor excuses for journalists as Adrian Durham or the Custii brothers. It’s about comparing attendances, it’s about net spend arguments, it’s about players and managers not getting time to succeed anymore, and it’s the shrieking overreaction when god forbid a team doesn’t perform to their absolute maximum. It’s finally worn me down. I dread to think what it’s like being a journalist though. Death threats for suggesting a player didn’t play well or calls of bias for opining that, just maybe, Mangala cost a bit too much? Even mentioning that he cost £40m is enough to get the veins bulging in some fans’ foreheads.

And to be honest, it’s not even just about football. I lied again. If there’s not an idiot on my timeline comparing footballer’s wages to that of a soldier, then there’ll be someone issuing death threats to a BBC producer who had the temerity to be punched by Jeremy Clarkson before not reporting it and not pressing charges. It’s about thinking it is acceptable to wish rape on female posters, the desire to offend in any way possible, it’s about Katie Hopkins and LADS and the LADS BIBLE, and thinking Steve Bruce having a bit of a belly is somehow open to ridicule. The great visionary Edmund Blackadder said that one of the worst things about the Great War was the endless poetry, but I think he’d take that over endless banter, top bantz, the banter bus, and the way the word has been a get-out-of-jail card for any sort of abuse. After all, it’s just banter, yeah?

And then I found it. I saw the light, and was saved.

What did I find? Well, it was only the nicest page on the internet. I don’t know how I stumbled across the page – maybe I was checking Claudio Reyna’s career stats or something similar, but find it I did.

An American lady was listing things she loved about the UK. I’m a patriotic fellow who loves his country (for all its faults), but even I raised my eyebrows a few times at the sugar-coated picture she painted of this green and pleasant land. And yet, as I read it, the cynicism slowly faded away. I liked the nice things she was saying. Then I saw there were thousands of comments, and I waited for the torrent of abuse that would naturally follow such a one-eyed view of my country.

And there wasn’t any. Not one bad comment. Not one snide dig, not one hint of nastiness. The ten years of cynicism and pessimism formed from every time I open an internet browser faded away, if only for a short while. What there was instead was a succession of (mostly) British and American people praising the article, each other’s country and generally sharing great experiences they have had. There was no abuse, no death threats, just kind people saying nice things. I spent over half an hour reading the comments.

And yeah, everyone might have glossed over the depressing reality of modern life, the war on the unprivileged, the rich getting richer and the wealth divide, terrorists, droughts, flooding, global warming, Fox News, the price of potatoes and the fact that Monster Munch are slowly getting smaller, but it wasn’t that type of article, and it was nice to have just a short period of time away from it all, in a place where people were being positive about the world, even if it was three years ago. I may be an atheist, but god bless them all.

But sadly there was only so much time I could spend on one page, and so it was soon back to reality, and an article where Adrian Durham wondered, “after Joey Barton ‘touched up’ Tom Huddlestone, are footballers passing off their repressed sexuality for ‘banter’?”. Elsewhere, Piers Morgan was calling Alistair Cooke a weasel, whilst no doubt gently caressing Kevin Pietersen’s inner thigh, and I was in no doubt -normal service had been resumed. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.

So if you ever need to escape for a short while, to read nice thoughts about happy experiences, then give the following article a try, five years too late, and let me know of any other pages to restore my faith in humanity.
It’s that or read Adrian Durham for all eternity.


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