Not for the first time, a comment on Twitter has got me thinking about something which has been simmering at the back of my mind for some time. On this occasion the subject was Association Football - or soccer, as our cousins across the pond call it.
When I returned to Liverpool, after WW2, I was surprised to discover that there were actually two major football teams in the city. Throughout the war, I knew I was born in Liverpool; so, I always listened for their result on the wireless each Saturday tea time. However, in much the same way that I didn't know that Arsenal, for example, was in London or that Aston Villa was in Birmingham, I hadn't known where Everton was.
Although, in those days it was almost de rigueur to support ones local team, it may come as shock to many of today's fans to learn that in larger cities with more than one team, religion remained a factor in deciding where ones allegiance lay. Conveniently, having been raised by my non-conformist grandparents, Anfield was my spiritual home, anyway.
Turning, now, to the earlier Twitter comment.
It was about Sir Alex Ferguson referring to today's game at Old Trafford as a 'derby'. Now, this is clearly wrong because, in the same way that Man U's derby should be against Man City, the only derby LFC are ever involved in is with Everton. Interestingly, however - and it's fair to assume that a former Glasgow Rangers player would know this - the same religious divides apply.
Anyway, putting that aside, I'm reminded of how intense the rivalry could be on Merseyside during a derby match. At the same, however, it was almost always good-humoured. Hardly surprising really, because Liverpool was renowned for producing comedians - Rob Wilton, Tommy Handley, Ken Dodd, and Jimmy Tarbuck, to mention but a few of the older ones. Somehow, this good-humour seemed to be reflected in the manner in which the rivalry between the two sets of Merseyside fans was manifested. Supporters of whichever side was the more dominant would be far more likely to laugh and make fun of their rivals than demean them unecessarily.
Good-humour, however, isn't something which many would associate with the Man U manager. Envy, on the other hand, is - as illustrated in 1986, when he declared his intention of "knocking LFC off their perch." Sadly, these characteristics are reflected in many of those who support his team. Mutual respect seems to be beyond their understanding and, instead of laughter, sneering is a more common method of communicating with opponents. It's quite rare to hear of a Man U fan complimenting a rival team. This is sad.
In another Twitter post, yesterday, I alluded to the fact that my interest in Association Football is waning and that Rugby Union is becoming far more attractive. I wonder how much of what I've expressed in the previous few paragraphs have contributed towards these feelings? Having said that, there are other issues about 'the beautiful game' which leave a lot to be desired and, perhaps, I'll get around to mentioning those before too long.