A brief look at “football’s coming home”. Lessons to learn from England’s world cup

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Beardsley Lineker,, Wrighty, and Platt. 1995 , me reporting on England coming home

Skin in the game. I’ve been reporting how it’s been coming home, since looking like a 12-year-old, and it just so nearly did. But this piece is less about football.

England’s expectancy was high. We got to the semis, then fell out to Croatia after extra time from a momentary lapse in concentration. At that moment if you could harness collective sighs as raw energy to supply the fuel needs of the world, we’d have a thousand years of energy ahead of us.

The English, like to trend extrapolate. Hence caution turns into invincibility. An observation can becomes a certainty; a feeling becomes an expert opinion, and a football being played on someone’s soil by the youngest team in the competition, is a coming home. You could argue why not. Positive thinking does work.

In fairness, it’s not England. It’s human nature which is built inside the spectrum of the duality of fear and optimism. Ask the Thai Cave divers — the most amazing story this year. Quietly optimistic they pressed.

Or ask Nato’s commissioners who sat cowed like five-year-olds as absent flawed daddy Mr Trump berated them, whilst they fixed their eyes on the floor. Fear and success on display. England do it by the extreme. Actually I have got to stop saying England, because the fans, and I’m one are doing what fans are meant to do. It’s the bloody media. Yes I was guilty once too.

So help me divine one, if England have a habit-to-be-kicked in reverting to type, playing a long ball up the field that keeps on being picked up by their opponents who then wind up for another onslaught on the defensive line, the media, full stop… Let me start a new sentence here. The media, OMG are Ulysses, profound, in their make-up for seeking to make readers scale extraordinary heights, only to throw everyone off when they reach partway of the summit. Then comes nation flagellation, self victimisation,and emotional browbeating us into a dulled sense of zombie hood. If you’re thinking of filming a new zombie movie today, you might find more extras, me included, in part because I got up this morning, or last night were mind-shape-shifted by the collective relentless indoctrination of analytical depression by the media.

There’s an alt plucky bit. You know when something goes wrong and a friend puts their arm around you and you live the moment, then gradually come out of it. That works. It was on display in the stadium yesterday. England looked upset, but then reconnected with their families. At the fan’s end, they showed their appreciation, cheered their downed heroes, let them know football did come home. Unfortunately, little of it was shown on TV.

If you ever doubted that media is a construct, there you have it. News is not a natural product, it’s the making in someone’s head how to forge a narrative. Yes, England lost, but how you shape what happens next is entirely up to you, just as Nato could have said to their wanton dad, “ Oi shut it. That’s not how Nato works, you blaggard”.

Psychologist Dr Pippa Grange is one of the unsung heroes of England’s making. She, we’re told, has taught the footballers how to reflect on their use of social, while ex BBC Journalist Sue Llewellyn @suellewellyn has crafted a framework for its efficient use. Yes, what you read affects your mood. It’s all in the mind. System 2 in Daniel Kahneman’s mind blowing book on Thinking Fast and Slow is out to get you. The subconscious isn’t just a mysteriously freudian reference, it genuinely is the uninvited stranger out to create havoc at every opportunity. It takes effort and training to silence system 2, but when you do, you might just come up with the #kyling.

Dr Grange, I’m hoping when she’s next interviewed on mainstream will offer her services to the wider media, society and others, because OMG the media need it. It’s not their fault. Really! Firstly, the media is people writing and filming, not some mass entity. They have learned a Bernaysian art of talking up prospects and then emotional wrecking that appeals to readers in reflecting the worst.

Note the vilification of Raheem Sterling versus his own powerful and extraordinary essay of his own life in the Players’ Tribune. Which would you truly prefer?

Media browbeating sells, riles opponents into mustering extra bravado, and can make your mind turn to pulp. Here take the purple pill. And fear, loathing, feeling yukky works much better than upbeat, contained positivity or “luvvy duvvy” stuff in their eyes.

It’s not their fault though that doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Our narratives for storytelling, as much as our emotions, writes University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett in her book How Emotions are Made, are learned behaviour.

We learn how to create an emotional state, being sad, happy, an emotional wreck and we can change these learnt states. Hence the manner in which media operates can be undone. It was one of the red crests on the horizon, when in 1995, 30 youngsters including me, were given cameras to shoot and report our own stories. Yes mobile journalism is older than you think. We did well for a while, and then were rebranded to follow the status quo.

Dr Grange is fostering a new approach against England’s behaviour of old. It’s an attitude we too can, and should muster. A radical break rather than progressive one in changing what we do and how we do it.

In English football, coach Gareth Southgate is orchestrating that change. Team members are encouraged to be personable, tell their stories, write their future. Would it be too much to ask those in the media to put themselves through such therapy to change? Is it too much to ask if media is coming home!

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