I am a Bolton Wanderers supporter. Last Saturday, I was shocked and saddened when Fabrice Muamba collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the pitch.
By Tuesday I was embarrassed at how the story had evolved.
Within about an hour of the 23 year old hitting the deck, the insincerity began.
People who had never heard of Fabrice Muamba began tweeting about how devastated they were.
Football clubs issued statements of solidarity, with cut and paste sympathy words, mainly involving the line, ‘our thoughts are with him’.
Players took to social networks announcing they were so close to Muamba that they just had to express it publically in less than 140 characters.
Something wasn’t quite right.
At this point, the hospital announced he was critically ill.
Some well-meaning person then decided to start the hashtag #prayformuamba which immediately started trending.
Then the unofficial Twitter police were called in.
As often happens in the wake of a ‘sad’ public story, the pantomime bigots get involved. A small number of people write disrespectful messages and usually people with lots of followers decide to try and bring them to justice.
Step forward Stan Collymore, a confident yet limited broadcaster who once hit a woman and introduced dogging to the masses. On Twitter, Captain Collymore opts for the name and shame approach, updating his followers with details of impending court appearances and trying slightly too hard to show that he is no longer morally flawed.
Stan wasn’t the only pundit working tirelessly for his fallen comrade. The BBC’s Mark Bright urged everyone to pull together and help Muamba reach 100,000 followers. Constructive stuff Brighty. That’s right up there with shaving the word Fabrice in your pubes.
The news later in the evening that his heart had stopped for over an hour and doctors had struggled to resuscitate him, saw the TV news channels crank it up a gear.
The incident was branded an instant tragedy. Except it wasn’t. Because a tragedy has an unhappy ending and he was still alive.
The ‘Football Community’ became another buzz phrase as the weekend progressed.
Apparently in times of sadness the ‘Football Community’ rallies around each other.
It also boos victms of racism (Patrice Evra, Anton Ferdinand) and creates an environment that deters gay footballers from admitting their true sexuality.
By Sunday, the ‘Football Community’ had got together to print lots of t-shirts. They carried a clear message, ‘Pray for Muamba’. Apparently, God was with him now.
Presumably the Devil had stopped his heart?
Matches began with a minutes applause, a concept brought in because the ‘Football Community’ can’t be trusted not to shout something inappropriate during a minutes silence. To me though, the idea of clapping someone who’s in hospital, seems more sarcastic than respectful,
By Monday morning the news that Muamba was stable was greeted with muted optimism by Bolton boss Owen Coyle. Over at the Reebok. fans, locals and people who wanted to be on TV, visited the bizarre living memorial for their midfielder, who, remember, was definitely still with us.
A prayer evening was hastily arranged in the Chairman’s lounge and some claimed that people were returning to faith. They weren’t really. People used the word pray because saying, ‘I’ve got my fingers crossed for you Fab’, lacks a certain gravitas.
By the middle of the week, the 23 year old was talking and amazing doctors. Bolton announced they were ready to play again and resume their relegation battle. Football had been put into perspective and Wanderers were everyone’s new second favourite club.
The doctors and God had worked in tandem to deliver a miracle.
The ‘Football Community’ had clapped a lot and printed lots of t-shirts.
Fabrice had his 100,000 followers, courtesy of Mark Bright
And most importantly, Stan Collymore had helped to bring a drunken youngster to justice for no personal gain.
A week on, Fabrice Muamba is making excellent progress and the real story is well on its way to having a positive conclusion.
Finally, a tragedy with a happy ending.