“I DON’T ask that you adore me,
“But, for God’s sake, please don’t ignore me.”
Okay, not exactly poet laureate material, but I reckon it would be a fair epitaph for any self-respecting newspaper columnist.
I admit to not being a devotee of Oscar Wilde during my formative years. Among the inhabitants of the Glasgow housing scheme of Castlemilk, I’m fairly certain I was not alone in my naivete of the great man’s work.
I have no memory of waiting in the queue at the No.37 bus stop and the main topic of conversation being the intellectual property of the Irish poet/playwright.
“Effie, may I solicite your considered opinion of The Importance of Being Earnest?”
“Ach, Ah’ve nae time for that guff, Ella. Did Ah tell ye Ah almost won the snowball at the County Bingo last week?”
However, it was dear, old Oscar who gave us the classic quote: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.”
Perfectly sums up the scribes who make their living scribbling their thoughts for newspapers, in print and online. They crave your attention. Praise them, pillory them, but don’t pass them by without comment.
The fact you take the time to mention their thoughts is oxygen. That attention makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning.
During my days as chief sports sub-editor at the Daily Record, we had the incomparable Alex Cameron who wrote a twice-weekly column under the banner of Candid Cameron. The readers couldn’t wait to read his stuff just so they could disgaree with him.
My gifted and much-missed chum would rattle cages everywhere, no club or individual was safe, and then he would gleefully sit back and await the anticipated reaction from the paying public, the lifeblood of newspapers in print form back in the day. It was a winning formula.
I had to smile as Celtic and Rangers supporters were convinced he was an avid follower of the other half of the Old Firm. Alex ran the gauntlet of abuse with the Daily Record labelled by one set of fans as the Daily Ranger and, by the other half, the Daily Rebel.
If the supporters had paid more attention, they may have noted the name of Stirling Albion cropping up with unusual regularity in Alex’s offerings. My colleague, one of the finest journalists I ever had the pleasure to work alongside, had been the team’s shirt sponsor for years. He was an unashamed fan of the little club that rarely did anything of note.
I joined the Sunday Mail as sports editor in 1987, just in time to enjoy the centenary celebrations of Celtic a year later. I had never hidden my allegiance to the club from the east end of the most wonderful – and crazy – city in the universe.
Archie Macpherson, the outstanding broadcaster, writer and author, arrived at the newspaper shortly afterwards and provided a witty, insightful and thought-provoking column every weekend.
During my time, Gerry McNee took over the columnist’s role and, like Cameron and Macpherson, he knew how to provoke a reaction from the incensed reader. Another excellent operator, Gerry wrote a slightly more acerbic editorial observation; sharp and, on occasion, to the painful point.
Needless to say, their considered musings had the ability to stir emotions and enrage, irritate and infuriate the reader. Job done. Who can we annoy next?
By the way, in my near-decade at the Sunday Mail, selling one million copies every week, we were known as the Sunday Mason to one set of fans and Sunday Liam to the other lot. Takes a special skill to upset the followers of Glasgow’s Big Two in equal doses.
And here we are today, dear reader. Former footballers, time-served journalists and wannabe hacks are jostling for pole position in their quest to arouse a response of any kind from fuming fans up and down the country.
A fortnight ago, we had one esteemed columnist telling us he “would not, on current form put two bob on Celtic’s chances of still being in the Scottish Cup by four o’clock this afternoon in Paisley.”
Shug stepped back and awaited the response. He wasn’t disappointed.
It’s highly unlikely you will discover a literary masterpiece among the rubble of criticism that is filling airwaves, online sites or the alarmingly dwindling circulations of newspapers.
The rush to antagonise and get the hackles shooting skywards is fairly entertaining and amusing until some observations veer off course and head into gratuitous territory.
I take a lot of what I read with a Siberian salt mine. Anyway, at my advancing years, it is not healthy to have steam pouring out of my ears on a daily basis at what I read or hear.
On a factual basis, I am aware some of so-called inner sanctum knowledge being imparted to keep us all up to speed with the workings of our favourite clubs is absolute fiction.
A lot of the other deliberations are worthy of a second thought. And some are simply there to tease a landslide of rebuke and you really wonder if the author believes what he is scribbling.
To  be fair, it is a peculiar art form being able to aggravate people on a regular basis.
What did dear, old Oscar say again…
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