Let’s for a moment think about something that seems to slip under the radar when we discuss big-picture implications of our digital, perhaps post-human world: the spatial and temporal weirdness of being able to casually watch, say, a Zimbabwe/Tunisia African Cup of Nations match at two o’clock in the afternoon from a library in Georgia. Ontologically speaking, how do we tangle with the fact that we can, at any time and from any place, more or less instantly look at soccer being played practically anywhere else with about as much discomfort as it takes to click through a small flurry of spyware ads?
Perhaps since our tools for interacting with the world have become so overtly digital in and of themselves that of course our watching of sport comes at a distance, through a bandwith-encrusted live stream, just fuzzy enough that you can take your glasses off and let your eyes unfocus without considering the fact that the tiny man setting a slick pass flickering across your Macbook screen is an electronic simulation of a real, not-tiny man setting a slick pass a half a world away, in more or less real time, while even more tiny pictures argue with each other over whether Arsène Wenger should/shouldn’t be fired. Is this such an obvious part of our existence anymore, ontologically speaking, that it goes without saying, or at least saying much about?
Which maybe, ontologically speaking, makes it fairly uninteresting that Red Star managed to outplay and steal three points from table-topping Stade Brestois this afternoon 1-0, while I watched from a glowing box across an ocean. I’m not sure how we can resolve the idea of fandom, which seems like it should be so bound up with markers of meaning (locality, loyalty, history, etc. etc.) contingent on occupying the same physical and mental space as the team you support, with the digital, something that zaps these markers into smoking piles of pixels. Maybe I shouldn’t have been able to pump my fist and attempt to muffle my exuberance (in a library in Georgia, remember) when Julien Toudic, newly signed and freshly subbed-in, volleyed in a Hergault cross to give Red Star a deserved lead. If it weren’t for the digital, after all, I’d have no window to watch the match, much less have a rooting interest or, frankly, care at all.
Even so, it was a deeply satisfying win, ontologically speaking of course. The table has basically converted into a five team micro-tournament to avoid relegation; by doing what was unthinkable heading into the match, Red Star is currently four points up on the relegation guillotine. This remains a deeply weird team – two players named Keita (Tiécoro and Sekou, both of whom missed some chances to score today), a Dada (Stephan Raheriharimanan, the pride of Malagasy Scrabble), TWO Pierrick Cros-s, (Brest, for their part, provided a Pelé: Bryan) a huge hole where goals should be, and a gaggle of 30-year-old Ligue 1 retreads, but for the first time since last spring, it feels like the pendulum is starting to swing in the right direction.