Years ago having a minute’s silence at football was the reserve of rare and profound events; even Remembrance Day wasn’t routinely recognised like it is today. Gradually the number increased; not because of a significant increase in deaths but more that the overall attitude towards these things changed. Suddenly everything was worthy of a tribute from the death of life long fans to the recognition of unrelated world events.
I don’t know what other clubs do, but we seem to have taken the idea of a minute’s silence to new, mawkish levels. Before the Walsall game the club organised a minute’s silence to remember everyone associated with the club who had died in 2016. I think I’ve read that there will be another one at the start of the season to mop up everyone who had died over the summer.
Lots of people die, it happens all the time. It has a profound impact on those close to that person, but in the main, for most of us, life continues regardless. Death is part of everyday life. It’s like we’re being forced to feel something that we almost have no right to feel – the deep sense of loss of a turnstile operator or season ticket holder from Wantage who followed us home and away for 30 years.
Of course, it’s not asking a lot to stand in silence for a minute, but that’s the whole problem; to do it as a job-lot is generic and impersonal. To do it at every possible event renders it completely pointless, belittles the moments of genuine grief that sometimes engulf clubs whether it’s the death of Martin Aldridge or the Bradford fire.
The death of Lewis Mangan aside, who was just 20 when he was killed in a car crash in September, it’s not like the club have had a particularly tragic year. That’s not to belittle the passing of anyone else related to the club over the last year. The club rightly organised a tribute to Mangan and there’s a permanent tribute to him on the halfway line in front of the North Stand. Beyond this, as uncomfortable as this might sound, it’s been a fairly routine year.
I don’t think I’m in the majority when I say that the approach is peculiar but we have developed a sense of groupthink about such things. When the actions become subconscious and routine, they also become thoughtless and meaningless, which is a shame because when there is meaning behind the act the effect is truly moving.