One of the many reasons why Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter of the modern era is that, despite being hailed as a genius and the “voice of his generation” for at least fifty years, he has somehow been able to maintain a sense of his own fallibility within his lyrics.
Be it the “You’re right from your side and I’m right from mine” of 1963’s One Too Many Mornings, the “So many things we never will undo, I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too” from 2001’s Mississippi or “Maybe it’s the same for me as it is for you” from 2012’s Long and Wasted Years.
Even at the end of one of his most bitter songs (1975’s Idiot Wind) after ten minutes of berating the partner in a failing relationship he concludes by accepting his own culpability in all that’s gone wrong; “We’re idiots babe, it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves”.
There’s little doubt that Dylan hasn’t lived up to these lofty ideals throughout his entire personal life but that doesn’t make the sentiment any less valid (“Never trust the artist. Trust the tale” as D.H. Lawrence would have it) and anyway, rock stars get a pretty clear pass when it comes to the “being a role model” part of the job.
Excess and imperfection are not so much tolerated as expected in guitar heroes and modern day minstrels.
That leeway doesn’t apply to sporting figures however and it’s not quite clear why that is.
Maybe because they represent athletic achievement? Maybe because we often celebrate that achievement with our families and friends? Maybe because we feel we know them far more than we really do after watching them play week in and week out and listening to sound bite interviews?
Whatever the reason that sense of personal connection paradoxically makes us feel the pain of any supposed betrayal more keenly while simultaneously making us more eager to forgive and move on from any hint of indiscretion.
It’s a complicated set of emotions stemming from a weekly diversion that we ultimately want to be simple. We want “our” guys to be the “good” guys and we want “their” guys to be the “bad” guys and when the narrative doesn’t quite slot into that simple little niche we feel strangely bereft of any true moral compass.
And we tend to feel even more bereft when the facts surrounding a situation are (rightly) kept from public view, leaving us to clutch at innuendo and intuition as we clamber for some kind of ethical foothold to keep us upright.
We all still have our opinions of course (it almost feels like a facet of human nature to take sides in any situation).
But time and circumstance will cause those opinions to either harden or melt as the weeks and months go by until we finally lose track of what we knew we knew to be true way back when.
The only thing we can say with any certainty is that football is a simple game played by people who are just as complicated as you and I.