The sudden omnipresence of Vine has had a wide range of consequences for football fans. Most of them are undeniably good: we can now view goals, passes, tackles, fouls, saves and bizarre or hilarious moments from all over the world, wherever we ourselves are stood or sat, within seconds of them occurring. Fans are rushing to the medium en masse and they’re gaining more and more knowledge of football all the time.
The drawback is that when we watch a Vine we’re not gaining useful knowledge or a deeper understanding: we’re seeing an incredibly complex ninety-minute exercise between twenty-two players and two managers reduced to a looped six-second video. We can see that Mario Götze has scored another spectacular goal for Bayern, but not how Bayern created the chance, started the move that led to it or managed the game until the point where Götze struck the ball into the net.
That’s not a problem in and of itself. If the viewer is simply looking to stay up to date with current events, and it’s probably fair to say most people only want to do that, then Vines do the job better than anything else. They’re much more reliable than football matches, too: they show the viewer something fun within a few seconds of pressing play, whereas there’s no guarantee when they watch a full game that anything interesting will happen for an hour and a half. For anyone with a deeper interest in the nuances of football, however, lots of what’s exciting remains completely invisible on Vine.
It’s a bit like going to see Apocalypse Now at the cinema and finding that everything has been cut except the shots of napalm bombs being dropped on the jungle. It’s still spectacular, but without context, and a proper understanding of that context, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just some trees and some massive flames. The image will probably stay with the viewer, but they’ll have no idea what was going on, who was involved, where it was, why it happened, or what it really meant. They won’t even get to see Robert Duvall say the line about loving the smell immediately afterwards.
There’s a notion that Vine has shortened our attention spans and dumbed down our consumption of football in the process. If that were true, global attendances and viewing figures would be going through the floor as people sat at home on their phones binging on instantly gratifying goal loops. As things stand, the vast majority of fans still go to stadiums and watch on TV for ninety minutes, only using Vines to keep abreast of events elsewhere.
The suggestion that a potential Pep Guardiola will slip through the net because his or her ability to pay attention was destroyed by Vine is obviously fundamentally flawed. Perhaps the rise of Vine suggests that the armchair fan will become an even more casual consumer, but the real die-hards will always understand that Vine is essentially an add-on. It’s no substitute for the real thing and it never will be.