In days of yore it was bread and circuses which were used to appease the masses of Ancient Rome.
Roll on a few centuries and it remains simple pleasures which provide the distraction from life’s more brutal realities – a pie and Bovril while watching your favourite team.
For the conspiracy theorists out there, the school of thought is that sport is designed to keep the ‘idiots’ preoccupied with things that don’t mean anything in the grander scheme of things.
Not my words but stolen from a weighty tome on the subject.
A way of turning the people’s attention away from the events and circumstances which directly and deeply affect their lives.
Then came Covid-19 and we’re nearing a calendar year since the pandemic threatened to take it all away.
The suspension of our professional game last March meant something much more troubling than a spell of cold turkey from watching the bladder being battered about.
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For a time it was the league in Belarus which provided an injection of better-than-nothing football junk food until something more refined came along.
It has taken a while to admit it but, after a testing six months, the truth is that Scottish football has become a joyless and austere world.
Our new normal is a cold and barren Premiership landscape where anger and hostility have filled the void.
If anyone has seen much laughter recently then give me a shout. Even the teams who are winning are finding something to get livid about.
Tribal differences have become particularly acute during a season which has 10 in a row riding on it. A perfect storm for social media to spout forth and multiply with a worrying level of abuse which hasn’t previously been seen.
One top-flight boss has spoken privately about what he calls the joyless season. Nobody seems to be enjoying it. Are you?
The argument of needing games on to provide some light relief and a sense of normality when taken at face value is fair comment.
But if this is to be the crutch which some require to get through lockdown then judging from the lack of any good humour within the game, some have too tight a grip of it.
The beauty of sport is how it brings people together, a lightning rod of positivity which is capable of lifting people from the mundane drudgery of other aspects of their lives.
There’s a toxicity to our football this season where smiles and banter have been replaced with a grim bloodlust and rage, particularly acute during such a potentially historic season.
There are times when pre-recorded crowd noises and cardboard fans can be preferential to the real thing but if there was ever any doubt that football’s essential ingredient is punters at games, this is it.
Will this experience force clubs to embrace their support as an essential part of their operation rather than gullible cash cows which have been taken for granted in modern times?
Fan atmosphere makes poor games passable and good games great – while absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Let’s all just lighten up a bit and leave it to our clubs to prove they can start a fight in an empty house.
-- to www.dailyrecord.co.uk