How To Upset Stan Collymore In 140 Characters TSS February 17, 2012 Leeds United 28 Comments I wasn’t around last night when Alex Bruce managed to cause the Twitter scandal of the year by tweeting that Stan Collymore was “mentally weak” and since the tweets were later deleted from his account, I only have the highlights provided by our followers to go off. If I have somehow missed the real reason why so many Leeds United fans were throwing a collective paddy at one of our own players, I apologise in advance. As I heard it, the 140 character game of handbags started when Alex Bruce – quite accurately – observed that Stan Collymore is a rubbish football pundit. Stan caught wind of this and spat his dummy out. At some stage, Collymore took a swipe at Alex Bruce’s Dad (can’t really fault him for that…) and Bruce managed to upset the entire population of Twitter by calling Stan “mentally weak”. Now to me, the term ‘mentally weak’ is one of the oldest sporting clichés I can think of. There hasn’t been a World Cup or European Championship’s in the last decade where our national side hasn’t been branded with that phrase. Every British hopeful in every Wimbledon Championship’s gets the same thing, and you could go on and on to find a fitting example in every sport. So why then did the sportsman Alex Bruce manage to upset the sportsman Stan Collymore with a sporting term they must have both encountered a million times? Well the truth is, he didn’t. It was the Leeds United fans that turned on him first, and since Stan was already throwing a paddy because Alex dared to criticise his punditry, he latched on to what our own fans were saying and used it to make Alex look like a supervillain. This happened because the fans somehow decided the term ‘mentally weak’ was a shot at Stan Collymore’s well-documented struggles with clinical depression. With Gary Speed and Andy O’Brien still fresh in memory (something Collymore didn’t mind pointing out), they weren’t going to let Alex Bruce take a shot at the mentally ill. Except he didn’t. The fans did. By jumping to that conclusion – based on absolutely no supporting evidence I should add – the Leeds United fans have basically said they think the term “mentally weak” describes those suffering from clinical depression. The sheer ignorance of that collective conclusion is incredibly disturbing and highlights how misinformed people are about mental illness at large. And I’m sorry to call any fan ignorant but I have someone close to me that suffers from that illness, I grew up witnessing the effects of clinical depression first hand and the only thing that offended me was the reaction of the fans and Stan Collymore using Gary Speed and Andy O’Brien to win a petty little argument. Let me assure you, clinical depression is much more than mental weakness. Being mentally weak is when you’re burdened by expectations and unable to handle the pressure of such a high-profile existence, it has absolutely no connection to clinical depression. The two aren’t even close. It’s like a flea and an elephant or Tomas Brolin and Lionel Messi. In all honesty, I don’t even think the fans were upset by the false interpretation of what Alex said. There’s a tendency in this country to feign outrage at the most ridiculous things, when the reality is, we’re the most apathetic nation on earth. Deep down, none of us really care all that much about anything beyond our immediate circle of friends and family. Yet we’re always in search of that next scandal. Things have gotten so bad that the media have resorted to manufacturing their own to feed this insatiable thirst the public now have. It’s all nonsense. No one was really offended by what Alex Bruce said, least not those that suffer from clinical depression or know someone that does and understands how ridiculous the suggestion that “mentally weak” is in any way comparable. People want to spend ten minutes pretending they’re absolutely outraged by things though and that’s why the national rags continue to feed it to us daily. Nothing sells better than a good scandal, because it creates a talking point and allows people to interact with others, share opinions and form closer relationships. Whether it’s a group of builders on a construction site or teachers sat in the staffroom, a good enough scandal will have them all feigning disgust simply because social convention dictates that we’re supposed to and our own happiness requires it. For us to feel comfortable within our own identity, we require affirmation from others. This constant stream of scandal we’re all fed gives us endless opportunity to receive that, and when all else fails, we can simply create our own. We all know what we’re supposed to be offended by and so long as we stick to the script, we’ll get to feel that warming embrace of social solidarity. Thank god we have the individual freedom to express ourselves, hey? If this rant offended anyone, I suggest you moan about it on Twitter for five minutes, find someone else who agrees, enjoy that warm feeling of social affirmation and then proceed to move on to the next scandal within the hour – thus freeing yourself up to be offended by something equally trivial.