This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
The age of social media has been ruinous for football. That is a legitimate, gold-standard fact. While footballers used to be our icons, our heroes – sporting idols to be placed on the sacred pedestal of fandom – they have now been reduced to partaking in the lowest form of human interaction. Through our incessant use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, we have forced our heroes to join in with the ceaseless discourse of internet banter. Now we have grown weary of such fripperies, and so our adulation has been turned to ash.
The life of a footballer is now a desperate struggle to fulfill endless, contractually binding banter obligations. That's the reality of the modern world, folks. Nothing epitomises this bleak new epoch quite like the latest clip from LFC TV, in which a host of first-team stars are compelled – very much against their will – to rap along to a selection of classic hip hop tracks. It's all done under the pretext of preparing for Liverpool's summer tour of the US, or something, but basically it's an excruciating exercise in public humiliation
Look at Joe Allen here. Does Joe Allen look like a man who wants to be delivering a soft, Welsh, spoken-word version The Real Slim Shady? The answer to that question is: no, no he does not. This is his actual nightmare, and he's being forced to live it out in front of the in-house social media team. He knows full well that this is going to be broadcast to millions of people, and that he's going to be dealing with mean tweets and unflattering screengrabs and snarky VICE articles for days to come. Nonetheless, page nine, sub-clause six, section ii of his Liverpool contract states that he must ritually degrade himself on YouTube at least twice a season, and so he resigns himself to his fate.
Listen to the pleading tone in Joe Allen's voice as he begs Slim Shady to please, please stand up. If Slim Shady would only stand up, perhaps Joe's suffering would finally end.
That's nothing compared to the misery of James Milner, as he delivers a monosyllabic rendition of Regulate by Warren G Ft. Nate Dogg. James Milner looks like the sort of man who enjoys the music of Travis, and here he is being forced to cover a seminal West coast hip hop number from 1994. James Milner looks like the sort of man who likes going for country walks with his dog, who likes drinking the odd half of Yorkshire Bitter and who refuses to go out in public without an authentic flat cap on his head, and here he is immersing himself in the lyrical complexities of gangsta-funk.
James Milner will never be able to come to terms with this moment. He's a nice lad from the West Riding, and has almost certainly never considered what life is like in the gritty suburbs of Los Angeles. What Warren G would call a gangsta, Milner would probably call a ne'er-do-well. His comfort zone has just been shattered into a thousand pieces and scattered on the uncaring winds, all for the sake of a few YouTube views.
If this is what football has become, then maybe we should try to enjoy it. Watch on as Simon Mignolet does an incredibly poor impression of Coolio, and revel in the indignity of it all.