In 2006, the American comedian Bill Burr was onstage in front of a notoriously hostile Philadelphia audience which had already spent much of the night destroying the talent. He was not long into his show when they started booing him.
For the next eleven minutes, Burr subjected that audience to one of the most relentless poundings ever delivered by a comic to those who had paid to come and watch him. Even listening to it all the years later, for the hundredth time, makes me smile.
Burr is clearly a world-class wit, and over the course of that eleven minutes he won the respect of a heck of a lot of those hecklers, and he considers the show a triumph to this day … but even if he’d won back none of that crowd, Burr would still have looked back on it fondly, because he was not kidding. He might have been funny, but he was not joking.
He gave them what he thought they deserved.
Burr didn’t care because he was already a guy at the top of his game, appearing in front of people in a city far from home with whom he’d have no further interaction. Even on his return to that city and that venue, none of them were likely to buy another ticket, were they? So although I admire his bottle and wholly respect the craft, it wasn’t as brazen as it seems.
This evening, following the game, Brendan Rodgers addressed the issue of the fans booing the full-time whistle, and I don’t know if I’m misreading his comments or misunderstanding them, and I’m willing to give him some benefit of the doubt here … but the thing is, I know that Rodgers is a smart guy and knows what he’s doing and saying almost all of the time.
“I’ve had that since I’ve been here,” he said, when asked about the response from the stands this afternoon. “If it’s not the result, it’s me. If not me, the board.”
When he says stuff like that, he has to know that some people – rightly or wrongly – are going to take that as a dig, and although it’s not standing in front of a drunk Philadelphia crowd and telling them they never need to worry about terrorism because they aren’t worth bombing, it takes either someone very brave, arrogant or stupid to even seem as if he’s discounting the opinions of 60,000 people who by virtue of the season tickets definitely will be in his place of work every single second week and who very much hold his future in their hands.
Now Rodgers may be growing frustrated with the fans, but he better get it straight that we’re growing increasingly frustrated with every aspect of how the team is being run.
If he thinks we’re a little scattershot in our criticism he needs to grasp that we’re not at all, that all these things are interconnected. The board isn’t delivering the talent he wants, he’s not fighting hard enough for it and he’s taken this squad backwards. That impacts results.
For someone who is very much under scrutiny right now by a lot of the supporters, Rodgers comes dangerously close to calling us out in that statement, and in his position that would not be a particularly good idea.
Because no-one in the stands likes the look of this situation at the moment, and we pay his salary and much else at Celtic besides, and so we’re very entitled to voice our frustrations, and unless he and other people at the club start seriously upping their game he, and they, are going to hear a lot more of it.