Inside World Soccer - Former Melbourne Victory midfielder Josh Hope has walked away from professional football at just 22 due to anxiety caused in large part by online abuse. ...
[I]n a bold and emotional post on Instagram, Hope revealed that he had fallen out of love with the game and decided to call it a day.
"Football has been such a big part of my life ever since I can remember. But it's time for me to call it in, for now....it isn't all smooth sailing and I just wonna put my experiences out there so that if anyone ever feels like they are the only one! Ya not! You aren't alone!!
"The anxiety that comes with this shit is crazy, I never thought it would get to the point it did. I kept pretty quiet about it for a long time but I started to see it creep into my day to day life. And at the end of the day it made me not enjoy my football.. at all.
"Critics come with all sports and only the strong survive, (so they say) but some of the shit is relentless.
"I was so over being treated like just a 'player'. We aren't just someone you see on the TV screen, we are people no different to anyone else.
"It didn't just stop after the final whistle, it's a constant battle with people who are supposedly meant to be supporting you. Some of the things I would see not only regarding myself but others was nothing less than abuse. And I'm not talking Football related!
"Of course there's going to be clueless people saying the first thing that pops into their head. But when it gets personal, to the colour of their skin, to how they talk, to a haircut. I get it, it's a cruel world but geez if that's how it's going to be I don't want to be a part of it."
Far be it for me to tell a grown man how to live his life. A major part of adulting is weighing the pros and cons of your employment situation and choosing accordingly. I've known people who had jobs that owned them, not the other way around. All-consuming, 24 hours a day stress factories that sucked the life out of them like a vampire. Jobs I wouldn't do unless they paid a million dollars an hour. So you make your own choices and I'll make mine and we'll stay out of each other's hair.
But if Josh Hope thinks getting a real job is going to be a better life than being a professional athlete, he's got another thing coming. You think strangers ripping you online for the way you kicked the ball or making fun of your topknot is abuse, try working for a living. Try going off to some cubicle or shop floor five days a week. Performing the inane drudgery of one of the anonymous drones who used to live vicariously through you. Dragging yourself through another shift with one eye on the clock, trying to will the day to be over so you can go home and enjoy your meager earnings, free from that supervisor who treats you like you're on a prison chain gang instead of an employee. No one cheering you. No one caring who you are to the point they're driven at times to jump on Twitter and ridicule you. No female fans, desperately offering themselves to you sexually for no reason other than what you do for a living. Sure, you'll be free from online abuse. But it's the freedom that only comes from being a nobody. A schmuck. That life is another form of abuse entirely.
What I don't get is that anyone who's 22 would be this bothered by cyberbullying. Enough to walk away from a pretty good life. When you're that age, haven't you grown up with it? Haven't you been dealing with people you don't know finding new ways to tell you you suck since you started a MySpace page in grade school? Aren't you all used to it by now?
That wasn't my reality until Barstool really started to gain traction about 14 years or so ago. And I remember it was a real adjustment period for me personally. When our comments section went from people we actually knew and who came to our parties and added a lot to the blogs. Jokes we'd overlooked and so on. Then this whole other crop of posters took over. And they were hostile. It was like a band of Vikings had raided a peaceful village, burned it to the ground and sent all the survivors running into the hills. I'd never realized how controversial we were until then, and it was unnerving. I remember thinking that if under one of my posts they went three consecutive comments without someone accusing me of molesting the kids I coached, I was having a good day. But then, you learn to adapt. You realize these are just 1s and 0s and none of it matters as long as they're not saying vile, racist, sexist shit that will get blamed on us, let them bash away. Because it's not real, it's the internet. Hell, one time I posted a thing on Facebook where I was in a hospital bed getting prepped for surgery on my knee, and someone came on there to say they hope I die on the operating table. By that point, I'd grown so numb to people I'll never meet typing crazy hostility into a keyboard I laughed out loud. It was my friends and family like my niece who came at the guy with torches and pitchforks. Another time I was doing an appearance for WEEI at a bar showing a Patriots game and a guy on Twitter said he was there and threatened to beat the shit out of me. A few times. Finally he described himself to me and the guy, as hard as this is to believe, looked even less tough than I am. He had 3-inch thick glasses and I'm pretty sure was slightly autistic and probably couldn't have broken skin if he hit me with a bat wrapped in barbed wire. And he never came over or spoke to me. He only Tweeted at me. True story.
My point being, online abuse isn't real abuse. Cyber bullies aren't real bullies. It sucks to be told you suck, but it comes with the social media territory. I can see blocking accounts who are a pain in the ass. Or reporting anyone who makes specific threats. But quitting a career that pays you handsomely to play a game that you're apparently very good at strikes me as a pretty huge overreaction. To paraphrase Alec Baldwin in "Glengarry Glen Ross," "You think this is abuse? You can't take this, how can you take the abuse you get in a match against Adelaide United or Perth Glory?" Lighten up, Josh.