Offside, 8 August
The saga of Brian Tindle and Bimbo83.
Is Brian Tindle innocent? Forget Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand and Rivaldo. The hottest topic of debate among football fans this summer is the love life of Brian Tindle, Watford supporter and cyber-legend.
If you haven’t heard of Brian Tindle then you’ve obviously never visited a football message board. Football supporters spend an awful lot of time on internet message boards, arguing the toss over team tactics and devouring gossip from ‘reliable sources’ about boot-room unrest and training ground bust-ups.
On sultry summer days, when cricket and golf dominate the sports pages, men would certainly die of football deprivation were it not for the humble message board. On the Big Watford Love message board (1) most of the close-season discussion revolved around what the football community euphemistically refers to as ‘regime change’, ie, the sacking of your club manager. That was until 10 July 2002, when a young woman called Sarah, posting under the user-name Bimbo83, started a new discussion thread that wasn’t even football-related.
‘I would like to tell you lot about brian the watford fan’, announced Sarah. ‘I have been going out with him for 3 years and he has been cheating on me and i found out last week that he has given me hepatitis after his holiday in Greece.’ (2)
What began as a public lovers’ spat soon unfolded into a compelling tragi-comedy – a story of love, betrayal, sexually transmitted disease, and bestiality. How did love-rat Brian catch hepatitis? Was it from Emma who works on the make-up counter in Boots? Was it from a sexual liaison in Greece with a woman, or a man, or perhaps even a goat? Or was it, as one contributor suggested, from eating shit.
As the coarse debate raged online, graffiti proclaiming that ‘Brian is a diseased scummer’ appeared in Bushey Arches (‘scummer’ is a derogatory term for local rivals Luton Town). Brian himself responded, declaring his innocence and, more to the point, revealing that Sarah’s dad was a Luton fan.
By now Brian had become a celebrity in Herfordshire. Hornets fans were composing Brian Tindle chants in preparation for the new season. Then the story jumped the barrier of club allegiance and became a national debate. Supporters from other British clubs began posting messages on the thread, shortly followed by fans from other countries.
Within 24 hours Tindlegate had become a soap opera with a massive international audience numbering tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands. A press agency in Ipswich quickly bought the domain name BrianTindle.com in a bid to cash in on Tindlemania.
Rivals.net, who host the Big Watford Love message board, have produced his and hers t-shirts bearing the logos ‘The Tindles’ and ‘Bimbo83’. Another online retailer is advertising a range of anti-Tindle merchandise, including clothing, hats, wall clocks, mugs, aprons and mouse-mats (3).
It has even been estimated that time spent by employees reading the thread at work may have cost UK businesses up to £50million, while the worldwide cost may reach £1billion (4). Brian Tindle had become the new Claire Swire – the girl who thinks cum is ‘yum’ – who was the unwitting subject of a viral email that was read by an estimated 10million people worldwide (5).
But does Brian Tindle really exist? Is the story of Brian and Sarah just a hoax, albeit a highly entertaining one? Some Tindle-sceptics have pointed to a number of non-sequiturs in the narrative. Why, for example, is there no Brian Tindle on the electoral register? Why does nobody remember any previous posts from Brian, supposedly a regular contributor to the message board? Sarah claims that her great grandfather played at ‘wing-half’ for Watford – but why does she use this antiquated term?
Brian and Sarah may well be fictitious, but even if the hoaxer owns up, would anyone believe them? Hoax or not, the Brian Tindle saga has acquired a life of its own. What is significant about Tindlemania is not the simple tale of boy meets girl, boy cheats on girl (possibly with goat), but the fact that a rather crude in-joke can spread from office to office and from country to country until, virtually overnight, the whole of cyberspace is in on the joke. The international language of vulgarity, if you like.
Does Brian Tindle exist? Who knows? More to the point, if Brian Tindle doesn’t exist would we have to invent him?
(1) See the Big Watford Love message board
(2) See the Brian Tindle thread on the Big Watford Love message board
(3) See Brian Tindle merchandise at café shops
(4) How warring web couple cost business £1bn, Sunday Herald, 29 June 2002
(5) Is this the greatest ever email hoax?, The Register, 12 December 2000
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