SOME years ago when 24-hour supermarket shopping was still a novelty, the true meaning of people drinking on empty heads revealed itself.

It wasn’t particularly late but late enough for some folks to have had a good scoop.

And as an argument broke out between one of the inebriated and one of the Saturday night workers in the fruit and veg isle over the use of an orange as a football, the tone of the night changed in one fraught moment.

In the ensuing confrontation the N-word was spat out loudly, clearly and with undisguised venom.

It was as shocking as a hard slap.

For a second, the word seemed to echo in the weird stillness that followed. The atmosphere took on a weighty charge. The only person in the vicinity who didn’t seem mortified (apart from the offender) was the person on the receiving end, which tells a story in itself.

It was a repugnant incident but one which, 15 years ago, already feels like it should belong to a different era.

And yet in a season in which the chronic misbehaviour of football fans seems to have transported us back to a time where violence – verbal or otherwise – was as much a hallmark of the game as anything which unfolded on the pitch, the racial abuse that has reared its head again this season seems particularly insidious.

Last weekend’s incident at Tynecastle with Marvin Bartley, in which the Hibs midfielder was racially abused as he warmed up on the touchline, was every bit as shocking as what unfolded in a supermarket isle all those years ago.

The content of the footage uploaded to social media was bilious.

Almost a fortnight ago enough column inches to account for a small forest were taken up in reaction to Celtic captain Scott Brown’s behaviour in the aftermath of the Parkhead side’s win over Rangers. There was a clumsy correlation made between what a footballer does on a pitch as to what unfolds in a city centre hours later. A week after the game, we were still discussing.

The spat between the players at the full-time whistle led to all sorts of forensic introspection on airwaves and newspapers of societal problems which have always found a conduit through this particular fixture.

Sectarianism has provided such a consistent background to Scottish football that so many of us have stopped mentioning it. That’s not because there is a wish to excuse or ignore it but rather because of the impotence in the face of it.

It is a depressing but persistent narrative.

This term has been particularly notable for the avalanche of incidents which have marred the season. There has been much hand-wringing that has followed but the truth is that a much bigger conversation is necessary in terms of the issues that are underpinning society as a whole. And it needs to be a conversation that comes without hyperbole and drama.

Hearts and Motherwell this week are both deserving of credit for the manner in which they have moved to deal swiftly with incidents that took place in their stadium, but closing a stand and banning individuals can only go so far.

The real problem runs deeper and neither strict liability nor harsher policing will address it.

If a 19-year-old who has been reared in a multi-cultural country, who has grown up in a popular culture environment that celebrates all creeds and colours, can use racist language of the most abhorrent kind then there has been a significant failure along the way.

This was not a say-it-in-the-heat-of-the-moment incident, which would have been inexcusable enough, but rather the decision to share it on social media suggests that there was neither shame nor embarrassment in its aftermath.

Football clubs are right to call out and ban offenders and fellow supporters are right to express their condemnation when such videos are given air time.

But there has been a growing climate this season to point the finger of blame at football fans for all of society’s ills. The outdoor music festival, T In The Park, essentially had to be stopped because of the increasing violence and anti-social behaviour that went with it.

The problems that we have seen this season are part of a greater issue. And nor is Scotland in isolation. This season Raheem Sterling was racially abused at Stamford Bridge while Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a banana skin tossed his way in a London derby against Spurs. Liverpool’s Mo Salah was branded a “bomber” in a recent game against Chelsea.

Football can play a part in the solution by continually reaffirming its stance but it is only a small part of the answer.

Football fans are not the only ones who can lose their mind after a pint.

But booze and social media are a potent and dangerous mix.

Just ask Joe Worrall.

The Rangers defender was caught out in an embarrassing video this week in the aftermath of the Ibrox side’s Player of the Year dinner last Sunday night as he and a female companion opted for some voiceover fun in the back of a taxi.

Worrall has escaped sanction for the incident by the SFA but he will have been left red-faced by his lack of judgement. You can be sure that he won’t have heard the end of it.

Worrall might not be the only one feeling a little shame faced this week. Shelley Kerr’s Scotland’s side continue to cause surprises with their results and performances.

The latest victory, at the expense of Brazil, as they warm up for the World Cup has brought into sharp focus the fact that so much of their upward journey has been allowed to slip under the radar.

At a time when the men’s national game is desperately toiling, the positive news around Kerr’s side needs to afforded credible and authentic exposure.