The biggest buzz associated with doing this blog has been watching a cracking little community of ‘holics grow and develop over the years. I’m proud that here is a place where people who don’t necessarily share a vision of what is happening at the club at any one time can share their views with a degree of civility. Two of my favourites share a mutual respect, but have subtly different takes on where we have been in recent years, and where we are.
I’m delighted that the always positive Bergkamp the Man has taken inspiration from a recent Steve T post in the drinks, and has penned what follows. Steve, I hope, will let me have something to post next week in response. The ability to discuss our views with respect is a gift Arsenal supporters can make more of, particularly at moments like this when we are all hurting just a little bit.
Let BtM take up the mantle…
Of all of Holic’s regulars, there is none more resolute of viewpoint than Steve T. Is there a single one of us who does not yet know?
- We do not play with enough width!
- We need to strive to be the best we can be!
- We never learn from our mistakes!
- There is no hope for Fabianski!
Steve’s views are often controversial but ALWAYS come from the heart. With the Teelets (junior Ts) in tow, Steve is invariably “there” for The Arsenal, to bellow, bollock, berate and blaspheme (outwith the Teelets hearing, of-course) exactly as the situation requires.
Clear from the emotion expressed in his excellent roving report, the Villa game caused great heartache. Amongst many stimulating comments, were those below. They’re thought provoking and don’t deserve to be washed down the drinks gurgler of time without further comment. Although the esteemed Mr. TABS has already said some, I couldn’t leave them alone.
On entering The Emirates, Steve observed:
My arrival was met with a general apathy, a big sort of “whatever” type of feeling, and resigned lack of interest. It was as if very few would have bothered but for their season ticket. That did not seem right to me, and I pose the question, Why? Why was it like that?
Why indeed? Once upon a time football was primarily a source of entertainment. A well deserved break for many from a hard, grinding week of labour. A beer with the boys, a laugh, a thrill, some fun. Most importantly, something to be looked forward to in an otherwise gray existence.
In these circumstances, it’s impossible to imagine anyone being apathetic or disinterested. If they were, why would they be within a mile of the game, completely wasting their precious free time. So, something has changed, on that we agree.
And here’s Steve’s rationale, eloquently expressed as ever:
Football fans have evolved. It is not like the 50s/60s/70s. You don’t pay peanuts to get in, stand with like-minded individuals and then get the bus home with the centre forward. The whole game has changed. The average fan has changed and people need to grasp that fact.
Going to football is not a cheap option. It’s bloody expensive, not just in money terms but in personal life-time terms. These changes result in indifference and less tolerance. Fans want value for money these days. Many Arsenal fans feel just that little bit short-changed at this moment in time. Maybe this explains why tolerance levels are not what they could be and why people boo.
And that, it seems to me, gets to the nub of it. The profile of the game has changed. Football basks in the bright glare of the global media spotlight. Players become global personalities almost overnight. They earn sums that would have been incredible in years gone by and, even in these heady days, are incomprehensible to many.
New fans are attracted like moths to a flame. Their primary motivation often has nothing to do with what used to be known as a ‘relaxing day out’ or ‘entertainment’. Rather, an association with this “happening event” and its overnight stars can often be the primary mover. Pick a winning team and claim a lifetime of allegiance. Glory, glory, I’m united.
And this association is a fine thing, especially when your new team is winning. You can strut the strut and talk the talk. You can bask in the glory. You can be better, in this aspect of your life at least, than the guy who supports the other team. In short, life is good. The Lord God Arsene is glorious. Vive La France! Yeeeees! Get in there!
But beware this association when things take a turn for the worse. What – no silverware again? What – eight defeats in twenty-two games? What – no spending to take the club into debt? What – these muppet owners won’t spend their personal wealth to buy Leo The Lion? What? What? What? Don’t they realize this is my self-esteem they’re shredding? Don’t they know that I’ll take this out on my wife’s face when I get home. Christ, this was the only success I’ve ever known and now it’s gone. Boooooooooo!
And worse, enabled by digital media, they can become pundits overnight, legends in their own lunchtime, read by millions worldwide. A web-site and an ability to plagiarise or cut-and-paste is all it takes to get you your first million clicks.
And astonishingly, the newly attracted are influenced and take up the cause “Arsene out!” that many pimple-picking teenage scribes prescribe. A complex situation distilled into a simplistic, four word soundbite that, for them, says it all perfectly. “He’s feckin lost it!”
Because they feel the pain. They can empathise with the writer. They too, like him, have had their lives shredded by Arsene Wenger’s inadequacies and the parsimony of Silent Stanley. “It’s fecking obvious, ‘in it?” A life wasted, and by a Frenchman who’s paid millions for their troubles.
Steve’s right. The game has most certainly changed. In many ways for the better. I don’t miss urine running down the back of my leg or brandished razor blades in return for a peanuts entry fee. In other ways for the worse, the noise and passion have dissipated even though crowd numbers have increased. And good and bad can both be elaborated.
But what’s the common bottom line on all of this. Fanciful notions are fine but where is all this going? Well, that depends. It depends on what you want to get out of the game. It depends on what your expectations are.
If you simply want to be entertained, and you judge that your 50 quid is better spent at The Emirates than The Odeon, The London Palladium or The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden then, Arsenal may well meet your needs and make you happy.
If you need the personal reinforcement to your self esteem that comes through association with a team that always wins trophies, which enables you to be in a constant state of strut – well, I have to say Barcelona or Manchester City may better meet your needs than Arsenal.
And I know it is not as simple or as black and white as these two paragraphs paint it. But, if your only route to happiness is winning, irrespective of quality of play, the individual skills of beautiful young men and great sporting entertainment (and booing for me is not an indicator of happiness), then your road to eternal contentment may be the M5 to Manchester.
I’d rather too, you took it, than come along and spoil my precious days off from work by spilling your bilious bile within my earshot. Just because you’ve chosen to waste your day, don’t feel justified to spoil mine and many others just because you paid to get in.
Association football, football, fitba’, soccer. However and whatever you call it, the game has a spectacular future as the world’s first truly global game. With that comes the fetid smell of money, with potential to generate revenues at levels that are difficult to imagine and untold riches for those with a nose for it. There won’t be room on the stage for everyone. Many will go by the wayside. The ascendance to global prominence of New Delhi United may well be paralleled by the demise of their counterparts in Scunthorpe, Doncaster or Glasgow.
Increasingly big business will be tempted by the call of the cash and more Silent Stanleys are likely to emerge as heads of successful sports conglomerates. Likely Stanley, they’ll put their bottom line and shareholder value ahead of tacky metrics (like winning silverware).
There will still be outliers, of-course, like Abramovich, who will attempt to elevate the profile of a lifetime, notable only for grand scale misappropriation of a nation’s funds, by association with the likes of John Terry. Or countries, otherwise largely unknown, who will seek to achieve greater national prominence by directing mineral revenues toward a little known brand on a football shirt, rather than to a more deserving social purpose in the homeland. For the betterment of whom?
And, to the long-suffering group in the middle (of which we ‘holics number many), who love to watch our team play with the handbrake off, who agonise over every single defeat until our ears bleed. But who just hate to hear the balefully bilious bile of the boo and bleat brigade (B6). What can I say? Life’s a pitch.
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