Taking a short break from rehearsing the ad libs for next week’s show, Steww (the brains behind Stew Black Rides Slow And Dirty on Somer Valley FM, Tuesdays 8 – 10pm) offers his view on Arsenal…
I was ruminating on the words of the late great Bill Hicks. As I get older the wisdom and philosophy of the incomparable comedian become increasingly more relevant than his jokes. As well as the words, wit and wisdom of Saint Bill I’ve paused to consider the soul of ACLF and Arsenal fans in general. How are the two connected? Well it goes like this. Think back to when Bill was talking about CNN. I know he often talked about CNN, the news and it’s careful management by powerful shadowy figures were after all, among his obsessions, but I’m talking about a specific piece.
He started by asking, “You ever watch CNN for longer than, say, 20 hours in one day? I gotta cut that out. Watch CNN. It’s the most depressing thing you’ll ever see, man. “WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS, HOMELESS, RECESSION, DEPRESSION, WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS.” Over and over again. Then you look out your window”. Here Bill mimed gazing out over an idyllic peaceful landscape and made soft chirping noises as if all that could be heard were distant crickets, he continued, “where’s all this shit going on, man? Ted Turner is making this shit up. Jane Fonda won’t sleep with him, he runs to a typewriter: ‘by 1992 we will all die of AIDS.’ Read that on the air. I don’t get laid, nobody gets laid.” Obviously it needs Bill’s unique delivery (unique until that talentless windbag Denis Leary came sliding along with his lame ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ Hick’s impression) to give it the full impact.
Yesterday I got my newsletter from the club… If you’ll allow I’ll quote from it
On the pitch…
Arsenal are still on course for Champions League progression after an entertaining 2-2 draw with Schalke in Gelsenkirchen, with Arsene Wenger praising his team’s “good response” from Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Manchester United. The Arsenal boss admitted after that game that his side had to improve quickly. Terry Burton’s under-21 side continued their fine form with a 2-1 win at Bolton, while the under-18s secured a draw against the same opposition. Elsewhere, Arsenal Ladies beat FFC Turbine Potsdam in the first leg of their last-16 Women’s Champions League clash – becoming the first English side to beat German opposition to the delight of boss Laura Harvey. Of Arsenal’s loanees, Chuks Aneke was on target for Crewe.
A reasonably objective factual summation of the previous week in the life of the great club which we all support. When I compared and contrasted some of the more moderate posts from here and elsewhere it was like the whole Bill Hicks thing in reverse. From the contented feeling of jobs well done in Gelsenkirchen, Bolton, Potsdam and Crewe I find myself in a world of WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS, HOMELESS, RECESSION, DEPRESSION, WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS. Here’s a few examples:
“Mr Arsene,thanks for the memories but its time to say goodbye! Your services are not required anymore!”
“I love Wenger, but he’s lost his winning mentality.”
“… we have progressively gotten worse and worse. We need a major shakeup (sic), we need Wenger to move on…”
“I find myself questioning Arsene so much more these days”
“…our consistent failure to improve …”
“I can’t take it anymore (sic) #WENGEROUT #WENGEROUT #WENGEROUT #WENGEROUT”
“What about the players? where is their inner drive to win? How much of this slump is down to their efforts or lack thereof?”
“We are right to question where we are going and is he (Arsene) the right man for the job. ”
“another pathetic display”
“We need to buy a left back and a big imposing, physical center (sic) midfielder “
“average performance … difficult to applaud”
“the Manager ( who earns 7 million pounds a year ) could not do his job.”
Now I could go on but I’m confident you get the point. Oh and before you leap for the words ‘out of context’ and ‘selective’ yes they are and so what? The words were used by Arsenal fans in public – context schmontext I say. Also it’s worth considering that this is the tip of the iceberg and very much the more polite tweets and posts. One can only wonder how these people would have managed between 1979 and 1987.
But it isn’t all bad news, there are still a few sober and sensible heads with a grasp on the meaning of the word perspective. I’ve read some rebuttals to the more rabid or just vapidly pessimistic and can still see some who are prepared to put their heads over the parapets. But increasingly the mood is shifting and if ACLF is a thermometer usually stuck in some warm crevice of AFC support I believe it is starting to drop alarmingly close to the blue zone. Many of the old guard who fought for the soul of the comment section of this blog have drifted away or in some cases stormed out or even been shown the exit. They won an important victory and rightly helped Yogi’s followers earn themselves a glowing reputation as rose tinted spectacle wearing AKBs. A proud label for any fan to wear. But these days while I sense no change in my beloved Arsenal, still competing at the highest level in world football, still with players of skill and endeavour and still with the greatest of all our managers at the helm, I do sense a seismic shift in supporters’ faith.
It doesn’t surprise me. The, frankly, raving lunatics that we saw off back in the day with their drooling xenophobic illogical nonsense make some of today’s more extreme posters seem like pussy cats. There is however an increase in the reasonable dissenters. The fence sitting ‘can’t we all get around the table and chat like civilised people’ type of poster, and they are a far more insidious breed. Harder to spear with their hand wringing and oh so sensible level headed tones. But that isn’t what a football club needs when the going gets tough. As you stand shoulder to shoulder with your bayonet fixed do you need a babble of voices all around you pointing out very reasonably that the rifle you hold is made of inferior materials and you really haven’t got enough ammunition?
Anyway I’m drifting from the point. I’m disappointed that these ordinary, feeble views have spread and taken over, but not surprised. When fans are endlessly told by a biased media that their club is in crisis, when Spurs fans pose as Arsenal supporters and post on our blogs to start arguments (I know some who gaily admit to doing just that. It’s sport to them) and when our rivals can outspend us, tempt away our players and cause the instability in our squad which is at the heart of the trophy lull, then it is unsurprising.
I have no sense of entitlement, I watch football for entertainment. I hate to lose. Hate it. But I’m able to get through to the next game, I have developed coping strategies. I know that supporters of every club in this country with only two exceptions would have swapped with us last season and I know we have what it takes to get back in contention in the league this time around as well. One of the reasons I can react in a more sanguine and mature fashion to disappointment than I used to is, I’m getting old. I’ve lost touch with the lure of the soap operatic need for drama. The excitement of the match is enough. The other reason is I’m an alcoholic. I’m in recovery but my journey to sobriety has taught me many things and I’ve learned from some truly remarkable people. If you can disregard the God bit I think you would all benefit from saying the serenity prayer after the next defeat:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.