“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.”
George Orwell: 1984
I was wondering what it would be like to write for a different Arsenal blog, pretty much any other Arsenal blog it seems to me sometimes. I wondered how I could tailor my words to fit the required narrative, distort my thoughts and opinions and still write with honesty and humour. That is when Orwell’s words came to me. Doublethink. That’s what it would require “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies,” to somehow see the evidence before us of the remarkable, breathtaking and above all selfless achievements of Arsène Wenger and misrepresent them in an unending litany of unfounded nitpicking, of cynical and above all snide deceit.
We saw this process in action after the almost entirely positive results of the weekend. Bear in mind that this was the best week in our season. That the inexorably rising tide of negativity had told us with complete confidence that we could not progress in the FA Cup once we’d been drawn against Manchester United at Old Trafford. That the best we could hope for was to battle against superior forces for an unlikely fourth place because Chelsea and Man City wouldn’t be dropping any points any time soon and we are too unreliable, too weak and inept not to do so ourselves. Of course these people may have been correct. One good week doesn’t decide a season, but why is a negative, pessimistic assessment of future events not seen as self deluding when a hopeful, positive prediction is? Why can’t folk just celebrate the good times unabashed, unfettered from their usual sarcastic harping? It beats the hell out of me. I imagine them as children, receiving a wonderful birthday present then telling all their friends how badly their mother wrapped the gift, how poor the paper plates were at last years party.
As you all know I start every new season believing we can not only go unbeaten in all competitions but that we can win every game in which we play. Why? Because it’s possible. Likely? Of course not, but possible. It is a wonderful scenario to envisage and fuels my hope and expectation. Granted it makes the first draw hard to bear and the first defeat harder but surely it is better to live in a state of happy excitement than one of perpetual impending doom. The result is the same for people of both mindsets so it seems to me that remaining positive means I spend more of my time happy than they do. This is why I pity rather than censure the fans who elect to believe the worst, to worry and fret about possible or even probable failure. They choose to live in misery before there is even anything to be miserable about. There is an old line which all this brings to mind – worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.
This is why I have been happily looking forward to tonight’s match. This is why I am entertaining perhaps fanciful notions of winning the league. And the FA Cup. And the Champions League. Because why not? These outcomes are possible and so I treat them as possibilities. Hardly the behaviour of a delusional person to treat the possible as, well, as possible. It’s a simple equation x = x. What harm does it do anyone to imagine a positive outcome and enjoy the subsequent scenes pictured in one’s imagination right up until the event itself? I’ve looked forward to tonight’s match ever since the final whistle in the first leg. I’ve visualised us scoring towards the end of the first half, and then again with about fifteen minutes still to play. We survive a couple of close calls along the way, maybe a brace of fine saves from our keeper, perhaps they hit the post or have a good call for a penalty turned down. Then, as the clock ticks down, doubts begin to creep into the minds of the players from the home team. They make a few nervous clearances, we begin to bombard them with crosses, with dazzling passing moves. Then, disaster! They break away, our commitment to total attack leaves us bereft of deep defensive cover, through on the keeper they snatch a goal – it seems all over. Until a moment of brilliance from one of our players wipes the smiles from their faces and we go into extra time with the tie level and all to play for.
Now I know what you’re thinking and you are quite right, this is a fantasy. Of course it is, I could just as easily choose to picture us winning by five clear goals and never suffering a moment’s unease. I could imagine Monaco scoring in the first minute and the whole thing crashing around our ears. My point is I have thoroughly enjoyed imagining success. Have those who are inexplicably angered by this enjoyed their fortnight of looking forward to certain defeat? I doubt it, so who is the richer man? Given that I will be no more or less unhappy if things don’t go well then it’s an easy question to answer.
I feel the same about catching Man City. I pictured it, enjoyed imagining how it would feel and now it is a distinct possibility. It might not happen still, but who cares? If it does then I will look forward again and imagine us catching Chelsea. They could still suffer a few injuries, lose a little confidence after a couple more games like the Southampton one, who knows? It would be a rare and historic achievement of course and it remains a distinctly unlikely scenario but as long as it is possible what is to be gained by harping on about games we lost at the start of the season? Why search out negative depressing thoughts when you could be enjoying the ride?
My other sport is mountain biking and I often watch instructional videos by a man called Richard Kelly. Richard is an enthusiast for not getting hung up on obstacles and barriers encountered along the way. He preaches looking through the trail to a successful outcome and above all envisaging that successful outcome before attempting a difficult or hair raising piece of riding. You know what? It works. Picture yourself being successful and you don’t go at an obstacle tense and in a negative frame of mind and consequently you don’t haul on the brakes at the worst possible moment and sail over the handlebars.
This advice can be taken off the trail and into everyday life. Our positive thoughts may not influence the players tonight, but they can make us live with a little more happiness and a little less negativity and what on earth could be wrong with that? Win lose or draw I will always believe in this team. The players and the manager are just too good for me to think otherwise. Enjoy the match, and don’t give up hope until all hope is lost.