I’ve always known I was special. If I wasn’t I would probably only have suspected it rather than being so certain. This way of seeing oneself in the world is in all likelihood a common ignis fatuus – I very much doubt I’m the only one so thoroughly deluded. There are occasions however when my dissonant personality is thrust so far to the fore that I realise I am indeed something of, as we used to say at school, a case.
Take this football supporting malarkey. I have an interest in Arsenal football club. Not a financial interest you understand, there is no danger of me not making this month’s rent if stocks in AFC take a tumble in Tokyo, lurch in Lisbon or nose dive in New York – not a bit of it. My interest is, in all honesty, hypothetical. I have chosen to support this one particular team over all others and as such have decided, in my brain through the free will of which I am capable, that I will be happy if this group of footballers play well and ecstatic if they win. I will likewise be dispirited at missing out on that chance of fleeting vicarious happiness in someone else’s achievements should they lose. If they draw, then the waters are somewhat muddier and the context of the result is all.
With the exception of Jose Mourinho’s spectacular fall from grace I don’t have even this tenuous connection to any other Premier League club and being a social animal I just naturally assume that most if not all of my peers feel the same.
It appears I have been deluding myself on this point and that I am indeed, as I have always suspected therefore, special. Lots and lots and lots of my fellow Arsenal fans are, it seems, deeply invested in the outcomes of competitions and in the results of football teams that are not of any interest to Arsenal itself.
I read just the other day of this one chap who has the overwhelming good fortune to have a ticket for tonight’s match and the time and ability to travel to the stadium but does not want to go. Not because he’s undergone a Damascene revelation and tumbled to the truth. He hasn’t suddenly realised how utterly foolish he’s been, staking his happiness and well being on the actions of a group of professional footballers who know nothing of his existence. No, nothing so extreme; this individual didn’t want to go to see his favourite football team take on the chaps from West Bromwich because, and you may wish, if you aren’t already, to sit down at this point – Tottenham won four nil on Monday evening.
This would have raised an eyebrow and no more if the person concerned were in a minority of one. If he were merely a gibbering loon, sadly tipped over the edge by some family tragedy or had suffered a terrible mental breakdown but there are no end of others equally appalled by the prospect of someone other than Arsenal winning something.
I feel quite lonely being special and I hope you’ll tell me I am in fact not. I hope you too see the winners of the FA, League, and European cups as of much interest as I do. Which is of course none whatsoever. We can now, in all probability, add the league title to that list which is of course a shame but whoever wins it doesn’t matter any more, because it doesn’t involve us. How can you not want to go and watch the likes of Sanchez, Coquelin, Ozil and Ramsey just because two teams you don’t care about are contesting a trophy in which your team is no longer competing? It is bizarre and beyond the meagre resources of my intellect to fathom.
I start each season assuming we’ll win every competition in which our beloved club is eligible to compete. It’s a happy and comfortable illusion shattered by our first cup exit which, if it’s the League Cup, doesn’t cause me to shed too many tears. As time goes on, in common with nearly every other team in the country, the list of potential achievements is usually whittled down to the highest mathematically reachable league position.
This isn’t much of a revelation, it’s a simple fact which accompanies supporting a football team. If you are lucky enough to have chosen a side which ended up being managed by Arsène Wenger the list always includes entry into the following season’s Champion’s League. This is an unbelievable achievement and one for which I’m eternally grateful but one which doesn’t just happen because the planets align in a certain way. It happens year on year as the result of the amalgamation of hard work and talent all steered by the great man himself.
This season hasn’t yet come down to playing for the highest possible league position. This season still holds the remotest, vanishingly small possibility of winning the title but realistically the best we can hope for is qualification into the Champion’s League. The only other teams who’s results should hold any interest for us therefore are the two massive spending super rich Manchester clubs with whom we are locked in mortal combat for that precious top four finish.
Others may deride the importance of a Champions League qualifying place as if it is somehow a bone thrown to those not good enough for the real prizes. The reason they deliberately downplay such a valued and sought after achievement is of course because they are unhappy individuals who would decry any success if it fell below the standards they imagine their chosen team deserves. These people are special in a different way.
But I’m not here to criticise such people for their reactions to irrelevant news. If people feel like crying and screaming because Spurs won a football match that is their look out. I’m still reeling from news of Victoria Wood’s death which has devastated me far more than any football match and I never met the woman nor did she suspect my existence. We are irrational creatures – let’s face it we wouldn’t get so angry with each other about a football team otherwise would we?
Arsenal will still be here next season, and thanks to the tireless work of people like Arsène Wenger the club will in all likelihood be here long after I’m gone. Players will come and go and they will all try their best for us and sometimes succeed and sometimes not. They will certainly care more and try harder for the club than any fan ever will. It is, after all, their careers, their personal and professional pride at stake and not just a bruised ego because the team your workmate or school friend supports had a better season than you.
As far as 2015/16 is concerned, there is still a job to be done, still matches still to be played. Nothing is yet certain, nothing can be taken for granted. I intend to carry on enjoying the season today and for the next few weeks just as much as I enjoyed the charity shield back in August when the whole thing started. Enjoying the spectacle is of course all any of us can hope to do. Nothing I nor any other fan says will have the slightest impact on managerial nor boardroom decisions and that is absolutely how it should be. You wouldn’t have told Shakespeare how to write and you don’t tell Arsène Wenger how to manage. If you are so special that King Lear simply isn’t good enough for you, then stop watching it, leave the theatre and let the rest of us enjoy the show.