Thanks for this, David. Of course the scratching around for a cultural brand
for your football team is probably a sign of their weakness in footballing
terms (perhaps a version of this truth also applies more generally, e.g. to
'identity politics'), but who knows - I've just been re-reading Ben Goldacre on
the 'placebo effect', and studies provide striking food for thought about the
links between 'belief' and performance/well-being.
Somehow the article brought to mind Arsenal and its travails (most things do at
the moment). I was at Anfield with Rudy to witness the 4-0 defeat. It was
Rudy's first live game as a Junior Gooner and he was steadfast to the end -
valiantly booing their fourth goal when everyone else (except Liverpool fans)
was tortured into silence. More memorable to Rudy than any of the goals was the
pleasant shock of full-fledged adult swearing, especially from the woman seated
next to us (in classic fashion, she eventually apologised to Rudy for her
language - "Sorry young man" - before her mouth immediately darted upfield on
another expletive-filled dribble). Rudy had been quietly delighted to be given
permission by me to join in with swearing if it was appropriate to do so [I had
explained in detail the mechanics of the chant "You're shit, aaaaah"], and with
the promise nothing would be reported back to his mother; but no crowd
sing-songs gave him this opportunity, and he was too enthralled by the odd cri
de coeur to think of becoming its echo-chamber. He'll learn.
The feeling of the article resembles the current Arsenal situation in its
'staring into a future where we've been before' - with Arsenal its the likely
collapse of a Premier League or even top four challenge, and with England a
likely exit at the World Cup Finals group stage. The Germans must have a word
for this. The term 'deja vu' is close but not exact. It's odd how the brave
talk of 'identity' almost certainly conveys a spirit of foreboding - it might
seem simpler to say "Our plan is to play better than our opponents and win the
game that way." Yet the whole notion of 'team spirit'/esprit de corps etc. can
hardly be discounted, and so we are left with a puzzle - for example, how the
same Chelsea players who became so spiritless under Mourinho were eventually
restored by Conte after the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last year.
I mention that last fact because it is perhaps important to end this
thought-provoking post by noting that Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-0 last year and
then again in the FA Cup Final and then again in the Community Shield (though
someone needs to tell Ozil, or whoever runs his twitter-feed, that the Shield
does not count as a proper trophy).
From: david ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, 6 September 2017, 2:21
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Hey, did you happen to see (the most beautiful
country in the world)?
Ah, my meds are ready.
When the meds wear off try Barney Ronay on the England project. It’s not often
the opening paragraph from a sports writer mentions both Larkin and Hughes.
Didn’t they used to play for Charlton?
David Ritchie,Portland, where ash is raining down,Oregon