The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Maintaining Balance

“What is the point of winning a game like that, coming from behind at Stamford Bridge, and then saying ‘So and so was shit’ or ‘This player did fuck all’?

Arseblog today

“After two weeks of sports radio and “what if Brady’s not ready, we gotta sign Cassel to the $14 million franchise and keep him, even if it’s as the backup, or maybe he’s even better than Brady” talk, I can’t wait to hear all this week about how badly Cassel sucks and the Patriots aren’t going to the playoffs because they didn’t sign Culpepper or it’s time to give O’Connell a shot.”

– Patrick Laverty, Football Outsiders, today

I think the one answers the other, really. If a player plays badly in a great win, or performs exceptionally in a bad loss, we note it so that we can maintain some basic credibility and realism in our evaluations. Some people, and I think this is more true of soccer fans than other fan bases (although you find it everywhere) make the mistake of deciding someone is more or less of a fan based on how emotionally committed they are to really FEELING the latest results- suicidal after a bad loss and euphoric after a good win, always committed to the moment and determined to be as uncritical as possible. I have a certain appreciation for this attitude, although I certainly don’t share it in the least- passion of that magnitude is often to be respected. At the same time, that passion is often expressed much less usefully in the nasty undercurrent of homophobic, anti-Semitic stupidity which runs underneath many fan communities (again, especially in soccer).

For my part I think a fan who’s truly committed to their team(s), whether from regional pride or long tradition or sheer irrational happenstance has some responsibility to, yes, back the side; but also, to use what means of fan expression are available to influence their teams in a productive direction. A non-Arsenal example which occurs to mind was that, during my previous blog life, I spent a great deal of time trying to counter the ridiculous idea that New York fans would never accept a rebuilding project, were too impatient and demanding. I thought the Knicks and Nets both needed such a rebuild, and believed that the majority of each fanbase understood and accepted that, and so I thought I could do my tiny part to help create the circumstances for that to occur by advocating for it as a fan. often times, that took the form of just saying so; sometimes it took the form of saying things like “Eddy Curry and Nenad Krstic are not going to put these teams over the top, and a title matters more than an 8 seed”. I would much rather do that then praise them for getting the team to 30 wins, and I would rather continue to say it in the midst of winning streaks and losing streaks both, because I was convinced that over time those streaks would average out to a team that wasn’t good enough and was being built the wrong way. I believe someone who says so over time has a greater degree of credibility than those people suddenly bashing Matt Cassel today.

Or, for that matter, the people who alternate between praising Arsene Wenger to the skies and damning him for a fool depending on whether it’s the Stoke game or the Chelsea game. The same goes for players. Yesterday was a great win for the team, but the actual quality of play was not so very different than several bad losses this and previous seasons; this time, as Arseblog rightly states, some lucky bounces went Arsenal’s way. Should I praise Denilson to the sky today because he was part of a winning side and wait to damn him at the next loss, even though his individual performance has been largely of a piece all year? How can we ever understand a sport (or anything really) if we don’t look for what’s consistent and sort out the luck factor? How can we figure out what makes a team good or not if we praise or damn everyone equally based on a result, especially when each result is a product of so many factors, many of which aren’t even within a team’s control?

Soccer/football has, to its credit, one of the most direct relationships between clubs and fans of any major world sport. Fans have come to expect a lot, but they also need to understand their duties in those relationships. Backing the side is one of them, certainly, and is expressed in, say, not being the sort of idiot who boos Nicklas Bendtner off when he’s a 20 year old being played in ways that don’t suit him. But taking care and time to rationally understand what’s happening at the club, why it is, and how best to help advocate for the club’s future improvement is another duty. Pretending everything is either all bad or all golden as some do (note that I’m NOT accusing Arseblogger, more the people who take his line way too far into absurdity) isn’t useful, and neither is calling someone a “yid fag” who sould “cunt off” the way you’ll often see in comments threads and message boards. The two duties are not and should not be opposed- right now some players aren’t good enough, and for the benefit of the team and club should be replaced or used in different roles, and fans should be clear in saying so. That is not, however, a license to be pointlessly, vituperitively personal, or to attack players who are giving 100%, but simply aren’t good enough.

it’s a difficult balance to strike as a fan and I wouldn’t care to criticize Arseblog or anyone who felt today was a good day for just basking in the afterglow of such a great win. But I don’t believe those of us who react differently are any less of fans for the way we see it.

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December 1, 2008 - Posted by | The Arsenal, The Nets, The NY Knicks |

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