The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

I’m Done, Gus

Rambling and angry today.

The response to the Phil Brown situation utterly perplexes me. Brown’s an unimportant goof and the manager of a third rate side; Cesc is injured and has been mired in the midst of a bad season; the spitting is unproven and unprovable and absolutely certain to devolve into a he said/she said with no substantive charges filed or actions taken. And yet somehow everyone feels required to ADDRESS IT and TALK ABOUT IT to the point where even several thousand miles away I’m so utterly fed up with this non-story and everyone’s obsession with it that I want to heave a brick through my computer screen every time I sign on try to get substantive news. Most of the major Arsenal blogs (East Lower, Goonerholic and ANR excepted, to their credit) have acted in shoddy, disreputable, embarrassing fashion through the whole thing, taking a my-tribe-is-the-best-tribe approach before any meaningful information had come out. It’s behavior which illustrates the absolute worst of sporting culture and has underlain every major problem in the history of football from mob violence to the throwing of things at players to endemic racism to the presence of a homophobia so pervasive that it’s rarely even remarked on; and while we may be thankful for the small mercy of it being expressed in so comparatively modest a fashion this time, that is not an excuse.

Reading this sort of idiocy makes me question why I should follow this club, and it’s really the only thing which does. If management mismanages, I’ve survived Glen Sather and Isiah Thomas and Jim Dolan; if players misbehave or underperform, I’ve survived Stephon Marbury, Sean Avery, Derrick Coleman and the year Chris Morris played multiple games with “trade me” written on his shoes. But I’m a firm believer as I hope I’ve indicated here that a club or a team is constituted first from its fanbase, as they’re the only component of the operation which survives through different eras and shapes the decisions and character of players and management. When the fans go bad, when a crowd becomes a mob, that’s usually it; it’s almost impossible to claw back from that, as a reputation for evil behavior draws more fans with an interest in the same and the stupidity of one sanctions the same in others. Arsenal fans this year have in the aggregate, and despite strong examples to the contrary as noted above, mostly lost it: every win is a charge towards the title, every loss is the end of the world, every disagreement is proof that the other guy is Not A Real Fan (which is to say- not part of the tribe), a player booed one week is cheered wildly the next week, a manager respected for the job he’s done with a promoted side is seen to have a little tail and tiny horns when he says the wrong thing about the wrong player. It’s disgraceful, the sort of thing I’d expect from Madrid fans; and if it’s not apparent to people who follow only one sport it’s certainly apparent to me, who makes it a point to cross-compare between nations, sports and fanbases. Keep in mind, I’m a New Yorker- everything I say about Arsenal fans/English fans/European fans is what the rest of the US says about New York fans. When you’re extreme by our standards, you’re extreme.

As much as Arsene’s bad lies and naked contempt for fans bothers me, there’s times, like the last few days, when I think I see exactly what he sees.

I’ve had this feeling for most of this season, so a few months ago I made it a point to sign up for Gol TV when it finally became available in this area. I’ve always wanted to watch the Bundesliga since I became a fan of the sport, admiring their set-up and having a heritage more German than anything else. I am not a gloryhunter by instinct; my German team is Eintracht Frankfurt, on the grounds that my father was born in the city and so I have a closer personal connection to them than any other outfit. They’re currently 7th off the bottom, no threat to make Europe, and still wary of the drop. They’re almost never on TV, and I think the best game I’ve seen from them this year was a preseason away draw with Madrid. Yet at this point I’m far more interested in them and their league than I am Arsenal and the petty obsessions of its increasingly lunatic fanbase, because- and perhaps it’s only because I don’t read German- I can follow the team and the league in passable detail without being beaten about the head and shoulders by tribalism.  That’s the same thing which makes the Knicks and Nets so easy and fun to follow these days, and why baseball is completely dead to me- because the former two, so far as I can tell like Frankfurt, are just teams striving to do their best and fans backing them- while the latter is just fans squaring off like savages and using the games to keep score. Arsenal fans are rapidly becoming the latter, and it’s making me far more disgusted with this season and the club than any amount of bad Song passes or Eboue cheating ever did. They’re just two men; the fans are the soul of the club itself. And what a soul it’s revealing itself to be. Can you imagine the reaction if Arsenal finished 6th, say? It would make what West Ham fans did to Anton Ferdinand’s car look mild.

I’m not sure what more there is to say than that. I will never see the point of trying to turn Phil Brown into a pantomime villain and expending furious energy on decrying him, because there’s absolutely nothing involving him which will have an effect on Arsenal’s season this year. Even if he’s as much of an idiot as the press reports make him out to be, he’s also just as much beside the point. The only reason this demonization is happening is so that some fans can distract themselves from misgivings about the club’s direction by hating someone Outside the Tribe, or else prove how much of a club man they are by rallying against the outsider. It’s not uncommon. Strong clubs shrug this off and move on, as United did with Benitez earlier this year; this by contrast is pathetic stuff, and it reminds me of nothing so much as current Republican politics here in the USA where a reduced rump of true believers respond to reverses in the main competition by focusing more clearly on the things and people they hate as a way to bind what’s left of their group together. I don’t respect them, and at this point I just don’t respect the sections of the Arsenal fanbase who resemble them. And if it takes Arsenal 10 more years to get serious about competing year in and year out, I won’t agree with it, but I’ll understand why the people in charge of the club didn’t listen to fans who demanded changes sooner. Who in their right mind would listen to this fanbase right now, fickle, reactionary, hysterical and bloodthirsty as it is?

Diouf nearly shattered Almunia’s leg in the Blackburn game. Phil Brown said something mean and maybe told a lie. Which got more attention? Ask yourself why, and what that says. Me, I’m done. I have nothing more to say about this team and these fans this year, unless a miracle happens.

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March 19, 2009 - Posted by | The Arsenal

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