The Pessimistic Wing of the Arsenal Support

Regular Contributor Ted Harwood gives his take on the pessimistic wing of Arsenal supporters.

Plenty has been written on just about every good Arsenal blog over the past week about the reaction to last Sunday.  I am not planning on rehashing the arguments about the game here; it was disheartening.  The reaction was also disheartening.  What I’m interested in is the idea of faith, the idea of support, and above all, the idea of civility.

Faith, in the broadest sense, is built into sport.  Outcomes are never pre-determined in football and anything is possible.  Even the most bitter, hate-spewing, gutted fan knows this, unconsciously.  In religion, the believer makes his faith manifest through ritual and practice.  In sport, he manifests his faith simply through the act of witnessing.  For the fan, turning on the television or turning up at the ground can only be motivated by the belief that a positive outcome is plausible.  If we are meant to struggle at Chelsea, what were Leeds fans thinking on their way down to Old Trafford in the FA Cup?

It is this sense of possibility, this hope enacted through the watching, that unites the so-called “Doomer” and the most optmistic of the supporters.  The Doomer, the Job of the realm of fandom, sees only persecution and hardship; the most ardent pro-Wenger zealot sees only the hope and sometimes is blind to suffering.

But we are all supporters, and despite all his ranting, Job still saw God in the sky.  (We see him at center midfield, but that’s a different post).  When the Doomer says he sees no hope, his cable box puts paid to that lie.  He sees hope even while damning the earth all around him.

This sectarian turmoil is only magnified by the nature of interaction on the web.  Things are blown all out of proportion, things are said on forums that would never be said down at the pub or in the stands (well, maybe they would, but I can’t imagine they would come rushing down in the same volume).

On the forums, both “sides” of the argument are apparently cunts, and the other human beings know fuck all.  I will grant that after a match like last Sunday, there is probably not a great deal of analysis necessary.  The players played badly at key moments, the goals went in, the match infuriated everyone.  We are only human, after all.  But look what happens in the aftermath: like believers after a disaster, faith is questioned, debate ensues, and everyone starts calling names.

A good and civil debate about tactics and mistakes and success can and should be what this, and any blog, are about.  However, everyone calling each other names whilst simultaneously claiming to have the upper hand in analysis smacks of childish boasting and, frankly, makes the name caller’s case harder to understand.

Players are entitled to have a bad day.  We all have bad days at work. Fortunately for us, we do not stand between the posts for Arsenal.  We are ALL diminished when fans slag off the players and other fans’ integrity, though, much as humanity itself is diminished when one person lays low another.  The men on the pitch are not faultless angels, but they can lift us to the sky if we let them.

Winning, as with everything else, is guaranteed to no supporter, but we read that minute-by-minute every weekend all the same.  The Doomer lets down, if not the players, the other fans, his/her comrades-in-arms; the Doomer betrays his own faith; thus, the Doomer betrays himself.  The zealous supporter betrays his better nature in calling the Doomer names.  Pride and anger ensnare both in the wrong fight, and belief flickers.  We lob insults at each other and at players, and only Tottenham supporters win.  So let’s all turn our televisions on come Sunday and await not a miracle–no!!–but the sheer joy, the sheer emotion, the sheer goddamn humanity of the footballer in motion.