Zen and the art of football supporting – by Blacksheep
Zen (for those unfamiliar with it) is an ancient Chinese form of Buddhism that has become established in Japan, Korea and Vietnam as well as influencing many in the West. It stresses the importance of meditation, observation and insight and in my reflection of the game on Tuesday night I decided to apply it to the plight of the humble football fan.
Tuesday night was beyond frustrating – in fact it was physically painful. In a game where we really should have won we could easily have lost if Mane had his boots on the right way around. The display of the so-called referee (I think we have to use the term loosely) was abject even by recent PGMO standards. Why he let the Saints’ captain receive treatment in their own box when he was two feet from the touchline and clearly not badly hurt I will never know. Maybe the fact that we were building up the pressure on their goal would explain it but then I’d have to believe the officials were corrupt and I’m sure Lee Mason is an honourable man (as Mark Anthony would say).
The frustration and anger in the ground as I left and in the crowds as I walked back to Finsbury Park was very evident. Opinions seemed to be that we had blown it – or M. Wenger had. That Walcott was a waste of time, Flamini a liability and Giroud inept. The board should have spent the F***ing money and that all they cared about was finishing 4th.
Without the soft words of Sir Hardly Anyone, Mr Attwood or the Bulldog I was left to my own devices and I must say a black pale was settling over my head as the cold began to penetrate my coat and scarf. On the train to New Southgate the mood was mixed: several fellow Gooners were downcast, lost in their thoughts, texting their loved ones (or maybe arranging their trips to Dignitas, who knows). Others were ranting about facking ‘venga and his failure to strengthen the squad.
There were also plenty of ‘civilian’ passengers, who owed no allegiance to the Arsenal and who looked on, bemused at this outpouring of collective angst.
Within ten minutes I was home, with a cup of tea and a chance to offload to my poor other half. She sympathised but mostly let me grumble for a while then we talked about something else. I slept on it and went into work the next day to face the barbs of my fellows (mostly the Chavs who enjoy this moment of schadenfreude) who were gentle in the most part.
Football evokes passion, it takes us up to dizzy heights and dashes our dreams on the rocks of failure. So at Christmas we dreamed of winning the league and cup double; by the end of Tuesday we would be lucky to finish in the CL places – as for Barca, no chance.
But let’s take a Zen approach and step back.
Inhale and let it out slowly.
Look out of the window and up at the sky. Has the sun fallen from the heavens? Has the moon decided not to appear?
The world is turning, day follows night, night follows day. We are a blip in the universe, the events of 90 minutes are as a tiny molecule in a mass of atomic matter.
Pause and reflect; observe the reality of where we are. Football is an irrelevance to most people. To most ‘normal’ human beings our behaviour in the aftermath of Tuesday would appear at best odd and at worst, completely irrational.
No one died. We dropped 2 points.
We sit 5 points behind Leicester with 14 games to play. There are almost as many points to win (42) as we already have (45).
Yes it felt bad. And I’m sure if I was sitting watching a dodgy stream of the game in Nigeria at 6.45 in the morning then that might feel even worse. But it changes very little.
If I meditate upon the draw with Southampton I realise its limited significance. We are not out of anything as yet.
If I recall what I observed it was that we tried very hard and were unlucky not to put one of those chances away. We might have won that game 3-1.
If I look for insight then I will turn not to my frustrated fellows on the train but to the wise heads of those that have seen this unfold in the past – like Tony who has watching Arsenal win, lose and draw since the 1930s. [Steady on old bean – Tony]
Most of all I’m going to keep calm and carry on supporting my team and hope that the Tiny Totts stutter like we have.
Breathe and believe Gunners, breathe and believe.
The Zen Guide to the Past and Future
- 5 February 1931: Leicester C 2 Arsenal 7, just a week after beating Grimsby 9-1, as Arsenal moved to their first championship. Lambert (3), Bastin (2), Jack and Hulme did the honours this time
- 5 February 2005: After two defeats in last three games Aston V 1 Arsenal 3 stopped the rot and started a 13 match unbeaten run to the end of the season. Ljungberg, Henry and Cole got the goals.
The Untold Books
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