By Don McMahon
Once again a defeat has left me questioning the sanity and rationality of some of our supporters. Most mature Gooners take the latest result with a shrug and the healthy realization that this happens to every team, but there are far too many who see every defeat or draw as the foreshadowing of mid-table mediocrity or worse still for AFC, finishing once again in 2nd, 3rd or fourth place….a serious crime in their books. These crimes are attributed to Wenger or the Board or some lacunae that is easily repaired by a change of everything!
The latest articles by Tony and others spotlight the mental frailty and very low tolerance for poor results the aaa and even a few supposed true supporters display, but there is a deeper issue here. Tony regularly decries the media’s tendency to assume that Football fans generally are too simple, stupid or naive to understand anything more complex than a single syllable word or unsophisticated analyses of results. Having been on UA since its beginnings in 2008, I have seen every kind of moronic commentary, simplistic and irrational meme, and anti-Arsenal agenda marketed as irrefutable fact. However, the vast majority of posters on UA are quite rational, dedicated to intelligent analysis of our team, realistic about our Club’s strengths and weaknesses and specifically balanced when it comes to assessing our manager, Arsene Wenger.
What concerns me, now more than ever, is the inability of the moaners, whiners and other aaa pseudo-supporters to realize that they are being manipulated by the lazy media and biased press. For example, the latest anti-Arsenal attack on our medical staff, as highlighted in Tony’s piece about Dr.Caer, is pathetic and irresponsible in the extreme. As a retired health professional, I am astounded that the so-called expert journalists cannot discern anything about the simplest psychological principles, that a 30 minute research on the net would have provided them.
The blatant ignorance and misunderstanding of mental health professionals should come as no surprise where the media are concerned. Most supporters, no matter how well informed and educated, still confuse psychologists with psychiatrists and vice-versa so why should the media be any better?
Just look at the stigma still attached to people who use mental health professionals’ services!
Sports medicine and sports psychology have come a long way since the earliest attempts to use them in the professional arena.
When I practiced full-time, it became apparent that people (especially athletes) were totally confused by what I did for them and the reasons behind using my services. Despite my taking an entire preliminary session to explain what it was all about and what the potential outcomes could be, most thought that I was like a doctor who should/would and could ¨cure¨ them of their ills¨ in a sort of magical mélange of theory and practice. The reality is that a psychologist attempts to bring their patient to a place where they can feel ready to assume some limited control over their own attitudes and feelings and have the willpower to attempt to take that control. I say limited control because there are always numerous internal and extraneous factors and influences that limit our ability to determine our behavior.
A good example in a Football sense would be a player’s recovery from a serious injury caused by an opponent. Subconsciously his or her confidence can be seriously undermined due to the risks associated with future competitions, training regimes, even normal daily activities. The manager can talk at the player until he is blue in the face but it will have little if any effect on the player’s performance and mental attitude. A sports psychologist, on the other hand, knows how to train the player’s focus and mental strengths to combat and overcome the subconscious and conscious reticence associated with a serious injury. The fear and hesitation may return but at least the player can dominate and subjugate such feelings successfully.
Overall, a winning attitude is one that melds self-confidence, failure management, confidence and faith in others, a team spirit (as opposed to a narcissistic self-adoration), a certain humility and pragmatism, an ability to ignore negativity and pointless, destructive criticism while promoting positive, goal-oriented self-analysis and a keen desire to continually learn and persevere. The sports psychologist will help instill in the players, a sense of optimism, realism, no surrender persistence and a spirit of respect for themselves and others involved in Football, including their fans and benefactors.
Supporters are ordinary people with average intelligence and a capacity to understand complex issues in Football, if properly explained and presented in a coherent and fact-based manner. When I watch Adrian Clarke’s breakdown of previous matches I am impressed with his insight and clarity in discussing our strengths and failings. He never attributes our failings to one cause alone, nor to one man. It is a team analysis and a cohesive overview that is easy to follow and understand. This is what the media and the aaa totally fail to do and it shows their paucity of intellect and simplistic worldview to a fault!