On the 100th anniversary of Arsenal v Tottenham, what sport tells us about life

Today is the day we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first ever Arsenal v Tottenham game.

There is a full article on this on www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk

This day was, in a very real sense, the start of a process that led us to Highbury, Division I and Herbert Chapman.

So it seems appropriate for a moment on such a historic day, to take a step back and reflect a little further about what this sport thing is all about.   By chance Jonathan Neale, a regular reader and contributor to our site, sent in this book review, which seems to fit this day precisely.

What sport tells us about life – Ed Smith
Book review by Jonathan Neale

Having recently read this concise and illuminating peek into the world of professional sport, which contains some brilliant nuggets of insight into the mind of sportsmen, coaches and fans, I strongly urge you to seek it out.

All I can say is that I came away with some new perspectives, it gave me plenty to talk about down the pub and though I may not have agreed with every word it certainly gave me food for thought.

Much of it is relevant to Arsene’s approach, to the murky world of the premiership and to how you the fan perceive the game.  Not only is it entirely absorbing and elucidating, it is also short, to-the-point and breathtakingly easy to read.  I would say it’s the kind of book you could buy for people who normally never read books and even they could ‘polish it off’ in a few days.

With quotes on the cover from Nick Hornby; “I could eat this stuff up with a spoon”, Mark Lawson; ‘Recommended to anyone with an interest in sport, history or simply human nature’ and Steven Frears; “A tremendous book. I wanted more chapters.  Brilliant” I perhaps need say little more but I will try to flesh my enthusiasm out for you and put forward my only criticism – that in common with Steven Frears it left me hungry for more, but then the very best meals do.

The author, a good if unexceptional writer was one of the pre-eminent county cricketers of the past decade who never quite made it as an England staple. However, reading the book, it becomes exceptionally easy to imagine that in a life with not far differing circumstances, he could have become an England stalwart as opposed to the paltry three caps he collected in 2003.

His writing skills though very functional, should not be lightly dismissed – he has a double first in history from Cambridge and contributes book reviews for the Sunday Telegraph – it is the simplicity and directness which makes the book so lucid and easy to digest.

Each chapter is basically a short essay posing a few seemingly simple questions.  The book gave me new perspectives on key areas which sports throws up – many of which are fascinating and are directly applicable to The Arsenal (or any other team and sport for that matter).

Why does it often prove to be a good thing for a sports person to taste failure at a young age?

How does being ‘carefree’ prove to be a sportsman’s greatest ally?

How did chasing the most talented sportsmen prove to be a bad model and why do the statistics bare this out?

Why luck matters and why admitting matters even more.

When is cheating really cheating?

I walked away with a better sense of what I was watching and why.  From there I have grown to hope that it is one of the books the bibliophile Wenger has read, for there are certainly some hearty lessons for the embattled coach in here.

Well it’s not often I stop to review books or indeed commend one so heartily to so many but as this forum has attracted such a ‘thinking fan base’ it seemed , churlish not to share it.   Should you think it of interest please add it to your Christmas list, alongside Tony Attwood’s  Making of The Arsenal, buy it for your dad or any other sport-obsessed person you know.

After all this game is about more than just winning.  Y’know?!

Jonathan Neale

3 Replies to “On the 100th anniversary of Arsenal v Tottenham, what sport tells us about life”

  1. Well Jonathan you certainly enjoyed that book one can see. Unfortunatly my chrismass list has already been taking care of. A few Arsenal books on it and they are my first objects on that list. I will write it down for maybe next christmass.

    I really liked your last sentence: “After all this game is about more than just winning. Y’know?!” This sums it up. I even leth you share a short thing I ever wrote down and maybe this is a good addition to tell what Arsenal means in (my) live.

    Every time I see The Arsenal coming on the pitch
    every time I see The Arsenal way of playing
    it gives me pride and joy

    Every single victory gives me pleasure
    every single defeat give me sadness
    but win or lose

    I will be there the next day filled with new hope
    I will be there the next day full of expectation
    cause I believe in them

    at the end of the day I know we are a different club
    at the end of the day I believe we will reach the top
    Cause we do it our way
    after all we are The Arsenal

  2. Very inspiring post. Makes me move to Europe and learn as many languages as I can. How different the world we be if people would travel more and learn to celebrate our differences instead of hiding from them.

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