“A sports journalist doesn’t have to be sporty any more than a political journalist has to be an opportunistic liar.”

by Tony Attwood

That quote come from Philippe Geluck a Belgian humorist – most well known in French speaking circles for the comic strip Le Chat.  He has also appeared on the wonderfully named French TV series On a tout essayé (“We’ve Tried Everything”).

It is, for me, a superb line, because it is true – you don’t have to be sporty to be a sports journalist – and true again in that it implies (quite rightly in my view) that many politicians are opportunistic liars.  But it is misleading because as we have seen over the nearly 10 years of Untold Arsenal, a lot of journalists are opportunistic liars.

So maybe the quote has to be amended somehow to read

“A football journalists doesn’t have to be an opportunistic liar any more than politicians have to be, but both usually are.”

But of course that loses all its humour, which is why no one has bothered to say it.

However what is interesting is that it is not as if football journalists are good at being opportunistic liars – they are actually just about on the same level as most politicians – who are of course rarely called to account by the media because… well, because the owners of the media tend to be, like politicians, opportunistic liars.

I was reminded of this state of affairs by the many ranters who write in to Untold was a sad regularity, proffering viewpoints that are completely opposed to what Untold is about, without any evidence to support their points of view.   As I have said we will publish articles (and occasionally we have published articles) and comments which are against Untold’s general position, but they have to be backed up by evidence of some kind.  And we don’t count “the evidence of my own eyes” as valid, because the evidence of one’s own eyes suggests the sun goes around the earth – an entity which, give or take the odd mountain, is by and large flat, according to the same source of evidence.

And this led me on to the recollection of all those people in the USA who claimed that President Obama was not an American citizen and thus could not be President (under the constitution).  Thousands of them would appear at rallies waving their birth certificates saying, “I’m showing the president my birth certificate, why won’t the President reveal his?”

Of course the President’s birth certificate was displayed fairly quickly – it was put on line – but the protests continued as if it hadn’t happened – or with the addendum that the birth certificate on line was a fake.  And some of us began to wonder, “why were you demanding to see the President’s birth certificate, if you knew that when it was presented you would call it a fake?”  And the answer was because the whole protest was a fake – a front for something quite different.

So it goes here – some of the Commentatura, state things, we provide evidence to show this is palpably untrue, and they continue to state the same old same old over and over.

But occasionally there are variations.  I’ve started to receive one such variation of late, which several of our regularly unpublished correspondents have engaged in.  Here’s one..

All the plastic fans that go to the games and moan about the state the club is in should bugger off and be replaced by the real fans,the cult members of untold. Thats if any of them live in England and know where London is never mind the Emirates.Would be good to see a poll of untolds faithfull to see if any of them have ever stood foot in London.

It is interesting, in that the writer provides no evidence in this little piece that he/she is an Arsenal fan, a regular attendee at the games, has ever been London etc, or that having set foot in London is an actual pre-requisite of commentating on Arsenal.  I wonder if it is.  Am I not able to comment on the politics of countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, without going there?  I like to think so.

But of course if I reply with details of my life, and the lives of the other members of the little group of people who run Untold on a regular basis.  But I suspect  one of two things is likely to happen: my evidence wouldn’t be believed, or the demands would change.

So it is all rather like the President’s birth certificate, the information requested has been provided time and time again.  If you have read these columns a lot you’ll know that three of us who work on the core ideas and writing behind this site are season ticket holders, who often meet up before the game in The Swimmer, and that unlike my two London resident colleagues I live around 80 miles from the stadium.  Indeed I can recall in one article actually describing the journey I make via car, foot and public transport to get to and from each match.

However giving that fact raises an issue.  The President had to be an American citizen, because the constitution demands it.  But Untold is a private enterprise, which some people are kind enough to read.  My own view has always been that having our close connection with Arsenal Belgium has enabled us to broaden our viewpoint, and understand what it is like to support from a distance.

And that raises the point, that by picking up this issue, I am now finding myself somehow defending the fact that we have links with Arsenal Belgium, rather than extolling it as a virtue.  I lived for a year in Algiers, in the days before the internet, and so just had short wave radio as a way of hearing the scores each week.  In those days living overseas really did give one a sense of dislocation from one’s club.  OK communication is easier these days, but it is good to hear what it is like to support Arsenal from afar.

I also have an affinity with two other teams: Poole Town and Torquay United.  If either they find themselves in a league which has a club within 50 miles of my house, I will go and watch their away game (providing of course Arsenal are not playing at the same time), but it happens very rarely.  But I follow them.  Am I not a supporter?

If we are going to start saying that one can only be a supporter if one lives close enough to go to a game, that disenfranchises a lot of people, and for what?  I suppose in the same way that some like to disenfranchise because of the colour of their skin or their religious views.  Yes, in a sense Untold does disenfranchise some by requiring evidence from those who argue against our views, simply because we provide evidence in favour of our views.  And if we didn’t the comment section would become a shouting match, reiterating set points.

And the whole point of Untold, is it is supposed to be different from most other blogs.  That’s why it is called Untold.

18 Replies to ““A sports journalist doesn’t have to be sporty any more than a political journalist has to be an opportunistic liar.””

  1. Tony

    Is your e-mail OK? I tried to send you an article yesterday but it returned with a reported error after 7 hours (!).

  2. Your point reminds me of the whole “Make America Great Again” thingo. I have always believed that it was America’s openness(give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses),and professed national beliefs that made America great. That America sometimes falls short of its goals is not the point.

    Arsenal in the last 20 years has evolved into a club that represents an idea of how football should be played and how a club should be run. It attracts people and players because of this, not because it necessarily wins all the trophies on offer. It would be sad were Arsenal to turn inwards and identify itself as representing only the people of Islington. That was enough in 1913 but the club has evolved into something bigger and better since then. Hopefully so have we. Of course, the London-ness of the club is integral to its identity and is more important than say gaining 5 000 more fans from Vulcan but can’t we keep the London identity while still welcoming pointed ear aliens?

  3. Tony–

    Posting from Houston, Texas USA.
    As an Arsenal fan who began watching, then supporting, now living/dying by their results.
    Began by watching ESPN replays of Arsenal in 2005 from the 2003-2004 season (and earlier).
    Myself once an accomplished athlete– became enchanted as this phenomenal man named Thierry Henry performed miracles almost every time I tuned in.
    (Oh, and Arsenal always, always seemed to win when they went down to 10-men.)

    I had grown up in Miami, Florida USA as a boy, and at age 15 was privy to experience the NFL’s Miami Dolphins football team go undefeated (17-0) over the entire 1972 season; winning Super Bowl VI. Though I’ve only lived in big cities (Miami, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Oilers/Texans) that have had NFL teams– I am still a Miami Dolphins fan at heart.

    And though I was not a part of it live in 2003-2004 when the Invincibles were so– I identified immediately and have picked up and learned all I could about the club in the last 13 years.

    So as an AFC fan? Basically, I’ve gotten the leftovers from the glory years. I’ve gotten Cesc, and Adebayor– and Squillaci, and Chamakh.
    (And Lord– I’ve suffered through Bendtner too!)

    But– just as the Dolphins of my youth were marvelous because of their Coach Don Shula, who was at the helm of the club for 25 years?
    I’m still on-board with Arsene Wenger to have one more go at glory.

    After reaching 3 straight Super Bowls from 1971-73, Don Shula had a second heydey in the mid-1980s (reaching the SB twice more, though losing both).
    So, you see, I’ve seen this story before.

    It’s a lot easier to stay up-to-date and actually watch the matches live now then just 10 years ago.
    I can offer cogent thought on the imminent arrival of a certain French striker. Or lucid insight on why Alexis will likely only go– to PSG– or nowhere else this Summer.
    All from my living room in Houston TX USA.

    (If it makes someone feel any better? I’ve been to London twice. And my dear departed Granddad was born in Leicester, just 6 years after Dial Square was founded.)

    I became an Arsenal fan.
    And will remain an Arsenal fan.
    Wherever I am.


  4. Well considering the comments about Untold’s or Arsenal’s world wide fan base, maybe UA ought to petition that games are not broadcast any more than 50 miles from the stadia they are played in….this way, they get what they want.

    Any PL games will not be watched anymore by fans who are not real true local fans. loke for voting, only local residents will be able to go to their local ground.

    Which, when you think about Brexit and its consequences may end up being what will happen….English lads playing on English ground in English stadia in front of English crowds and broadcast only in English TV and radio because the rest of the world will not care and has started to look at the Bundesliga, or the Chinese League or another.

    Here comes the PLexit….. !

  5. Hey, Mr.Tony.

    How are you?

    apparently somebody is calling ua a propaganda site on news fusion:

    I found an interesting article via Sportfusion Arsenal News – I thought you might like it:

  6. An interesting post, Tony.
    When one considers the millions world-wide who follow our great Club and who will never visit the Ems OR watch their heroes in the flesh, how can anyone say that they are not bona fide supporters.
    On the subject of occasionally penning your journeys to matches, you generally omit a catering report which, from a bon viveur like yourself is a pity.
    I’m training up Walter to include the grub he consumes en route from Belgium and it would interesting to hear how you cope with the change of diet between deepest Northants and the Smoke. 😉

  7. John Warrilow
    02/07/2017 at 3:31 pm

    Love you dude. Sport is belonging with the heart & mind. Presence is nothing if the heart & mind is elsewhere.

  8. Congratulations to Mustafi and condolences to Alexis on the Confederation thing. Hopefully no fans show up to watch World Cup 2018.

    Condolences to Bellerin on the U21 final.

    And best of luck to Chris Willock, who I gather was out of contract and moved on to Benfica.

  9. A single distant John Warrilow is worth more than a hundred banner waving WOB moron regular match attendees.

  10. @ John Warrilow – 02/07/2017 at 3:31 pm – Nice write up . Many of us are in the same boat . We follow the Arsenal because it feels right, and we plat the best football . Trophies are nice , but they are just the icing on the cake .
    Keep the faith .

  11. Carpetbagging Yankee here. KNVB was my second team when we staged the World Cup in 94, but Bergkamp was my favorite player. I started following the Arsenal when he moved to London in 1995. This year was the first time I could afford to go to the Ems, but I did get to kick the ball around the old pitch at Highbury.(1)

    I understand the pull of local identity. I think being a club, not a business; having supporters, not customers is one of the greatest things about football. The pinnacle of this is Barca, which is literally owned by its fans and has stood as a champion for the Catalan people in the face of the Spanish state. As opposed to American Throwball where the teams all(2) belong to billionaires, who routinely hold cities hostage for stadium deals with the threat of moving to a bigger or at least, more generous, market. This frequently happens the the the former fans are unceremoniously kicked to the curb.

    London is not a provincial capitol. It is a world capitol and is an international city in a way that Barcelona or even Madrid, cannot approach.(3) It has two and a half cosmopolitan teams with world wide followings(4). Chelsea is a reflection of its owner, Arsenal is a reflection of our manager(5). Unlike Chelsea, we actually stand for something, both in the style of play and how we conduct ourselves. I’m proud to be Arsenal.

    (1) I did an AirBNB at Highbury Stadium Square and it was amazing. We played footy on the old pitch until security came and told us to bugger off.
    (2) Except for Green Bay of course. Interestingly there’s now a rule that no other team in the NFL can have public ownership like the Packers.
    (3) Foreign born population: London 36%, Madrid 20%, Barcelona 17% http://www.worldcitiescultureforum.com/data/foreign-born-population
    (4) Depending on whether you count Twitter or Facebook fans, it’s either Arsenal>Chelsea>>>>Spuds or Chelsea>>Arsenal>>>Spuds.
    (5) OK, in concession to Chapman and Graham, the modern Arsenal of my adult life.

  12. @ Chris

    Let’s be honest if games were only shown within a 50 mile vicinity of any particular premiership club, Man U would have a viewing audience of about six and a dog!!

  13. Gord – I’m getting too many Google ads everywhere I look. Untold has been swamped (obviously by choice) as has other sites where I check the stock markets & some horse racing sites. They are getting to the point where I would rather not read Untold!! than suffer the pop up betting shit & Google ads.

    Is there a way of blocking Google ads?

  14. Very interesting article.

    John Warrilow’s comment makes it even more interesting.

    I support from Nigeria and joined in 1997 when Nwankwo Kanu joined…it coincided with Arsene Wenger’s coming.

    Before then I used to admire Chelsea and Ruud Gullit’s continental squad and they had our own Celestine Babayaro too.

    However, Wenger’s style, a marked departure from the hitherto kick-and-follow stuff that characterised the English League, held so admiringly that even when Kanu left I stayed hooked.

    I’ve enjoyed the great club both based on playing style and off the field activities. Honesty draws me like magnet does iron. I hence couldn’t understand when Arsenal fans, particularly those close enough to attend matches live at Ems, joined other clubs fans without class in believing only trophies mattered in football.

    When Man Utd, the FA and Howard Webb started cornering trophies dubiously just to belittle Wenger and his strict adherence to rules and righteousness, I wondered why Arsenal fans close by couldn’t decipher the ploy and respond appropriately.

    When such favours got extended to Mourinho and Chelsea and then to Man City I expected dear Arsenal fans in London to prove they were made of sterner stuff by frustrating the glaring gang up against Arsenal via sticking loudly behind their manager and club.

    But sadly, very sadly, most of our dear fans allowed the press to brainwash them into believing that Arsenal’s problems of lack of trophies were caused by just Wenger.

    But they watch close by while refs deny their team clear penalties, manufacture countless against them, show cards indiscriminately while allowing opponents to get away with murder.

    The officials gang up to treat any Arsenal player signed new with enough red cards in his first season to ‘soften’ him. Koscielny, Gabriel, Xhaka, etc while players like Costa got encouraged to bully.

    In our match against Chelsea Costa fought everything in red and remained on the pitch while Gabriel was red carded leading to our loss. 48 hours later the disciplinary panel upturned decisions, absolved Gabriel, punished Costa with three-match ban but nothing was said of the dubious three points.

    I can go on and on.

    It is so so frustratingly that despite all the glaring gang up and bias against our manager and club that some fans hired a chopper to champion Wenger’s exit when indeed such banners should be directed at the FA and EPL match officials.

    It wouldn’t stop me though from remaining a Gunner and supporting the only real gentleman still left in the management of game.

    Arsene is a class above them all.

  15. The same English fans with the gentleman’s outlook will prefer to see English teams field 90% English players.

    Of course, EPL and English clubs cherish the opposite view. They tour the world off season, promoting their clubs as international brands and have extensive network of scouts worldwide.

    Wondering whether some of us have visited London is tiresome, designed to imply some superiority for the ones living there. They forget that no one needs to visit. We can go to Spain for the sun; to Germany to shop for quality cars; to China for every manner of well-priced goods and to US to sympathize with friends toughing it out under Trump and to enjoy the American’s irrepressible spirit.

    The one reason, Arsenal and Ems that we may consider to visit – with our hard-earned money, they try their best to make us feel that it’s not worth it.

    But they lose: we shall visit every once in a while, for Mbappe (I’m allowed to dream) and Iwobi and Giroud and Alex and, of course, good old Arsene.

    The other day, the FA cup was brought along to Nigeria by a local sponsor of the club and some folk out there is miffed that Ardenal has a huge international following who happen the share the views of the likes of Tony, Blacksheep,Walter and the mythical Sir Hardly!

  16. Tai E. Obasi
    03/07/2017 at 5:24 pm

    Commented in true Gooner passion. I’m with you bro.

Comments are closed.