By Tony Attwood
My thesis, if you have had the staying power to follow my rambles through its tortuous evolution, is that most of the football related “information” we are given day by day through the mass media, the blogs and the bloggettas (those tiny blogs that have two lines of unverified information sandwiched between a very brief summary of what has been said elsewhere in the last few days) is bunk.
It is opinion masquerading as fact, and invention masquerading as the truth. And because there is so much of it, and so many “outlets” as the bloggettas love to call them (although “drainpipes” might be a better description), the sheer weight of the inventions means the nonsense starts being taken as fact.
It is not a popular thesis, not least because it takes two paragraphs to set out whereas most contemporary football reporting likes to deliver its point in five words (although I note that there are serious attempts to get this down to four.)
But it is important, in my view, because the sheer weight of the reportage with its gross inaccuracies, its omissions and its simplistic summaries of complex affairs means that for quite a few people, the notion of what is happening in football, what has happened in football and what impact it is having becomes totally warped. A new, wholly false reality is born.
Two issues brought this to my focus this morning.
One is the headline from the Daily Star which reads “Arsenal Torn To Shreds By Sky Sports Pundit Jamie Carragher: ‘They Are Cowards’”
His point in the article is “Arsenal are actually getting worse, they aren’t getting better. If you go back to Crystal Palace last season, I called them “cowards” and sometimes when you look back you can think it’s a bit strong. But those (away form) stats back me up.”
So what Carragher is saying is that a poor away form and the fact that Arsenal are highly unlikely to make the top four is proof of cowardly behaviour. But no context is given here, and in terms of context we might consider the fact that Chelsea, another club expected to be in the top four regularly, were 10th in 2015/16, and 6th in 2011/12. So it would be interesting to compare the “cowardly” behaviour of both teams – and particularly note Chelsea’s team which sank to 10th.
But no, there is none of this. No history.
Perhaps Carragher is afraid of history. After all, it was he who in 2002 at Highbury, threw a coin into the crowd. All coin throwing awful and should be punished, in my view, but throwing a coin into a crowd (where it has a very high chance of hitting someone on the head) is far, far worse than throwing a coin onto the pitch (which I do not condone in the slightest).
That sort of thing (for which Carragher was not punished beyond the statutory three match ban for being sent off, despite his action being not just hugely dangerous but also a criminal offence) was cowardly in the extreme in my view. Far, far more cowardly than losing some away games.
However history is not, as I say, football’s strong suit. And at this point I am reminded of the phrase “history is bunk”. What is so interesting about that phrase is that as far as I can tell (and I do have quite a fascination with 20th century history, as you may have noticed) Henry Ford never said it, thus in effect proving it. In fact Ford was making a PR statement in support on his new design of car to the Chicago Tribune in 1916 when he said, “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition.” Similar but not the same words, and as a result quite a different meaning.
All this was brought home to me yesterday in my attempts to clarify Arsenal’s history – particularly the issue of the promotion in 1919. The full story is published in a series of eight articles (which you can find here) and these give a lot of evidence to show that most other reports you will read of the events of the spring of 1919 when the 1st Division was increased by two clubs are based not on misunderstanding but on wholly invented facts.
What brought this to my mind was that by chance, yesterday, I tried to add a note to the Wikipedia article on the election of Arsenal in 1919, which is wholly inaccurate in every regard, quoting speeches that never happened, and substituting invention for fact. Within a day my short addition to the piece was removed because, among other things (so a Wiki editor said) my piece suggested that an argument placed in Wikipedia was wrong. So it seems Wiki’s editors would sooner stay with the fantasy.
It is a strange world where these made up stories begin to get far more weight than any attempt to sort out the truth. It is almost as if we are returning to the era of myths and legends.
Arsenal have won three away games this season and we’ve still got a few to go. Chelsea won five home games in 2015/16 and finished way below the position Arsenal are likely to end up this season. And that makes Arsenal cowards?
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