Worry Not. We’ll All Soon Be Dead.
George asked me if I’d write something for Positively Arsenal. And I had this particular blog on Positivity rattling around my brain for a while. It seemed like a perfect fit…
I’d like to dedicate this blog to Anna Lvova, @madruskigunner, one of the joys of twitter, as well as her wonderful
@AFCphotobank account which might be my favourite thing on twitter.
In Defense of Positivity
The Charms of Criticism
This is a blog about the NextGen Series, though it might take me a while to get to it.
I’d like to start by discussing criticism. There is a lot to be said for criticism. It is necessary, even essential. I’m all for it, myself. I love a spot of considered, knowledgeable, criticism. But a bottomless sea of criticism leads to negativity. Isn’t it funny that no one wants to be labeled as “negative?” What does that tell you about excessive criticism? They all want to be known as realists. And I don’t blame them, because negativity is cancerous to the human spirit.
But criticism, measured criticism that is, is positive, up to a point. When my (hypothetical) wife criticizes me I always strive to embrace the experience so as to become a better man. Surrrrre I do. On the other hand, when I get a continuous stream of criticism from my (hypothetical) wife, I just shut it off.
Speaking of always trying to improve, I have found a sure fire way to drive my wife wild with excitement when making love, or more specifically, as I dismount from my love-making routine. In fact, just last night she screamed out: “Oh good God, Poznan! If you ever wipe your dick on my new curtains again, I’ll murder you, you little shit!”
I’m always striving to keep things fresh in the bedroom.
Some feel that staying positive in tough times is just having your head in the sand. One person in particular chastises Gooners for accepting mediocrity while having their head in the sand. I’m amazed he can see, from where he has his own head stuck. (He must have taken a breather at some point to have a look around.)
I shared a train with him once, from Birmingham to London. It stopped at Leamington Spa, among many other stations along the way. “Oh, cool, I used to live here.” I said. He replied, “You’re excited about Leamington Spa when we’re on this train to get to London? Absolutely typical. Settling for mediocrity again.” I sighed.
The Positivity Ratio 3:1
The do-ers in life are generally very positive. Studies show a ratio of between 3 and 11 positive thoughts to every one negative thought (ie between 3:1 and 11:1) leads to action, creativity, solution finding, being open to ideas and being empathetic to others, and most importantly, enjoying your life. And by extension, it leads to having the wherewithal to actually make things better: the ability to find creative solutions, the ability to understand others and bring them together, and the energy to actually do something about it. It has been rigorously studied. As you all know, it’s what we do in America. We study shit.
Note: You have to get above 11:1 to start being dysfunctionally delusional. There is plenty of head room here, guys. You’re not even close.
So, excuse me if I am slow to join you, Debbie Downer.
But A 1:1 Ratio Is Still Good, Right?
Many would look on a 1:1 ratio as simply being “realistic,” but even that ratio can leave you in a rut of inactivity, complaining, with a narrowed and bleak view of possible solutions and outcomes. This may be counter-intuitive to you that 1:1 is not good. But remember, it is saying that every second thought you have is a criticism. How would you like to be married to that? On the other hand, it certainly explains why being a so-called realist is still code for being depressing. If these “realists” suggest action, it tends to be of the “burn it down” variety, with a distinct air of blameyness. That’s why so many of today’s solutions for Arsenal tend to involve getting rid of people – players, manager, owners etc., or on a good day, buying new players (which is also code for getting rid of people.) In manufacturing they champion Continuous Improvement Methods, which are apparently more effective than the alternative “Burn It All Down And Start Again” methods of manufacturing improvement.
So if 1:1 is not particularly good, imagine what a Gooner who has a 1:5 or 1:10 ratio does to himself and to those who have to listen to him. “Oh, but I’m just being realistic. You’ve all got your head in the sand and are settling for mediocrity. Whereas I’m just the man to criticize us all the way back to the top of Europe.”
In all serious, I try to apply the 3:1 ratio in life. And it’s challenging, really, really challenging. But it changes everything when you manage it. And I will grant you that Arsenal doesn’t make it any easier at the moment. But Arsenal is a great subject to practice on . And from there it could change your life.
Humans run on positivity. Positivity and optimism don’t stop you from wanting and demanding improvement, they tend to empower you. It’s the fuel for making things better. Negativity is the fuel of the armchair critic, and it tends to lead to views like “they’re all shit: the team, the manager, the board and the owner. The problems go right to the core of the club. We’ve been heading down hill for X years in a straight line. This was inevitable.”
We don’t get to pick the team, select the tactics, sign new players, hire a new manager or find a new owner, though you wouldn’t know that based on the angry debates we inflict upon each other.
We do get to support the team. We do get to cheer or boo. We get to encourage our fellow supporters, or to depress them by painting scenes of seemingly impending apocalyptic nightmares.
So, if you really want to show that you want to win and that you won’t settle for mediocrity, cheer the beejaysus out of every moment that an Arsenal player is on the field instead. Let them sense your ambition from the roar. No one will be under the illusion that you don’t have ambition. Oohing and gasping and grumbling when it’s not going well doesn’t help to communicate ambition: it just tells the players that you’ve lost belief in them.
I was at a few matches in St. Etienne when I was in France, and fuck me, they knew how to support their team. Winning, drawing or in particular losing, they chanted and sang their lungs out all game long. They had a song/chant for everything. What they were singing, I have no idea. Perhaps they had a chant for “You’re all mediocre and you’re showing no ambition” but it did seem to be more uplifting than that. Who knows.
Of course the football culture in both countries is completely different. But don’t tell me it’s against the law for the Emirates to cheer more. We’ve all seen the Emirates rocking when Arsenal had their backs to the wall against Barca. It was even pretty good against Bayern for most of that game. A little Battle of Britain spirit is required for these next matches. Screw the performance and the score. Scream your lungs out regardless.
For now and the near future, the team is the team, the squad is the squad, and for this and another season, the manager will be the manager.
There is nothing wrong with those supporters who choose to look at the positives, and continue to look for improved fortunes. It is for their own good, for the good of those around them, and for the good of this team and manager.
Exhibit A Of How To Criticise: Tim Stillman
Being constructively critical while striving to be positive is a duty of supporters, in my opinion. It’s a form of leadership. In fact, let me give you Exhibit A by Tim Stillman: As We Forgive Those… , a pretty critical post on Arseblog that I read this week. And while I feel it was harsh in the assessment of the talent in our team, I thought it was superbly written, thoughtful, balanced, and not without an element of problem-solving as well as leaving open the possibility of hope. It might be my favourite critical blog of this season. I don’t know if Tim was striving to be positive, per se, but he clearly strives to maintain perspective.
And one of my favourite things about Tim is that he continually reminds us that football is something you should enjoy regardless of your standing in the league, any league.
Some people seem to treat Arsenal as a self help group where you unburden yourself of all your angst and traumas while burdening the poor therapist who has to listen to your shit (ie the rest of us.) This is football. If you can’t fucking keep it together when it’s about your football team, how are you going to hack it back in the real world. Man up, you pussy.
If you can’t come out with 3 or more genuine positives about supporting Arsenal for every negative you express, you might not be a realist. You may in fact be a downer, and you should seriously consider adjusting your ratio for the sake of yourself and the rest of us, though I will grant you that Arsenal doesn’t always make it easy for you.
And then again, Arsenal, or in this case @arsenal, provide reasons to enjoy being a supporter every day. Take, for example, this Gooner:
Her joy at hearing that her beloved Arsenal would be coming to her country, Vietnam, in the summer, was matched only by our joy at what kind of other names these Vietnamese Gooners might have.
I notice that the new Sport du Jour is to find some previously unexamined flaw of the manager or his team to add to their already lengthy list of crimes. But it’s getting seriously out of hand right now, akin to the French Terror of 1793-94, you know, when they mounted guillotines on the back of carts to dispense quick justice across the land. (The Frenchies of “The Terror” could teach modern day commerce a thing or two about speedy customer service and convenience.)
And right now, no player but Jack W is safe from us. The great crime of our age is mediocrity, and every player is accused of it. The squad in general is accused of it.
And right now, some Sans Culottes have most likely broken into Arsene’s laundry room and are inspecting their way through his dirty undies. No crime is left unpunished these days. It is getting extreme in the extreme. There is no achievement of Arsene that cannot be chiseled away at, undermined or even attributed to another. I have recently debated with twitteratti as to whether the Emirates Stadium was a vanity projec; whether Arsene receives far too much credit for the Invincibles; and whether Arsene has ever won anything with a squad of players that were 100% signed by him. (I actually don’t know. Has Mourinho? Has Pep? Possibly only SAF has.) The manager’s achievements are being steadily down-graded. I would imagine it feels easier to guillotine someone once you have diminished them entirely.
Maybe You Will Listen To Gary Neville?
We all seem to rate Gary Neville highly at this point. He has been part of a winning club, a winning team and has been coached by a great manager. And, as he said himself, he is no lover of Arsenal. But let me answer the above with this:
He says we should feel grateful. Are we feeling grateful? Or are we feeling screwed over?
You will also remember that he rated our squad highly at the start of the season, as did many of us. The prevailing view was that we were just a couple of top players short. I think that’s still true today.
Now where was I? Oh yes…
I Saw A Puppy…
I saw a puppy playing in the park today. It was gambolling. I was about to go over and reprimand it since only lambs are supposed to gambol when all of a sudden it stopped gambolling altogether and lay down. It took on a depressed and melancholic aspect. You could tell. It was clear from its aura that, where just moments before it was full of play and puppiness, it had suddenly been overwhelmed by a crushing existential angst, a stark awareness of its own mortality and the fragility of life in general, the inevitability of its aging leading inexorably to slow decay, a debilitating illness and an excruciating death.
Let me tell you, that killed the mood in the children’s play area nearby.
I tried to coax the puppy out of his stupor. I threw a ball. Nothing. I tossed a stick and shouted “fetch.” Nothing. I got down on all fours and attempted to gambol. Nothing. I sniffed his nether regions, as dogs do, and then offered up my own nethers for sniffing. Jean-Paul Sartre could not have been more ennuied than this puppy.
But to be fair, who could argue with this puppy about where his life was headed? No one. He was right. After all, life doesn’t end well for any of us. He was just being realistic.
And so, in the end, for every one of us, it all comes down to whether you are a glass half empty of diseased and decaying puppy kind of person or a glass half full of gambolling in the park puppy kind of person. Choose carefully. And re-choose it often.
We are in the quarterfinals of the NextGen and it will be played at the Ems. These are our Gooner puppies gambolling about the park. I hope we sell every last fucking seat out and give the young lads a backing that blows their socks off. For every one of the players, it will be a once in a lifetime experience. And I hope we all remember what enjoying our football is all about, win, lose or draw…you know, just before we all age, contract diseases and die.
There! I told you this blog was about the NextGen.
UP THE ARSENAL!
It won’t be long until life crushes the joy out of these young faces, too