I hate losing. After spending ninety minutes of my life watching my beloved club play, in the sole hope that they manage to win, seeing us lose is heartbreaking. To see us not come through with a victory leaves me in a state of depression not unlike being dumped by a girl. Losing sucks, and the last thing I want to do after a loss is talk about why we lost, which is why I refrain from the likes of Twitter and Facebook in the immediate aftermath of such a result.
But seeing the reaction from other fans after a defeat can be truly eye-opening sometimes. I know that emotions are running high, but the amount of criticism and outright vitriol aimed at some of our players and the management/board is mind-boggling. Everything from “Wenger must go” to “Spend some bleeping money” to “Andrei/Theo/Aaron is a bleep” is just fired out from people who are feeling just as gutted as I am, but are more inclined than I am to speak what they’re thinking. This sudden need for an all-encompassing post-mortem into why we’re losing isn’t palatable to me, and is certainly not what I want to hear after a loss. It’s like your ex-girlfriend’s best mate telling you that the reason you got dumped a week ago was because you were crap in bed. That’s the last thing I want to be discussing at that point!
But that doesn’t mean that this instant criticism doesn’t have any merit. It’s very possible that all of the above points raised earlier may be true. That is why I abhor the immediate rush to label people who engage in criticism of the club as “not proper supporters”. The idea that as a follower of Arsenal, I am obliged to defend every decision that the club makes, and every player that ever plays for us, is both arrogant and closed-minded. If I’m of the opinion that Wenger isn’t good enough to manage us, then I’ll say so. If I think we should sell Rosicky or Walcott, I’ll say so. Wanting to see the club be successful and making cognisant points as to how you think the club is going about it incorrectly, is a perfectly reasonable place to be coming from.
So what’s caused this then, this perception that you have to be either completely in agreement with everything we do, or you’re of the opinion that everything the club does is wrong and that we need a fresh start with a new board and a new manager? Why is everyone who puts forward something that they think the club is doing well, labelled as an “AKB”, and then chastised as some sort of traitor when they make a point criticising something else about the club a week later? Why is there a need to pigeonhole every other fan as either one or the other?
Bias is a word that’s chucked around these days, usually as an insult towards others that they don’t agree with. Here is a prime example of this. Only today, Jamie Redknapp was doing punditry on the Norwich-Chelsea game, and within two minutes of the programme starting, he mentioned that this was a good opportunity for Chelsea to open a gap on Arsenal, as we’d lost to Swansea last Sunday. Immediately, this was seized upon by fans, who said that this was Redknapp showing his anti-Arsenal bias again, and that he only wanted to mention the Arsenal result because he hated Arsenal. Then, thirty minutes later, Paul Merson is on TV saying Arsenal need to strengthen the squad. This time, fans were saying that this was bad form on Merson’s part, as he should be defending his former club at all times, no matter what the circumstances.
Can you see the paradox there? We’re complaining about Redknapp’s so-called bias against Arsenal, but are immediately criticising Merson for not showing any pro-Arsenal bias half an hour later. The reality is that neither have any bias towards or against Arsenal, the only reason that we’re labelling Redknapp and Merson as biased, is because they’re not saying what we want them to say. Because our default position on Arsenal is that they’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen, any opinions doubting that are immediately labelled as bias against us. But they’re not the ones who are biased.
And it’s that bias that drives football into the social behemoth that it is today. It’s the reason why we identify ourselves as Gooners and are proud to do so. I wouldn’t swap being a Gooner for anything in the world, and I’ve all the time in the world for anyone else who feels the same way. But that’s Gooner bias. There’s nothing wrong with having Gooner bias. It’s when that bias becomes confused with someone’s own personal bias that things get complicated. As individuals in today’s society, we’re spoiled rotten. Pretty much anything is available to us, in our own personalised fashion, and in almost no time at all. The days of us having to fit into society are almost gone, these days society is going out of its way to fit you in. The world is constantly telling us that we can have anything, and in any way we want it. We are in control of our own lives in a way that has never been possible before.
So it stands to reason that if we value ourselves more than ever, then we value our opinions just as highly, right? If throughout our whole lives, we’re being told to think as an individual and not have those beliefs challenged on a regular basis, then it’s only natural that we’ll end up having an inflated sense of our own importance, we’ll become convinced that our opinions are always right, no matter what anybody else says. We become so biased towards ourselves that no matter what the subject, whether it’s Arsenal, politics, fashion or just whether you like Marmite or not, we will defend our own position to the hilt, no matter what anybody else says, because we think that we know we’re right.
And that folks, is why some fans are so keen to label others as either an AKB or BSM. It’s got nothing to do with football, it’s just a natural progression of what they would usually do faced with someone who disagrees with them on any subject. Arguing with them is pointless, as while you may be trying to have a discussion on how Arsenal are doing this season, they’re just looking to show that they’re in the right. And if you persistently disagree with them, then they’ll see that as being a clear sign to them that you’re just biased, when in fact it’s the other way around.
So if you think that everything is going swimmingly at Arsenal at the moment, then that’s fine. If you think that that drastic changes are needed if the club are to be successful, then that’s fine too. After all, we’re all Gooners, and at the heart of every Gooner’s thoughts is the desire to see the club do well, so you’ll never see me telling another Gooner that he or she is “wrong”. I may disagree with them, and I’ll always reserve my right to do so, but I’ll never seek to belittle someone with a label just because they think differently to me. We may be being told to value our own opinions, but in order to that, we need to respect others’ as well. That’s what I reckon anyway.
Maybe I’m just biased.