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Arsenal has moved with the times, so should you.

I really can’t believe I am writing on this topic in this day and age but frankly given the way I’ve seen people treat each other in social media this weekend, I felt the need to craft this. My opinion is only mine. I understand that people have differing, passionate feelings towards the club. I respect them all. Those that agree with me and those that don’t. I especially those that don’t and can hold an honest debate without the need for base degrading of who I am based on where I am from etc.

Football fans are passionate. They are opinionated and like any fan, they are entitled to voice their opinion. However, the advent and prevalence of social media has turned opinion into a tool with which to bludgeon anyone with an opposing view.

In the Arsenal world this equates to being told that if you aren’t a local lad, or someone who has gone to Arsenal matches (both home and away) your passion for the club can’t be as great as those who do and have.

It’s an argument based on a longing for an era that has gone and is not coming back. It is one based on a yearning for a time when football was limited to its locality and when big money held no sway on the game. It’s from a time when grit and “getting stuck in” were all the rage, when effort was appreciated more than effectiveness.

Whenever I think of these arguments my mind wanders to a quote from the movie American President. When Michael Douglas’s character, the President has taken so long to respond to his challengers critiques:

“He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she’s to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources.”

It would be very easy to take this quote and make it relevant to Arsenal today.

“They are interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of your opinion and telling you who’s to blame for all that’s wrong at Arsenal. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win twitter debates. You gather a group of like-minded, middle-class, middle-income supporters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about Highbury and supposed Arsenal (English) values and character. And wave an old photo of a section at Highbury and you scream about the old times and home grown players and you tell them, Arsene Wenger is to blame for their lot in life, and you go on twitter and those who don’t think like you call a twat or a cunt. Supporters from overseas have done nothing to you, old timer. They’ve done nothing but support Arsenal as they only can, represent what’s good about Arsenal, and have their hearts and emotions rise and fall with every Arsenal match.”

Now, a lot of these “oldtimers” are really stand up characters. I love the back and forth I have with many of them. Acceptance of myself and the work I’ve done. What I don’t get, is those who would make the following statement:

“What does Arsenal have to do with teenage girls in Asia or even some housewives in Ohio?”

It’s about as narrow minded and xenophobic a statement as you can come across without it blatantly doing so. Its statements like this that ignore the stark reality of the times.

As some people yearn for yesterday and lament we should’ve never moved away from Highbury, they do so under the premise that the rest of football would’ve stayed the same. It assumes that Roman Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour would never have arrived in England. It operates under the assumption that players wouldn’t want more money, especially as stands are full.

The pandora’s box was opened the moment the first sponsorship deal was struck and sponsors appeared on the front of shirts. It would only be a matter of time when year over year the money would get bigger and bigger. Those that failed to see the future and adapt to it would surely pay the price.

Many will argue that staying in Highbury would’ve been the wiser choice. However, since football was already advancing to this new era, had we stayed in Highbury its safe to assume that Arsenal would’ve been left behind. Is it any wonder that West Ham is moving to the Olympic Stadium, Tottenham building their own new large stadium or Man City and Liverpool expanding theirs. Sooner or later every club is going to have to adapt to the new reality of football or get left behind.

This ignorance to the reality of the world perplexes me but on a level I’ve understood it. I grew up an ardent Flyers (Hockey) fan. I grew up in a storied era of the club and watched two successive Stanley Cups, countless runs to the Stanley Cup finals and teams that would make your jump with excitement. We used to play in a building known as the Spectrum, a very intimate venue that would literally shake when all 16k fans would get going. I don’t mean that as a gross exaggeration. The Spectrum would rock and shake as all the fans got riled up.

My seats were right along the ice. Prime seats. I could see the sweat and blood from every check. I could bang on the glass as players mucked it out in the corner. However, in the mid-90s, the Flyers moved from this historic venue and moved to a more corporate-felt stadium that has had more names than trophies. It was once called the First Union Center or FUC for shirt just to let you know how bad it was.

Those of us who had season tickets were forced to pay a bigger premium for our seats as well as pay a license fee for the privilege of buying our season tickets. Yep that was fun. Those of us who had been around hated it.

But as time put a distance between the eras, its easy to see why it needed to happen. The game was changing. The grit and grind of hockey in the 70s and 80s was changing into a finesse game. While we still have some fights it isn’t like it used to be and over time an appreciation of the type of players that play the game developed. No longer do Flyers fans yearn for an “enforcer” because that type of player in the end only hurts the team now.

I’m not a narrowminded person. I know that things need to change. It’s why I fail to see why people can’t appreciate the beauty of Mesut Özil’s game or the reality of the move to the Emirates and its real impact is still to be felt.

We need to understand that football has moved on. It’s not coming back. And maybe that’s what makes some “oldtimers” more upset. Maybe they realize that the game is moving on without them. So are supporters. They are becoming more discerning and more appreciative of technically gifted players versus those who can expend a ton of effort with little to show for it.

Sooner or later the “oldtimers” that haven’t moved with the times will be left behind and on the outside. And that’s a sad thing. While I appreciate and understand the current dynamic of the day, we need to understand our history and the values it sets for us. However, history is just history and point in time that we can look back on as steady foundation for where we are going.

The shame is that some of these great fans with a fiery passion seem intent on not coming along with the club.

 

 

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Harris

    March 3, 2015 at 01:36

    I’m not quite Islington born and bred (Hertfordshire lad) but I go to 30+ games a year home and away. I’ve no problem with overseas fans either (although I do raise my eyebrows when I get told that they are just as passionate as the most ardent match going fan) you can all keep paying your money to watch football thousands of miles away if you like, it has as much relevance to your life as your favourite TV programme but if you enjoy it fair play.

    As for the stuff on the Internet, it has no relevance to anything to do with following Arsenal. I find its just hot bytes from people who want Arsenal to be successful, which we all do, but can’t understand why that isn’t possible all the time. Just imagine the reaction the next time we finish 12th?

  2. realfans supportdontmoan

    March 2, 2015 at 16:12

    As one of those “old timers” and having been born in Islington and raised in the Kings Cross area Arsenal was my local team, my grandads team an my Dads team, but l have no problem with oversea fans of the club.
    What l do have a problem with is the constant slagging off of the way the club is ran and its players by certain overseas based blogs written by so called “fans”, with unpronounceable names, complaining about how poor a team we are compared to Chelski and Man €ity without understanding that as a club we can compete with these 2 financially doped clubs.
    These blogs, yr not included, seem to take more pleasure in having a pop at AFC than some of our rivals do an in doing so feed the anti Arsenal media with proof that Arsenal fans are in revolt.
    So as l said lve no probleam with genuine oversea fans as long as they remember the idea is to support the club not slag it off fir no other reason than to increase the hits on their sites

    • DaAdminGooner

      March 2, 2015 at 16:18

      You know what you are quite right. My writing is done stream of consciousness, and I think there are some blogs (overseas and domestic) that pick up on what the media spout and latch on that. Its one thing to offer criticism objectively, its another to make accusations without support, context or even a genuine idea.

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