This post began life as a City Champions League preview, but got derailed by something fascinating that was overheard during an early-morning workout. So to start, here’s something to work out, kinda like a math equation:
RM beat Barça
Atleti beat RM
Barça beat Atleti
Levante beat Malaga
Barça beat Levante
Malaga beat Barça
In that crazy quilt of results, it’s only the truly bonkers who can endeavor to suss any sort of tendency or speculative notion, right? Yet people do, and are. We see it from culers in social media, and from media critters, things such as “City handed boost by Barca stumble,” or “Hmph! Barça really isn’t better than Malaga.”
The complexity with all of this is that as much as those with opposing views want to snuffle and snort, they can’t, for the simple reason that there is no such thing as a wrong opinion. Now, even as we acknowledge that nature of that simple view as the sword that sunders and renders irrelevant all Internet debate, it’s worth having a closer look.
Now, back to that workout. Some studio hosts on a radio show on Sirius (a satellite station) were debating whether an opinion can ever be wrong, no matter how absurd. One person used an example of someone contending that “Michael Jordan wasn’t very good.” The fascinating part of that was prima facie, it’s absurd, right? But as someone’s opinion, it is what it is.
“Ronaldo is better than Messi.” “Okay.”
“Messi is better than Ronaldo.” “Okay.”
“Okay” is always the correct answer because how else can you respond to a subjective assessment of a situation? There are metrics that can prove the point of both sides, and both sides will point to their preferred metric to prove that the other side is “wrong.” But there is no wrong, because it’s an opinion. So what do we debate when we discuss matches, players and tactics, should we, and what’s the point of it all? Debate.
Debate has a point, something to be gleaned from the discussion by two parties who are actually interested in what the other party has to say. That comprises about 0.000001% of Internet discourse, which is actually argument that can be reduced to the “Did so,” “Did not” battles of our childhood. As opposing sides age the contentions become more eloquent and are even buttressed with “facts,” but at their core it’s a simple set of contradictions.
Think about the last Internet debate you saw where at the end of it both parties said “Thanks, I learned something. I don’t fully agree with you, but I understand more clearly where you’re coming from.” Most go on and on and on, then end with “Let’s agree to disagree,” or accusations of stupidity, bias, etc.
We sit around and discuss eras, players, coaches, tactics and formations. I can lay out a laundry list of reasons why I believe Barça is going to advance in the tie vs Manchester City but they are all just opinions, so much hot air. A City supporter can lay out the same number of reasons why their team is going to advance. Two walls are erected and heads peer over the top, firing 140-character blasts over the parapet if on Twitter. Comments sections can get more interesting but also messier, because there is more time and space to argue. And sometimes the more we type, the more worked up we get. “I invested all that time in this comment. Let’s see someone refute THIS!”
The comments in this space are often really interesting. They bring knowledge, worldviews and opinions that are always worth listening to, for me. Yes, they sometimes get messy or personal, and I or another mod have to step in and get things back on the right track, but comments are useful and effective when properly used. Others have noted, and I agree, that this space is an anomaly in the Barca blogging world, something that should be worth appreciating. But every now and again, an argument breaks out.
The danger of arguments is that it becomes next to impossible to broaden a world or strengthen our own opinion by putting it to the test. At my office we have idea meetings, where ideas are vetted by colleagues. Good ones survive the proof stage. Bad ones are discarded. It’s the real test of “You are not your ideas,” because it’s easy for feelings to get hurt. But our staff writers and editors understand that at the core of it is a process that makes everyone and everything better. Poor ideas shouldn’t survive. Good ideas can be made better through debate, and good ideas can become great ideas. But as two people sit on opposite sides of the world, fingers poised over their keyboards or touchscreens, the unspoken tone is too often “Blablabla, I don’t care what the other person says except inasmuch as it gives me something to argue against.”
There is no real interest in the other side’s opinion. And because opinion can’t be wrong, should there be interest in the other side’s opinion? They are as right as anyone else, right down to the most seemingly absurd notions, because it’s an opinion.
Maybe, just maybe, there should be interest because there is something to be gleaned from an opposing view. As we trundle through this world, every day we should try to learn something new. Our capacity for learning is endless. Some days I learn new words or word usages. Other days I learn to think about a player or tactic in a different way. Every day, something is learned, even if you can’t directly point to that thing. My quest for knowledge makes me something of an anomaly, as well as something of a fool. I will engage anyone on social media because I am too naïve to understand that they don’t much care what I think in too many cases, that their point is to “win” an unwinnable, opinion-based argument. I’m getting better at cutting bait and agreeing to disagree, at assessing initial communications for a willingness to actually discuss something, but I still get it wrong from time to time.
Graham Hunter wrote a piece about the long pass under Guardiola and Enrique, and I had some quibbles with it that I brought up. He explained his view more clearly, and I responded that I understood, and withdrew my initial contention now that his notions were clearer. Was that the Internet version of a unicorn? More often what happens is that the other side will say, “Well, I still think you’re wrong, and here’s why … ” Or even worse, “You just love Guardiola.”
The other danger is the accusation that derails debate. Look at the question, “Have you stopped kicking your puppy yet?” There is no right way to answer, because the question presumes an answer. You can’t say “I never kicked my puppy,” because the question has already stipulated that you do. Silence is as damning an answer as a spluttering fume. Accusations derail any debate, like poison in a well.
In the previous thread, someone called me out for having something against Xavi and Iniesta and supporting Rakitic and Rafinha, based on little more than a question I raised. I withdrew, because where can that debate go? It isn’t worth continuing because of the pointlessness of any more words. Withdrawal is the sole option because with that assertion comes an elephant in the room. And no matter what is said after that, that elephant is sitting there, saying “Well, you’re just saying that because … ” It’s cheating in a way because an accusation can “win” any argument by removing the credibility of the opposing side.
Bias, lack of objectivity, blablabla, etc, etc. In a better world, we wouldn’t be wed to any of our ideas. We wouldn’t dismiss a Pedro appearance in a match because of the shot that he missed while ignoring the rest of his contribution. We wouldn’t say that Barca is doomed against City because they aren’t even as good as Malaga, any more than we would say Barca is going to beat City because Messi is the greatest. We would instead sit back, analyze what could happen and attempt, to the best of our ability, aided by spirited debate with supporters of both football clubs, come to some sort of supposition about a possibility. Then we would laugh among ourselves as the possibility did or didn’t come to pass.
I confess to being a debate nerd. I love the free exchange of ideas. Always have, and always will. When someone posted a link in the previous post to an article by Lucas Resende, the long knives came out. “He never has anything good to say about the club,” “Was he even alive when … ” etc. But that doesn’t matter, for me. What matters are the questions and the ideas raised in the link. Everything else poisons the discussion, and that’s the danger of the accusation way of dealing with a debate. It leaves no possibility of a response, because what is there to respond to.
“Have you stopped kicking your puppy yet?”