Can there be a wrong opinion, aka “To your battle stations!”

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?”

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

68 Comments

  1. dallen
    February 24, 2015

    you are wrong

  2. ooga aga
    February 24, 2015

    well kxevin, i often agree with you, but you didnt just “raise a question” about xavi and iniesta, you said clearly that “Xavi and Iniesta should have been gone by now.”

    also, for my own part, and just FWIW, i gave reasons for why i thought Lucas Resende’s ideas were bad. I didnt simply say he was wrong. we should be able to to say we disagree with a Lucas Resende, and give reasons. and i will do it again next time his blog is linked — if he says things i disagree with.

    but i agree we should discuss the ideas and not their holders, and give reasons for our opinions rather than just saying “X is right! Y is wrong!”

  3. deerwithwings
    February 24, 2015

    If people understood subjectivity we would be living in a much nicer world Kxevin =).

    Rhetoric. Pathos. Desire. Power. Ideology. These ideas operate in different ways, and quite subconsciously. We believe an idea because it is via that actual idea that we constitute ourselves. Objectivity is impossible as all experience is filtered. Attempting objectivity is its own ideology, which is not to pass a value judgement, but rather to expose the various participants in our internal dialogues.

    • georgjorge
      February 24, 2015

      I understand what you say on a theoretical level, but…do you mean that I constitute myself via the idea that Iniesta fits our midfield better than Rafinha (just to give an example)? What does that say about myself?

  4. ooga aga
    February 24, 2015

    oh! raki – ini – busi midfield. no xavi! bring him on in late stages if we have lead?

    everything else is sort of as expected.

  5. Inamess
    February 24, 2015

    Great piece Kxevin and I hope we get back to the topic after we the City game. The problem I think lies in that it is very hard to “prove” or “disprove” things about players in football. So the only way we can think our opinions are right is to get others to agree.

    This is not as much the case where a player/athlete’s contribution to a result is more clear and quantifiable. That’s why there are so many “bad transfers”. A player does one thing one year on one team and then could look a completely different player on another side which may use the player differently .

    Also, football is a sport where random factors and luck play an enormous role in the result of a contest. I don’t know if the results of one football match settle anything except give bragging rights to the winners.

    All that being said, if we win today, I think we are in serious contention for the treble!

  6. Jim
    February 24, 2015

    Love the confidence, Inamess, but I think the CL is now our best shot. Asking a lot for RM to drop all those points and us to go undefeated although you never know.

    Tonight for me depends on first twenty. If we can come through that unscathed I’d fancy our chances. We’re up against four in midfield so I can’t believe Xavi on the bench again. Big effort needed from our mids and Rakitic in particular. I’d like to see him start to impose himself a bit more.

    With regard to opinions, for me, we always used to tell the kids that the way to build an opinion into an argument is to provide reasons and evidence to support it. No point in taking on opinions which offer nothing in support of them. I’d add, though, that from my adult viewpoint opinions tend to be either confirmed or reduced by events.

    However, onto the match. Vital we don’t lose an early goal and regain possession quickly to dispirit them.

  7. ciaran
    February 24, 2015

    Neymar looks to be up for this match if the last couple of plays are anything to go by

  8. Inamess
    February 24, 2015

    Luis loves to torment Hart!

  9. Jim
    February 24, 2015

    Ok, we’ve got the goal. Now just don’t get caught short at the back or make a mistake. This is a way open game. Can’t be good for them.

  10. Jim
    February 24, 2015

    Alves, just stop this rubbish. You had time.

  11. Jim
    February 24, 2015

    And that is why we bought a penalty box player.

    • ciaran
      February 24, 2015

      It’s some difference when you watch how he moved for the second goal in comparison to the normal Barca style forward. He has a killer instinct

  12. Inamess
    February 24, 2015

    Luis loves to torment Hart!!

  13. February 24, 2015

    Like i said, a walk in the park…

  14. February 24, 2015

    I know i have been all defensive as to alves’s critics but he is really crap right now, but i wouldn’t swap him for monty because of the presence he has.

  15. Jim
    February 24, 2015

    Not quite yet. They have to change something this half and we have to adapt. Too many yellow cards in non dangerous situations for my liking. However, you have to say whole team is playing well. Bit of a masterclass at the moment. Now we know why Messi was saving himself.

    • February 24, 2015

      There’s no adapting to any tactics they throw at us, not today Jim, they lost before kickoff and we are Barcelona, we adapt to no one. We are the makers of dreams, the monsters to be slain, and we don’t care about little girls with knives. Enjoy this match we won’t have many like this.

    • Jim
      February 24, 2015

      Eh, okay . . .

  16. Neel
    February 24, 2015

    I was actually getting quite skeptical with Pelligrini’s aggresive formation with two forwards backed by Silva. But these guys, they give so much happiness. Messi is playing like a teenager being everywhere chasing all 5% balls. Suarez keeps on disproving (or maybe not, who cares) his Cule critics. Silva is nowhere to be seen..dont know why…Now let me little colourful….I think Barca just plays whamming when they wear this plain yellow…and they played shit whenever they were wearing that mixed fruit color 2012-13.

  17. BarcaSon
    February 24, 2015

    That Messi thing. The Messi thing. I wish I could lie down and watch him play forever. The Messi thing.

  18. BarcaSon
    February 24, 2015

    I was not very impressed by Rakitic till this first half match. Superb from the lads from Alba to Alves to the Lions.

    • Jim
      February 24, 2015

      Agreed. Much better first half by Rakitic. Just needs to watch now he’s on a yellow. There was no point in that tackle so far up the park.

    • ciaran
      February 24, 2015

      I disagree on Rakitic, I thought he had a great half, covering huge ground, getting involved all over the pitch and making no mistakes. He even had a couple of beautiful flicks come off.

    • Jim
      February 24, 2015

      Not sure what you disagree with, Ciaran. The thought that he played well, the need to watch out if he has a yellow with a half left or the view that a tackle like that five yards from their byeline wasn’t necessary.

  19. lala10
    February 24, 2015

    We are lucky to have the greatest in our ranks. What a joy to watch. Clichy is faster than him but look how he has tormented him

  20. ciaran
    February 24, 2015

    And that was Masch’s WTF moment…

    • ciaran
      February 24, 2015

      Well, he should have focused on the ball instead of Silva for the goal.

    • Jim
      February 24, 2015

      Not sure why Dani was so upset at coming off. Was a bit of a liability.

      I thought that was a pretty good performance overall. I’d rather we had kept pressing rather than settling. Once they go down to ten you get Xavi on and make them suffer, but all in all we should be good enough.

  21. ciaran
    February 24, 2015

    Well I have to say that Man City deserved their goal for their efforts this half, they outplayed us for a while

  22. agar2515
    February 24, 2015

    Pique has been immense, he could only clean up Dani and Masche for so long . We should have more

  23. agar2515
    February 24, 2015

    Despite how I feel, gotta say this is Really a perfect game for ten minutes of ” donkey work” by Pedro

  24. agar2515
    February 24, 2015

    City

  25. agar2515
    February 24, 2015

    Oops. ^ City got off easy , wish LE didn’t blink and choose to shut up shop after
    Their goal,But we got it at the Camp

  26. agar2515
    February 24, 2015

    Yup we completely let City off the hook, ugggh

  27. Neel
    February 24, 2015

    Sorry to whoever criticized Rakitic…do you play? I do for a 2nd div in Kent….so by that authority and credibity, I say shut up…sorry…We played amazing throughout….the score in the end might look like we could have done better, but we got two away goals….if we cant move on from this score on our home pitch then the oppostition deserves it…they way Cules have always agreed….good game…I am happy there is something worth to watch in the second leg….Pique was immense as some one said I did too in probably differnt words…Suarez was brilliantly clinical….he was immense…not everyone can score those goals….thats scary…I dont think many of our forwards over the years could have scored the goals we did…so give credit to the guy….Messi was immense..undoubtedly…but on the midfield and creative area…runnning like a school boy…hardly losing possension and hardly making a wrong pass…but to make most of those chances…that was Suarez…we didnt get too many clear chances folks….no matter how it turned up…thats what we as a team are…..we already have won the round for me…we are through to QF…with a good entertaining second half rather than a dead rubber….

    • deerwithwings
      February 24, 2015

      Telling a nice scottish retiree to shit up is rather unpolite no? The man would probably buy anyone herea pint to talk shop.

    • Inamess
      February 24, 2015

      For the record no one criticized Rakitic this match if you read the comments. Still an open question how well he fits into the team overall but there’s no doubt he could be really important against the type of teams we will face in the CL.

  28. barca96
    February 24, 2015

    Incredible first half. One of the best one half in many seasons. I don’t agree but I can understand why they took off the gas in the 2nd half but when we had a man advantage why not up the gear and kill off the tie instead of cruising?

    And I wonder who is actually the best penalty taker in the team. I wasn’t confident when Messi held onto the ball and I think it’s high time that he passes the torch to Neymar, Rakitic or Suarez. It was a not too bad penalty actually but he’s missed far too many for a #1 taker. It could really lose us points and tie.

    Was Alves angry at getting subbed or was he injured? I think and hope it’s the latter. He had an above average match by his standards.

  29. stefan2k
    February 24, 2015

    Good result, great game just a little bit of a bitter taste because I feel we should have got more out of it.

    Suarez finally released the killer within and Messi O.M.G. dribbles, assists, interceptions! 🙂
    Busquets was absolutely bossing the midfield and Rakitic played one of his best games in our colors.

  30. February 24, 2015

    As Messi dove into the ground for that header after the penalty, shortly thereafter I also dove headfirst into the coffee table -_-

    • February 24, 2015

      Lol. I got mad, almost cried, beat myself up for an hour and here i am making jokes about it.

  31. Inamess
    February 24, 2015

    All things considered it is a good result, but I feel that we very well could have decided the tie tonight. Rakitic had his best game for me. I can actually see what role he could have in the side and he could be a very important player if and when we progress further into the CL.

    Messi played a wonderful game and I was surprised at how he was used tonight. Could be really interesting and a nightmare for other teams if he is now given license to play anywhere on the pitch he wants. However, as I said before, I do think that his confidence in his penalties is at a low this season. Let’s hope he can improve and it doesn’t become an “issue”.

  32. Ttemple
    February 24, 2015

    Messi and Penalties … better hate story than Ibra and Pep.

    • Jim
      February 24, 2015

      Probably settles the tie better than another goal. Just watch him go in the return now. He’ll not want that to come back and haunt him.

  33. TITO
    February 24, 2015

    We got what we wanted and we should be very happy, though the victory leaves that feeling that we could have done more. By more i mean kill the tie tonight, because we had the chances, we played great, especially that first half and i dont like it when we slow the game to that level that it actually hurts us rather than help us.
    Of course, if a 2-1 win away from home in a KO game is not enough…
    A lot of positive signs, i loved our pressing, passing, desire, pace and killer instinct in front of the goal from Suarez.
    As for Messi and his penalties, well, he just misses to much of them for my liking. Rakitic is better, Suarez, but probably is down to LE to solve that issue.
    I dont want to see another miss in some to be or not to be moment because he is our first penalty taker.

    • February 24, 2015

      No coach can decide who takes penalties for barca, not with messi in scintilating majesty.

  34. Jafri
    February 24, 2015

    I see the Messi from ~ four years ago giving the penalty to Suarez to complete his hattrick… This Messi is under so much pressure to stay ahead of Ronaldo’s goals that he has to take every goal scoring opportunity that presents itself.

    • Inamess
      February 24, 2015

      It really is the downside of the Ballon d’or and the whole Messi/Ronaldo contest. At this point it is may be working against both players.

    • mazimi
      February 24, 2015

      He did give Neymar one penalty couple of weeks ago and he missed it too.

  35. G6O
    February 24, 2015

    Messi is probably the best shooter in the history of the game – certainly nobody has ever had his ability to shoot directly off the dribble with no preparation. Yet he misses so many penalties… Or maybe it’s because he is used to shooting while in motion and the dead ball feels unnatural… I don’t think anyone near that level of greatness has missed so many penalties in his career.

    Otherwise an amazing first half, and no so great, but understandably so, second half, and we should not have problems advancing, so I am happy with the game.

    • Jim
      February 24, 2015

      Always used to do my head in, penalties.

      You know before you kick it that the GK has probably made up his mind which way to dive. If he’s right you’ve got to stick it in the very corner to get it away from him, a very low percentage shot. If he’s wrong you’d get away with trundling it which is a skoosh so which do you do ?

      Do you try to put him the wrong way with the eyes ? Might work but he might read the bluff so do you double bluff and go the way you were looking in the first place ? Then if he saves it you look daft. “He looked left and hit it left. He let the GK know what he was doing”

      Do you try the flip down the middle in the hope that the GK will throw himself one way or the other ? If he waits for you to strike it to decide which way to go, you lob it into his arms. Never recover from that. So what do you do?

      Or do you just decide to lash it and hope for the best? Harder you try to hit it the more chance you have of leaning back and skying it.

      Or do you give it to Neymar, who is sitting on the bench ?

      Does my head in, penalties….

    • IamXavi6
      February 24, 2015

      Hey Jim,

      When I take penalties, I always look one way, never change my eye direction, and place it in the other side. Seemed to have worked probably 95% of the time (I’ve taken maybe, 12 penalties in 26 years) – had about 2 saved.

  36. IamXavi6
    February 24, 2015

    I must admit, I actually only saw 5mins of the game. But it was the period where City scored.

    What the HELL was that crossfield pass to give away possession cheaply. Was it Alba or Mash who attempted it? absolute suicide ball that cost us the ability to basically ice the tie.

  37. Shaco
    February 24, 2015

    Disaster from Messi. Could have killed off the tie but know the momentum is fairly with City. Why did he even try to head it in? He had plenty of time to control it so he didn’t need to use his head.

    The goal we conceded was a shame! A bunch of players, at least Jordi Alba, could have easily made a tackle to prevent aguero from getting the ball…I couldn’t believe alba just stood there and let him score, you must tackle man!

    • ooga aga
      February 24, 2015

      Messi had a great match.

    • IamXavi6
      February 24, 2015

      Momentum with City? a red card. 2 away goals conceded…and they have Momentum?

      surely you are on a wind up

    • February 24, 2015

      Jesus. Talk about never being happy. Winning 2-1 away from home is a fantastic result. They stand no chance at the nou camp. It will be over before half time. If anything Messi missing the penalty right at the death will make him even hungrier in the return leg. Watch how he scores a hatrick.

    • Shaco
      February 24, 2015

      I didn’t say I’m not happy. The result is great but not conclusive. I really do not understand the goal we conceded, despite the lead we had it was frustrating watching the replay, because Alba could have easily saved that goal.

      It would be a mistake to think man city stand no chance in the second leg. If they score early the tie will be a coin flip. We are lucky they did not have yaya this game.

    • mazimi
      February 24, 2015

      It is conclusive Shaco. The gulf in quality between us and them are huge. And it’s in Camp Nou; in my opinion they don’t have a chance at all.

    • G6O
      February 24, 2015

      The goal was empty, and he is usually very good at heading the ball. It was actually more difficult to miss, but he mad contact with the ball sideways

    • Inamess
      February 24, 2015

      Agree with Shako on this one. The penalty miss was big and would have settled the tie. Of course, we got a good result but what we missed out on was a “statement game” that would have been consistent with the dominance we showed in the first half.

      We had the chance to decimate an entire franchise tonight. For United, Liverpool and Arsenal fans, I sincerely apologize.

    • ooga aga
      February 24, 2015

      statements dont matter. winning does. we won. in their house. against a very good team.

  38. luisthebeast
    February 24, 2015

    We won we won are u happy??No!!Why??Beause we could have won 7-1!!But we played away against a top team not Shalke or Galatararay!!!I dont care the board is shit!!!But if u remember with Guardiola we never had a lot away wins against big teams!!!I dont care he was God,Lucho is shit!!!But Leo lost a pk like against chelsea in 2012..!No bartomeu lost today the pk and rosell back then!!!So what do u want,A treble??No i want the team to win nothing because i want laporta and pep again!!Are u sure u are a Barca fan???…………..

    • Shaco
      February 24, 2015

      No need to be angry man! Getting a good result does not mean we don’t point out the mistakes so we can improve. The winning mindset is to focus only on your play, always looking to improve. The result today is very good but we are a club who aims to win the whole thing, and we will want to avoid these mistakes.

    • Shaco
      February 24, 2015

      If you saw my reaction today to Suarez goals you would not question if I am a fan.

  39. luisthebeast
    February 24, 2015

    Thank u team for another great perfomance,for another big european night.I am so proud.And for the people who keep cry in misery go support madrid

  40. mazimi
    February 24, 2015

    What an amazing performance; absolutely brilliant from the team. Really proud of them.

    Good to see Suarez scoring after he was booed by the fans; they did put them back in their place didn’t he?

    Messi was EXTRAORDINARY! Sometimes I think he is underrated. The way be passes, dribbles and the intelligence; and the way he plays the game is absolutely mind blowing. Can’t understand the criticism; he missed a penalty, but who cares if he plays like this. His positive contributions way overtake the negatives. Even great players like Henry and Ronaldo missed penalties.

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