Free your mind, and your rage will follow

“Football’s great appeal lies in the way it allows those who play and follow to lose themselves in the game, to find 90 minutes of joy and triumph and camraderie to divert from everyday troubles. But there is an unwelcome side effect: Football can also make you much more miserable than you have any rational right to feel. This is not despite it being just a game, but precisely because of it.”

That gorgeous summation from a fine football writer, Raphael Honigstein, is everything. There is so much anger in football right now, particularly among the Barça fanbase. We see it here, those of us who are on Twitter see it there — factions, rage, backbiting and other manifestations of things that make many believe that we are the worst fanbase in football right now.

The weird thing is to wonder what motivates it. Under the last post, someone snarled about the piece, on things responsible for the current state of Barça, and that it takes a look at the big picture. And that was a bad thing. Someone else chimed in with the fact that it was simple: the team has a shit coach. The answers are never that clear, in football, as in life. When we stop to consider why we are where we are in the world, the particular set of circumstances that placed as at this point, good luck pinpointing one thing. In football, as 22 players chase a capricious little inflated sphere as if it was the world, was everything to everyone, the single source is even more difficult.

It’s hard to separate yourself from your opinion. to view a worldview as this thing that you can look at and study, the way a scientist studies a butterfly. It’s possible when your opinion is not you, when your words are simply a means to convey a thought that is in your head at that time. Circumstances change, so thoughts and opinions change. Asking someone about something they did or said years ago makes about as much sense, in the context of life and how it changes, as asking them why they haven’t strapped a rocket to their butt and flown to the moon.

If you say anything, you are going to be wrong. Because that, too, is what life does. “X player is finished.” Then he finds a new coach, new motivation and suddenly he’s killing it, and people are snarling, “See what you know, asshole!” Yet at the time, that view was an accurate depiction of events and therefore, valid. The only way to be right all the time is not to say anything, to spend life in a constant reactive state, the perpetual “I told you so.” But opinions are free. There is nothing attached to them except bandwidth. There is no right or wrong, only what happens. Take a stand. Make a call.

Football doesn’t matter to the vast majority of the people who follow it, even as it is everything to the people who make their living from it. As has been noted here before, when Barça loses, it bums me out. It even makes me sad sometimes if the loss is especially difficult or important. But that doesn’t last long, in part because the time is ripe to assess, to look at things and ask questions, queries born out of intellectual curiosity. Why? What happened?

Many ask whose fault it was but that isn’t as interesting for me because at any point in any given day, we all suck. Every last one of us. Now and again there are those days that are states of grace — everything flows smoothly, you have all the answers and it’s wonderful. Rare. Most times, we do some stuff good, some okay, some poor. So poor that we look over our shoulders as we clean up behind ourselves, hoping a stray ninja isn’t coming to lop off our empty domes.

Why would football, a game played by humans, be any different? Goals scored and conceded are viewed differently. Barça supporters will talk about a 32-pass sequence that led to a goal, a glorious thing unfolding like a domino. But a conceded goal becomes, “It was his fault.” Yet a conceded goal often has a seqeuence of events, just like a scored goal. The culprit, however, will usually depend upon who might or might not be favored by a particular supporter. There are some for whom Mathieu is responsible for conceded goals even when he doesn’t play. “Look at him, sitting there and distracting his teammates with how crappy he is!”

Opinions are malleable and situational, never etched in stone. Take them, and move on. Opinions shouldn’t come with fear, or worry that someone will say “You’re wrong.” First off, you can’t be about an opinion, because it’s just a point of view. Second, circumstances might indeed change, which makes someone’s assessment inaccurate. So what? Releasing the fear behing being wrong would in many ways remove so much anger from football interaction. As long as you think what you think, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about what you think.

Someone’s opinion is different from yours? So what? Why call them names, or accuse them of bias? What’s the value in it for you? There is someone else who thinks that you are as wrong as you think someone else is. That’s part of the deal. When we detach from opinions and worldviews, dicussions become pure. Favorite advice for young writers (or old ones, for that matter) is that they aren’t your words. When you send the story, let it go. It’s the reader’s story now. Opinions are espoused by us, but they aren’t us. Nothing happens if we’re wrong, so what’s behind all the fear and anger, the recriminations and accusations?

As the Twitter toxicity spreads, this comments space becomes more like the world at large. One of the best things about recent comment threads is that they have be purer for the most part, simple intellectual expressions of a worldview. That’s all we have. Discussions mean nothing, so why not have them?

On the other hand, we are all culers, attached to a club that we have come to love. None of us are better or worse than any other supporter, no opinion, direction or way is more or less pure. If someone thinks that Luis Enrique is the worst coach ever, while someone else thinks he is a club legend, it doesn’t make either person stupid, or worthy of insults and derision. Theoretical things should never become personal, never result in anger. Don’t give a stranger that much power over your life.

A favorite notion of mine is that you can’t defend Lionel Messi, that the Messi vs Ronaldo discussions are pointless because if someone doesn’t already understand, what can you say to make them believe otherwise? If someone doesn’t love Barça and support the club as you do, what can you do to change that person’s mind? It really isn’t even worth discussing. Just walk away. Ask yourself the last time a football debate resulted in anyone’s mind being changed one iota. So why the anger? Is someone worried or fearful that the person who doesn’t think like them leaves them stranded on an island where history might prove them wrong? Do we need to have others present so that we aren’t wrong by ourselves?

Let it go. Have an opinion, state it, put it out there like a balloon you let loose. Where’s it going? Doesn’t matter, because it’s no longer your balloon.

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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.

17 Comments

  1. Jim
    April 18, 2017

    A good and interesting read as always, Kxevin. I must be particularly thick skinned as I don’t see this space as any better or worse than it has been at similar times in the past, especially with a coach coming to the end of his tenure and the team not playing particularly well. Strikes me it’s pretty well “policed” by the commentators and newcomers settle into the atmosphere well.

    Looking forward to the RM game tonight. Was disappointed in Bayern first leg but man, look at that lineup. Lewandowski is the big one for me. Muller was no kind of front man last time.

    A couple of quick thoughts. The idea of no point in trying to argue your case and persuade someone of its merits troubles me ( if that is indeed what you were arguing) . I agree we live in a world where various factors conspire to make stronger intractable views prevalent but would you transfer this to, for instance, politics ? Speaking as someone facing a General election, Indeyref2, Brexit and God knows what else down the line I hope that isn’t true. There’s a growing body of good journalism in your own country which speaks well to the situation there. Sometimes you need to take opposing views on.

    Of course, here it’s all fluff as its about football but the principle isn’t much different. I had a season ticket at my hometown club for about ten years and this is what goes on in the stands all the time. I would suggest that the joy mentioned by the writer can’t exist without the negativity or depression at times. Being a Scotland supporter, the lows make the highs better ( well I’m sure they will at some point !) in the meantime the challenge is to figure out what could be better, occasionally let off steam and that keeps us going till better times.

    Anyway, here we go with Bayern. I’d love to watch it without investing any emotion in it but I’m reckoning that’s not gonna happen.

    • Jim
      April 18, 2017

      Almost don’t care now. Brilliant ! Ramos cockily waves arms to whip up the crowd then seconds later puts it into his own net . . .

      • Jim
        April 18, 2017

        Strike that last comment. One of the worst decisions I’ve seen in a long time.

  2. TITO
    April 18, 2017

    But wait, they dont get any help, right? It’s all reserved for us from uefa.
    Casemiro deserved to be sent off twice for a second booking and he is not, while Vidal gets a second yellow for an absolutely no foul at all.

  3. Jim
    April 18, 2017

    And now a blatantly offside goal ??? What’s going on ?

    • MathyMill17
      April 19, 2017

      I was surprised myself. The game was over right when Vidal was sent off. Two clear offside goals. Poor officiating going in favour of Madrid as always. Football

  4. TITO
    April 18, 2017

    And if this isnt enough, you have a 1 meter offside Ronaldo scoring the second goal.
    This is beyond mistakes.

  5. Jim
    April 18, 2017

    Ronaldo gets his hat trick. Offside again, naturally. Jeez . . .

  6. Davour
    April 18, 2017

    Embarrassing, really, ref. Though the penalty was of course also debatable. Weak refereeing. You can’t take away his goals, but I smile when my commentators states that CR “single-handedly” defeated BM. Hilarious. Marcelo, maybe. What a player.

    Thiago, I have to say, has not impressed me much these two games. But then again, perhaps I had my hopes set too high.

    Frustrating, but Kxevin is right: don’t give a stranger that kind of power!

  7. Víctor
    April 18, 2017

    Well, it would have been good to see RM getting knocked out… and, for a moment, it seemed like it would happen. Ancellotti played a big risk letting Vidal on the field.

  8. Grindelwald
    April 18, 2017

    Madrid again grinding out results in the most unexpected of ways ; it’s very obvious they’re getting by with the aid of moments of individual brilliance (take a bow Marcelo and Asensio), but those moments can be expected from any part of the pitch, from any individual : isco’s mazy dribbles, ramos injury time headers, Ronaldo tap-ins, Bale’s piledriver, Marcelo’s guile, Modric’s craftiness, Kroos’ cruising crosses and even from the squad players. Unfortunately, the only moment of brilliance seems to come from only the three geniuses in our attack, while some occasional timely reminders from San Andrés also comes to mind. I’ld hate to see Madrid winning the Champs League yet again.

  9. luisthebeast
    April 18, 2017

    I dont give a shit about madrid but i cant remember when was the last time Barca won a big game,a trophy,a final with an offside goal.
    A soft Pk or a red card may be mistakes but you can miss the PK and the red card maybe dont affect the result.
    But an offside goal is goal.You cant do nothing.
    So if Leo scores 3 offside goal vs Juve it will be fun;-)

  10. *~ Dumangõli - Oüdyaar, Aisalangådi ~*
    April 19, 2017

    //

    YES!

    i hope Real madrid wins the champions league.
    Yes! lovely win.

  11. Davour
    April 19, 2017

    Well, it is interesting to see the lack of public outrage at this display, compared to us beating PSG with “the help of the refs”. But that’s how it goes, I guess.

    I’ll re-post the section below there was a new post by Kxevin soon after I posted it:

    On renewing the squad, with an eye towards midfield, thoughts often end up in the lap of Thiago or Verratti, maybe Isco. It seems these players are not realistic targets, at least not currently, and Coutinho, also in the rumour mill, is no proper mid. To you who watch more football than I, alas, am able to do – are there any names that should attract interest? Weigl? Bernardo Silva? There must be more skilled mids out there with a good first touch and passing skills. Just curious, if I would have the time to watch other teams than Barca… any suggestions?

  12. Kd
    April 19, 2017

    So here we are again!! In need of another Remontada. I wont deny it. I was a bit skeptical about Barca’s chances to go on and win the Champions League but that win against PSG followed by that first half against Sevilla really made me hope. But just as we have been blowing hot and cold throughout this season, we once again followed it up with a poor display against the Liga teams as well as Juve.
    I wont take up much space though. Kxevin and others have already said most of what I had to say. I just hope we take Juve on and give them a scare to start with. I believe a 1-0 after the end of first half would be great and a 2-0 would be fantastic. Lets leave all things aside and once again support these players. Thats all we could do. Visca Barca…

  13. Godwin
    April 20, 2017

    Thanks kevin for this article opinions are really not yours again once they are out

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