The nature of fanhood and how we fans commonly react by Jon Fox
To properly understand how we Arsenal fans react and how we behave when discussing our common love of Arsenal FC, it is necessary to understand how human nature actually makes us what we are. Now I have long maintained that to be a human, a perfectly normal, nothing out of the ordinary person, it is certain that we, all of us, are also hypocritical at times. If you prefer, a hypocrite!
I am definitely a hypocrite, a “stinking, double standards” hypocrite, if it makes anyone feel better for hearing that admission. To my mind that is no more than a truth which I have recognised most of my long adult life, and so I fully accept this imperfect state of being that we all share. Of course, I have not met everyone, so I ought to hesitate to say “everyone” is a hypocrite. But I do not, so does that make me a cocksure know-it-all then? Well, it would seem so, I’d say!
So, if we agree that hypocrisy is not actually a desirable state of being – and I can argue that in either direction, according to my mood that day (yes really, as I could argue it is a comfort being like other humans) – it means accepting that we are fallible and have faults. I doubt anyone on here would honestly claim to be perfect but actually saying in public that you personally are not perfect, in fact very far from it, is less easy.
But if only for this article, it is a necessary truth, even for a bighead such as I am to admit. So why do I say all this then? Because we all have our own opinions on all matters Arsenal and so often decry others their own opinions. So, if we are hypocrites, can we also admit to our own personal biases, such as pro or anti Ozil! Pro or anti Arteta etc! We all have our own biases and that is just being honest. But we also care deeply about our common love and we are all in the same tribe on Arsenal, which OUGHT to dwarf our many differences, but we so often forget that we are, in essence, family. A diverse multi ethnic, global family, multi-generational too and all the richer for having such variety all in one family, or tribe as I like to call it.
A family of Arsenal fans then, a comforting thought, certainly to me and I hope and think to many too. Then are our players in our family too? After all we Arsenal fans all pay a huge price in various ways, not only in money but in angst, emotional highs and lows, turmoil, distress, even feeling that life is not worthwhile after losing a vital game heavily. Whereas our players do not pay in money but actually receive money, loads and loads of it too, much of it from we fans, albeit indirectly. And despite what many players publicly say, in carefully worded statements, about how much they care for the club and its results, do we REALLY believe them? I suggest that only some of them really care, but many others are mercenaries just passing through and making the best use of their talent financially while they can, but who have no abiding lifelong love for the club and will just move on to their next club when it suits them.
I am saying that such as Adams, Wright, Keown, Bergkamp, Henry and Seaman ARE definitely Arsenal family but RVP, Adebayor, Bendtner, Cashley etc are not. No way! And that being so, we treat these ex-players in very different ways. Which is what humans naturally do, to those they love or hate. In our life outside football, I suggest we do not openly hate (I prefer to call it strong dislike) other people we know personally nor even love anyone outside our own close family and best friends, so football, being our passion, is different in that respect. To love or strongly dislike someone who doesn’t even know you exist, in most cases seems bizarre, doesn’t it? I think so but in an Arsenal fan that is normal and accepted as being normal, even allowed, at least within our own football tribe.
Trouble is though, we have many different opinions about players, managers, directors, etc, currently or formerly in our tribe, that we either love or hate. So, if we in the same tribe then disagree about our loves and hates with other tribe members, we turn our spite on those who disagree, as they are perfectly entitled to do. That steps outside the normal behaviour of a non-football fan person and can often make those who have little time for football at all, or even of team sport, look down on us as a lower class. Which ironically makes them just like us in that respect, it you think about it! In an odd way I find that thought comforting. Better than calling them a stuck-up snob anyway, even though we will probably still think it! And anyway, it’s probably true.
(I love dogs and cats with a passion and look down on those who don’t as missing out on something precious. Are they the snob then, or am I? You decide for yourself according to your own opinions on cats and dogs. Oh, on me too! And I promise not to hate you for it!)
And we all treat them as family or as non-family accordingly. That is evident and also natural. Nothing wrong with defending and loving family but to hate outsiders and worse still those who have turned against our Arsenal fan family is how we football fans behave. It may never get us into Heaven but in this football world it is just how things are, so we are wise to accept and understand this truth. In any case we all realise that this love/hate hypocrisy is an integral part of the whole process of being an Arsenal fan. Would we really be happier if Spurs or Chelsea didn’t even exist? Who would we all jeer at and hate then? You can bet we would find another team to hate.
I strongly dislike a great number of teams both at home and abroad and also have an unexplainable fondness for a number of other mostly smaller clubs. Kidderminster I can understand why, as my son was born there but why Hartlepool? It can only be, I presume, because I rather like Jeff Stelling (the Sky Sports presenter who is a fan of them). As for Nottm. Forest, the early years Woolwich Arsenal link about why we wear red shirts link explains this for them. The white sleeves came much later. Plus we away fans once met Clough when he was manager, though at Derby, not then at Forest, and he was chatty and concerned about us fans. You don’t forget those things. But I can’t stand Derby. Why not? Search me!
The nature of a fan is to be very optimistic or very pessimistic according to how our team is playing. Some of the mass pessimism right now is markedly different from what the same fans were writing after our first three games though. Surprising then? I’d say a firm no; it is par for the course of being a fan and particularly in being a fan of a huge club like ours. We are not different from Manc fans or any fan of any other big club, seen to be underperforming. So, in a wider sense, as they are also football fans, that places those dreadful Mancs in our tribe. Help!!! Spuds too! AAAARH!
To conclude, I say that all Arsenal fans are, in most ways and when outside our football tribe, perfectly normal everyday human beings with our various quirks and talents. But when we are all together in that glorious madhouse known as football – and JustArsenal is just an extension of that – we are very strange but also perfectly normal football fans. I hope that may give some comfort to you. To me personally, I have not got a clue if it does or not, but I will stay in that madhouse as long as I have breath in my ageing body.
God bless you, fellow tribe members, and please keep safe.