Sunday, June 29, 2008

Catharsis Tourists of the World Unite!

You have nothing to lose but self-respect and credibility. And the soul-crushing, worldly-wise irony that some people mistake for intelligence.

During my daily read through the latest news on a certain Manchester-based rag's revamped sport website, I came across this quote from someone named Dustymcnoodles, which, judged by the tone of the statement, may be his or her nom de guerre and not a real name.

"People (press and fans) being overly-keen to draw straight lines from too few dots and the vicarious emotion-hopping of ostensibly independent fans ('catharsis tourism') are things which thoroughly deserve all the criticism they get..."

To be fair, it was splendidly written, and cut right to the heart of what some bleeding-heart babies have been writing/saying/believing/hoping about Euro 2008 ever since Holland overturned the world champions so many moons ago. It especially hurt in its use of the connect-the-dot metaphor, an image which brought back memories of the days when my primary school teachers would criticize me for creating inter-stellar galaxy formations out what were intended to be airplanes or dinosaurs.

"See how the dots are numbered?" my teacher would explain, "See how it's all preset?"

My close-minded child-minder would have found comfort among some of the wet-gummed statisticians who populate bars and pubs across the planet, ready with reasons why a game as exciting as Turkey v. Czech Republic was 'not one for the purists' and why every goal scored is in fact, a mistake, ergo this tournament was a comedy of errors rather than the thrilling embodiment of Danny Blanchflower's notion that football isn't about winning, but about glory. (There I go again!)

More depressing than the comment itself was the back-slapping approval of others on the blog, the knowing-contempt for those who had fallen under the spell of Arshavin, or Schneijder, or Semih, or any player or team with the audacity to push forward when the number crunchers would have said 'park the bus.'

"Turkey played a bit well at the end of some games," says the astute cynic at the bar stool, Racing News in hand, "but Germany are the team that wins tournaments. There is a reason why one went through and the other didn't. Football is about winning."

Well, perhaps these are the souls who took comfort that the Battle of Berne was fought only for Germany to win the final against an injured Puskas in 1954 under the most dubious of circumstances; were happy to see a naively confident Holland go down to Germany in 1974 as Johann Cruyff walked about the pitch with his head held high telling the press 'it meant nothing to him' in a way that you knew he meant it; who scoffed at Tele Santana's Futebol del Arte that earned Brazil nothing more than a thrilling quarter-final defeat at the feet of Paolo Rossi.

The sports cliche goes that 'history remembers the winners.' But football doesn't work this way. Arshavin's brilliance against Holland still stands, even as Spain's incredible display against the Russians should be remembered even if the result goes against them today. This may all be 'catharsis tourism,' but in an age of increasing provincialism, cynical close-mindedness, and a football ideology that Eduardo Galleano once described as being suitable for robots, it's nice to get out more, to see that there is more to life than watching sixteen multinational corporations send out their millionaires to battle every Wednesday.

1 comment:

fredorrarci said...

I too used to read the comments on the Guardian blog. Now I spend all day sitting in a rocking chair with a sawn-off shotgun in my lap, staring out of the window, my twitching eye seeing the clouds form the words 'KILL THEM ALL'...