One thing that has struck me about your blog, Fred, is that behind it is clearly a intellect of such weight that were it matter, it would surely disturb planets' orbits. Can you give us some insight into what makes this so?Certainly. I was going to say "with pleasure", but pleasure does not come into play here. The path to wisdom is beset by the camouflaged bear-traps of pain and the oppressive humidity of eternal sorrow. Such omniscience, you see, is fed by a preternatural sensitivity to the hidden frequencies of the universe, and the knowledge thus acquired leads one not to bliss but to torment. It's sort of a cosmic equivalent to one of those people whose tooth fillings can pick up dying screams in the still night air from two villages over. It's no fun, let me tell you.
Perhaps, reader, this all seems a trifle arrogant — conceited, even. I trust you will forgive me when I remind you that coyness and a sense of one's true position in the world are no fit states in which to consider — hark! — the Champions League.
In my quest for sporting truth*, the fruits of some of which have been arranged on these pages for your voyeuristic gratification, the world has revealed itself to be a deal more complicated than it previously appeared. And the closing stages of the Greatest Tournament in the World Evereverever (If You Don't Count the Mighty PREMIER LEAGUE™, Of Course) have brought my sporto-existentialist examinations to a crisis.
* Actually, come to think of it, "quest" suggests volition. That should read: "In being brutally yoked to the relentless herd of the oxen of misery against my will, purely by virtue of the practically boundless capaciousness of my mind, in order that lesser mortals may glean some small knowledge and apply it to their measly lives, the fruits of some of which..."
It should be simple. Arsenal, after all, are in the semi-finals. This on its own is a good thing. Let the record show this quite clearly. I could not wish to be more clear about this were I to dream of being perspex. It's only the second time that the Arse has found itself still parked in one of the musical chairs at such a point in the competition. Fans of more impure clubs may mock our excitement, may point out the blood dripping from our collective nose. But sod them all to hell, or Chelsea, whichever is nearer. Given how Arsenal's European record this past decade has been etched with a mediocre groove, this feels good. It's like an old aristocrat who has fallen on hard times being allowed to watch the Queen eat.
It should be simple, but by Christ is it ever not. It would be were I still wired to only enjoy the simple pleasures of monochromatic partisanship and bile-marinated hatred. But, as I subtly alluded to earlier, I have seen the wonders of the heavens, and they have confused me. Yep, I'm talking about Barcelona.
Because everything you've heard about them is true. They are magnificent. I would go so far as to say that the football they've played this season may be the finest of any team in my time following the game — yes, oh please God don't strike me down, better than anything Arsenal have done in the Wenger era.
Now, bear in mind my sickening youth and realise that that might not mean much; but it means something. A team like this is rare, and for them to win the Champions League would be almost as good a thing to happen to football as is possible; not just for the possibility that the spirit of the team might somehow percolate throughout the game, but for its own sake. Let the record show this quite plainly. I could not wish to be more plain about this were I to dream of being the Riverside sculpted from vanilla ice cream.
Simon Barnes recently divulged his "hierarchy of sporting pleasures":
There are three: at the bottom is partisanship, in the middle is drama and at the very top is excellence.And this makes a lot of sense when applied to Barcelona. Such is the delight in watching them that it almost feels as if drama would taint it. If there must be drama, if there must be uncertainty, it should serve only to catalyse something wildly transcendental. This could be greater even than Spain's win in the European Championships, which was quite warmly received in these parts.
Maybe I'm guilty of overstating it. Sure, we wouldn't all ascend to heaven were Barcelona to win it all. The sun would still rise in the morning. But it would do so sarcastically. The fields would be wet, not dewy; the birdsong a bloody nuisance. The temperature would be 1° below average.
But though Barnes' neat graduations may work for him, and though they may even be fundamentally truthful in a Platonic kind of way, they're a little too neat for me to completely side with. As wise as I am, as visible as such objective truth may be, I'm far from being reconciled with it.
So that's the dilemma, those are its horns. If Arsenal win the Champions League, it would be sad because Barcelona would have failed. One could argue that Barcelona's season doesn't need trophies to validate it, but though that is true to a degree, I can't completely side with it. Not yet, anyway.
If Barcelona win, it would be sad because Arsenal didn't. Wherever I step lies woe. And all this without even mentioning the possibility of Manchester United or Chelsea winning the thing — or worse, Manchester United and Chelsea meeting each other in the final again. If that happens, I'm giving up on this sport stuff and turning this into a Big Brother blog. Do you want that on your conscience, universe?