We are Mr Brightside
Psychologists maintain that the default position for the human being is one of optimism.
We are pre-programmed to look on the bright side. Some of us more than others, and no one all of the time, but overall, we have evolved into a positive species.
The general view is that we are wired that way because if everyone was completely realistic all the time, life would be unbearable!
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When people get sick – really sick – they convince everyone around them that they will be better soon, and that we shouldn’t worry about them. If you’ve ever been to any poorer parts of the world, generally the people without a pot to pi** in and without much hope of ever having one, seem to be happy. I guess they imagine tomorrow will somehow be better.
If I wanted to prove this theory, I’d talk to football fans. Any football fans.
As you read this, Arsenal fans are confidently predicting they will be lifting the Premier League trophy in May next year.
Tottenham fans are agreeing that they will be in the Champions League.
Chelsea fans think they can win it.
Burnley will bounce straight back to the Premiership and Bournemouth will stay there. So will 19 other teams. Just ask their fans.
So let’s wind back to Sunday May 24th 2015.
My noisy pre-match drinking hole was shocked into silence by what we looked like Mike Ashley doing an interview on live TV.
Silence morphed into slack-jawed disbelief when it became apparent it was Mike Ashley. And on top of that, he sounded like a man who cared about my football club and intended to do something to help it.
The afternoon continued with an on-pitch display that harked back to the days of Sir Bobby Robson, in that we fielded 11 players plus a sub who ran themselves into the ground, didn’t shirk the tackles and looked like their lives depended on our Premiership survival.
The Newcastle fans made the stadium as lively, noisy and supportive as I’ve seen it, and my first trip to SJP took place 50 years ago. And we won.
Of course the cameras had barely panned off the ample belly of our owner before many of my fellow drinkers were saying that he was spouting a stream of lies.
History may well prove that to be the case, but given that he’s never said anything directly to the fans before, no one can be 100% sure. The optimist in everyone would like to think that the penny has finally dropped, and it may just be that he is going to give us more of what we want from him.
And it’s equally easy to pick holes in the win against West Ham. The opposition had nothing to play for, their manager already knew he was on his bike, they had a catalogue of injuries, Kevin Nolan didn’t want us to go down, and so on. I just enjoyed the game more than I’ve enjoyed a game for a long time.
On returning to the alehouse, the mood was good, and the faces were happy.
I didn’t ask, but I suspect a lot of those who were in the ‘don’t know’ camp at 2.59pm that day were mentally voting to renew their season tickets by 5 o’clock.
The optimist in them will have figured that an afternoon like that might just about merit another £600 punt. I even said ‘I shouldn’t be this happy’ to my mate.
So, despite the overwhelming evidence provided by the first 5 months of 2015; one solitary afternoon, a 5-minute interview and 90 minutes of committed football, had got me believing that next season would be one I may be able to look forward to.
We were invited to believe that Patrick Vieira might be our next manager for a few days. He has fewer management credentials than Joe Kinnear, but it got everyone who remembers the successful, confident player thinking he could be the next messiah.
Now I know I’m smarter than this. I know the West Ham display and result was a statistical anomaly, I know that all we are happy about is escaping a relegation battle we should never have gatecrashed.
I know Patrick Vieira – in the unlikely event that he was turning up – would have been no guarantee of progress, let alone success. I realise that the Vieira story hit the press just as the season ticket renewal deadline looms. I know Mike Ashley has done nothing at all to convince me he ought to be trusted. And I know that there is a good chance I’ll regret spending another penny on the club as long as the current regime is deposed.
But the problem with optimism is that it’s easy to exploit. Someone who repeatedly blows his pay packet at the bookies does it because he knows next time he’ll win.
Blind optimism is what has sent generations of young men into the nightclubs of Great Britain in the belief that their unique combination of looks, conversation and cologne will attract the admiring glances of even the most discerning female.
Everyone wants to believe the world will be a better place tomorrow.
For all I know, Mike Ashley recognised ages ago that football fans are the most optimistic of all, and calculated that the smallest crumb of hope would win him the benefit of the collective doubt, at least until the season ticket revenues are counted.
The thing is, he’s right. Like it or not, we are all Mr Brightside. We are wired to be optimistic. We can’t help ourselves. So here’s to next season…
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