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Pessimism feels so good

6 years ago

We will fail.  The season will end with disaster and we will be relegated.

Rafa Benitez will leave us, as will the majority of our ‘stars’, and probably a good chunk of the ‘fans’ too.

Mike Ashley will refuse to invest and we will pick up a bunch of kids for nowt and a couple of journeymen hoofers.

We will struggle to a mid-table position in the Championship with somebody uninspiring in charge.

We will continue to bomb out of cup competitions at the first opportunity and our Wonga advertising will be replaced with EDL logos.

Ticket prices for Newcastle fans will increase to cover the costs of relegation and Lee Charnley will install himself as DoF.

This is pessimism, and pessimism is important.

If you believe that you/or we will be successful then that is to set up to fail, if you begin from a point of nothingness and lower expectations then achievements can be made.  To create a feeling that success is somehow a given right leads to nervousness, and nervousness inevitably results in failure.  That is why, despite what he and we may think, Rafa made it clear that defeat at Norwich would not mean certain relegation; he was trying to lower expectations, something Claudio Ranieri has done magnificently all season.

While to dismiss the chance of success is to reach the point of depression, to expect success and ultimately experience failure is a certain route to a visit from the black dog.  We suffered this during our infamous near-title-experience, we had reached a point where we all expected to win the premier league, we were excited about it, but when it didn’t happen the pain was almost unbearable.

In our current situation as Newcastle fans, it might be wise to take the ancient Roman stance of stoicism.  Seneca, the inventor of stoicism, thought that the feeling of anger we have when things are going badly is a result of optimism, if we expect good things to happen and they don’t, then we feel internal turmoil and destruction of telephone boxes and people’s cars is the result.

He was interested in rain rather than football (it was the early 3rd century BC after all…) and asked why northern Europeans don’t get angry when it rains, rain is certainly a failure of the weather when sunshine is available.  It’s because we expect rain, we are used to it, we know it, and we know it will pass so we don’t get upset about it.  When we get angry because we are seemingly doomed to relegation it is because we implicitly think that we won’t, that we are too big a club to go down, we have players who, although we berate them, are mostly internationals, that there are worse teams than us, however pessimistic we appear to be on the surface, there’s a deep-lying belief (call it a hope if you like) that we will be successful.  The anger comes from this not being the case.

When Leicester were in our position last year they weren’t angry, because that’s where they expected to be, so they happily clapped and cheered their team as they defied the odds and miraculously escaped, the rest is (almost) history.

Seneca believed in fate, or rather, in the randomness and unpredictability of life.  It can transpire that the team who puts in incredible effort, has unrelenting belief and hires the world’s top players somehow fails to succeed, and the team made up of bargain basement buys and chancers wins the league.  It’s rare, but there you have it.  The point is, what happens with our club is completely out of our hands.  Beyond giving our support to the team at matches (and that does make a huge difference) we are completely helpless.

We don’t train the team, choose the tactics or buy the players; we don’t train the opposition players; we don’t train the referees or make sure they get a good night’s sleep the night before the game; we don’t control the weather, the divots on the pitch; most of us don’t have the opportunity to hold onto the ball in the crowd at a vital point in a match leading to our players becoming more nervous than they needed to be and ultimately conceding a goal: so he recommends something called ‘pre-meditation’.

This basically comprises running through all of the most negative and unhappy things that can happen in advance, as I did at the top of this piece, so that we are mentally prepared for it and have already experienced a modicum of the grief it would bring.   “What need is there to weep over parts of life, the whole of it calls for tears” is an uplifting quote from the bloke, but it does help to bring a little perspective to the situation.

I know that I don’t need to tell any of you that discussing the darkest scenarios, opining at our desperate plight and grumbling inconsolably at the weaknesses in our team, possibly while drinking some strong alcohol and listening to some blues record or other is a highly enjoyable and cathartic exercise, it must be, it’s all that some of us ever do (and for some of us it replaces the whining and moaning that needs to take place regarding our daily lives, but that’s another story), and I would heartily agree with that and suggest that it should continue unabated.

We will never be successful again, we will never win the premier league, we will never get close to winning the FA cup, we will be relegated and we will continue to lose more games than we win.  We will not suffer though, unless we view others as beacons of hope.

I know this is contradictory to a previous post of mine in which I held Leicester as an example of what can be achieved (in this one even), but actually, looking at them with envious eyes will do little more than inflame the hopelessness we endure.  They defied everything, they are doing something incredible, impossible….unrepeatable.  Thinking we can emulate them is setting ourselves up for disappointment, we cannot allow ourselves to be seduced by the success of others, we will gain no enjoyment from that.

Worse, look at Man City, a few years ago they were an easy 3 points, then BOOM, along came a rich Arab and they are winning the league and reaching the quarter finals of the Champions League, we will never be in the Champions League again.  To compare ourselves, even hypothetically, to them is to breed optimism and ultimately anger when it doesn’t happen.

I guess that has happened a lot, because there are a lot of angry people around.  Or, there will be.  Getting Rafa Benitez instilled a new sense of optimism, hope, expectation, I felt it myself, but 1 draw and 2 defeats later and that optimism has yet to be met with material gain and the anger, while not manifest just yet, is brewing.  When we get relegated it will come.

Now, critics of The Mag who have managed to read this far will have this pinned as yet another negative article bemoaning our position, offering no solution to the despair and doing little other than to stoke the flames of discontent.  That’s where they’d be wrong.

What I’m suggesting is to therapeutically exorcise the pessimism and anger within, to resign yourself to inevitable defeat privately.  Do it in bed on the day of the match, think about every negative scenario possible and play it out in your head as a certain inevitability, then get up, go to the match and either see your nightmare scenario realised, in which case you are fully prepared, or be pleasantly surprised as something not as bad happens.  Trust me, you will feel a lot better.

Think of a traffic jam (if you drive or if you get the bus), if you expect that it will last 5 minutes and you’ll be on your way then not only are you probably wrong, but you’ll become angry when that doesn’t happen.  If you tell yourself that the jam will last at least 3 hours, then you get through after 45 minutes you’ll be over the moon.  It’s a mental hurdle, but I think we are all capable of it.

So when people accuse me of being an ‘Ashley minion’ or say that I ‘don’t care about the club’ it is water off a duck’s back because every time I post an article on the Mag, I fully expect the responses I get, either complete indifference or a torrent of abuse, but when somebody says ‘hey, this guy has a point’ then I’m very happy, I gain worth.  The same can happen with supporting the club, expect the worst and be happy if it doesn’t happen.

I realise that I have rambled, and that I have missed things and generally drivelled on, but here is my final point.

When in the stadium, wherever it is, support the team, because while we have no control over what happens, we do have control over how much noise and support there is, which can make the difference between success and failure.



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