I took the title for today’s post from one of my favorite bits by George Carlin, American comedian and provocateur. The joke in question is about license plates and how New Hampshire’s license plates read “Live Free or Die” and Idaho’s license plates read “Famous Potatoes.” Carlin then says “somewhere between Live Free and Die and Famous Potatoes lies the truth.”
I grew up in a family that listened to a lot of comedy. Saturday Night Live was a staple as a child and on the occasion that Wide World of Sports wasn’t on television my father would fire up the amplifier and turn on the reel to reel. My favorite reel was the one with George Carlin and Steve Martin. We listened to that until the tape wore thin and then when we tired of listening to the tapes, we would do skits for the whole family. Mixing bits from Carlin or Martin in with original material that usually covered topics we knew a lot about, such as farts.
So, I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a shit comedian. Perhaps you can tell from my writing. Perhaps not. But in the over 2,140 articles I’ve written there’s quite a bit of comedy.
I also like to use my twitter account as a bit of a comedic outlet. So for example, yesterday at 4:45pm I tweeted this classic: “No matter how you feel about Arsene Wenger’s Messi quote, there’s one thing we can all agree on: boobs are nice.” Classic comedic form, twist at the end. This tweet received several comments, several retweets and much fun was had by all.
However, earlier that day, while on break, I fell into the twitastrophe that was “the 3pm PST Daily Mail Arsene Wenger Messi quote”. John Cross had published an article a few minutes earlier in which he took Arsene Wenger’s somewhat cheeky quote and painted to look like Wenger believed that all fans ever want is Lionel Messi.
The actual quote goes like this:
It’s very difficult because the level of expectation is very high. People want to see Lionel Messi. They don’t want to see a promising guy. First of all the name gives hope. When a guy has no name people are already sceptical. So it’s much more difficult for us.
On twitter, the outrage was immediate and so too was the outrage to the outrage. Valid points were floated in 140 characters or less and several virtual scuffles broke out as people became more outraged at each other’s outrage over what was, in essence, a joke by Arsene Wenger. That’s what we’ve become as fans.
I almost feel foolish having to explain this but anything can be a joke, all that matters is the distortion. In the case of the Arsene Wenger quote, I thought he wasn’t making a full joke but rather just a little tongue in cheek distortion of reality. He knows that no one has ever, to my knowledge, seriously floated the idea that Arsenal need to buy Lionel Messi. It’s a distortion, he knows it, I know it, but apparently a lot of “people” didn’t get it.
He is also not speaking to the fans, he’s talking to the press here. I think “people” in this context means “the press”; the folks who are asking him this question. So, hidden in this little gem of a quote is a criticism of the press, not the fans as so many have taken it to mean, but the press. How everyone has missed this is beyond me.
The “people” Wenger is criticizing here are the writers and pundits, like me, who are the ones that get skeptical about signings and who are most vociferous about big name signings. And so what does John Cross do? Writes exactly the type of article, based on the very quote, that Arsene Wenger is criticizing “people” for writing. At least. I think that’s what happened. The layers of meta are so thick here that it’s almost impossible to peel down to the core of what’s really going on.
Seeing all this, I tweeted:
Can you imagine if it were 1994 and Arsene Wenger said: “People want to see Dennis Bergkamp. They don’t want to see a promising guy.”
If you read that and took it seriously, then you’re really looking for something to be outraged about and obviously in need of a target to build up so that you can tear down the straw man. One person on twitter responded and he was outraged! He wanted to have a serious discussion about this oh so not serious tweet and I, jokingly, indulged.
Apparently, this tweet and the brief discussion between me and “some guy on twitter” caught the attention of some blogger for SB Nation and he wrote 1000 words on the hermeneutics of the 7amkickoff tweet. I’ve never been so honored as to have such a ridiculous tweet examined so closely and yet have the point so thoroughly missed: the point, since at least two of you have failed to get it, was a distortion of the Arsene Wenger distortion.
What I could not have ever expected, however, would be for my tweet to receive the same kind of treatment that Arsene Wenger’s quote received. That is, to miss the joke entirely and run with the tweet as if it were serious. I’ve been John Crossed by Ted Harwood and now here I am writing an epistemology of the hermeneutics of the 7amkickoff tweet. Which all could have easily avoided if Ted Harwood had simply asked me what the point of my tweet was rather than try to use it as some kind of straw man for his article.
If there was any serious component to my tweet it would be that somewhere between Messi and Gervinho is where Arsenal fans want Arsenal to spend some money and Bergkamp is a great example of that. I don’t know anyone who wants Lionel Messi but I do know a lot of people who think that this squad could be strengthened in this transfer window. Some of us want a wide player, some of us want a midfield enforcer, some want a backup goalkeeper, and some want a striker. I think all of those people have valid points.
I also think it’s true that fans love big named players. But the reason fans love big names is that some times a big name can come in and energize the club and the fans. I was at the Sunderland match which was Arshavin’s first start for Arsenal at the Emirates. There was quite a buzz around the stadium before kickoff and a big roar when he was announced. It’s also pretty much accepted wisdom that Arshavin kept Arsenal in the Champions League that season.
Similarly, I know a lot of us were excited when we saw Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud sign for the club this summer. Not exactly household names but pretty big names regardless and astute purchases as well. There was a lot of positive energy around Arsenal at the start of the season, energy which was sapped by the sales of van Persie and Song.
What most fans that I speak to want isn’t a Messi-type signing, it’s a Cazorla-type signing. Somewhere between Lionel Messi and Famous Potatoes lies Santi Cazorla. The truth.
Now, if you don’t mind, I have to see if anyone has gotten outraged over at Knights Blog at my tweet about how “I’m starting to think that Sir Mix A Lot doesn’t even have his KBE.”
BUT HE’S AN AMERICAN AND THEY AREN’T ALLOWED TO USE SIR EVEN IF THEY ARE KNIGHTED…