Somewhere between Lionel Messi and Famous Potatoes lies the truth

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.

Famous Cazorla

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.”



28 thoughts on “Somewhere between Lionel Messi and Famous Potatoes lies the truth

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jack

    To be fair to Ted, the tone of your tweet was fairly questionable. And also, he didn’t make your tweet the sole point of the article, which, I have to say, was a excellent read and made some good points. I follow both the blogs and you’re both brilliant at what you do and hopefully you guys can sort out this misunderstanding. Cheers.

  2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1BWG

    Hazards of putting yourself out there on the blogosphere, Tim. There’s idiots out there… no point in explaining things like “humour” and “irony” to them, they either get it or they don’t.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    I’m not sure if you did this on purpose, but I thought it was quite funny:

    “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.”

    Onto the tweet and the entire issue, it’s passed me by. I avoid the twatosphere, because its bollocks. Wenger made those comments, I shrugged them off.

    I also shrugged off the news that Holtby has agreed to join Spurs in the summer. Is he particularly good? I hoped we wouldn’t sign him, and while he seems a decent player he hasn’t impressed me enough for me to want us to sign him. Spurs is probably his level, in my view.

    I could be wrong, he could turn out to be a world beater, but meh. We can do better.

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1GiantGooner

    The preface here – I’m an unabashed fan of both this blog (the best Arsenal blog on the internet, in my humble opinion) and TSF.

    To follow up on our brief Twitter convo, in your preferred forum:

    I think this whole “debate” is silly because the Short Fuse piece really only devotes a minority of its space to a dissection of your tweet. You could take out the 2 or 3 paragraphs related to the tweet and Ted’s commentary on the overall tempest-in-a-teapot about the Wenger quote would still hold up. Furthermore, while Ted’s comments may be unfair in re your satirical tweet, they do accurately portray a reasonably large amount of the commentary about Arsene’s quote that I saw on twitter (particularly between the older English ST holders/shareholders, who seemed to me to be the ones most riled up by it).

    As for finger pointing, well, your “some blogger” line in this piece is a bit condescending, given that you have a much broader readership than TSF. You say Ted could have avoided the whole “controversy” by asking you – but I think you’ve missed the point of his piece. He’s not trying to bash you, in fact he explicitly said that he likes your work. Your tweet, satirizing the conversation occurring on Twitter, was used as an example of the conversation occurring on Twitter. Its a bit meta, but there you go. We all know sarcasm flops all the time on the internet since you can’t write tone in text. To my eyes Ted’s piece stands up otherwise, so as the “big blog” in the relationship if I was in your shoes I would have just let the whole thing slide without comment.

    This comment isn’t terribly well written and should probalby be edited more, but work calls…

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    This could only happen in the Arsenal blogosphere. I tells ya. ‘Lewis Holtby to spuds instead of Arsenal’ would have been a comedic tweet also, until this morning!

  6. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Just FYI,

    Hard to comment with this site currently in limbo. Only one of my comments got through after multiple attempts, since the “strip down”.
    This is my 2nd attempt.

  7. -3 Vote -1 Vote +11NiltoTheArsenal

    Just FYI,

    Hard to comment with this site currently in limbo. Only one of my comments got through after multiple attempts, since the “strip down”.
    This is my 3rd attempt with this one.

  8. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Ted Harwood

    Hello, Tim. I would like to apologize for misunderstanding the tone of your tweet yesterday; after I saw the conversation continue with other folks on twitter in what seemed to be a serious manner about record fees and so forth, I wrongly assumed that the initial tweet was meant to be taken seriously as a criticism of Wenger’s media interaction. I have updated my post to reflect that I misunderstood and that my main point is not directed at anybody in particular.

    I also want to say that even as I misunderstood your tweet, I still stand by the rest of what I wrote, which was in no way directed solely at you or any one person, but rather at a certain mindset that we all know within Arsenal fandom. In general, I think we both agree about a great deal of things with regards to Arsenal, including our desires during the transfer window, and I admire a lot of the work you do here.

    So again, I apologize for misreading what you wrote and for not asking you directly about it at the time, and I hope there are no hard feelings.

  9. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1ArsenalLetters

    I do love Wenger dearly, but it is also true that he has a history of not strengthening the squad in the January window, despite screaming necessities. One does not have to go back to Bergkamp etc.

    Here is what comes to my mind.

    1) When Adebayor was carrying the scoring burden singlehandedly in 2007-08 with Van Persie injured, he chose not to buy cover in the strking department (that year we were seriously fighting on all fronts). When Eduardo got injured, and Ade stopped scoring we fucked up the title chance with consecutive 0-0 draws at home.

    2) Goalkeeper crisis in 2009-2010 when we really had a chance to win the title if it were not Almunia costing us so many points

    3) Last year’s fullback crisis, losing 3 games in a row because of playing Djorou at right back and Wenger’s crazy refusal to get a full back on loan.

    Even this fight in the blogosphere indicates that the fan base had seriously enough.

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

    The effect of a transfer window really can be devastating. Although I had also seen a headline about the Wenger’s quote which the quote seen as a demand by the fans to Wenger, to “discover” a new Messi. It doesn’t mean that it has to be a mega transfer like we’re buying Messi, but the quality of player could be as decisive as Messi.

    On another note, yesterday I actually tried to post three other comments instead of just one. I had the same problem as Zeddington. What do you think is the problem Tim? Is it waiting for moderation and come up negative? Not everyone have this problem because you and other could post more than one comments.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

    Apparently, my spam filter has been going haywire for the last week and I just noticed. I have approved many of your comments. Next time, someone just tweet me or email me, WOULD YA?

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

    Thanks for the clarification Ted. Hopefully I didn’t come across as too much of a prat. I can do that some times.

    Also, sorry that my site is broken and your comment took so long to show up.

  13. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

    That was me apologizing. Erm, Jesus, I have no grace.

    I was just trying to teach my daughter that the other day, no wonder I failed.

  14. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I think a big reason Wenger’s comments irk / are so quickly taken out of context is because we’ve grown accustomed to his bi-annual excuses not to strengthen the squad. Whether or not the Messi comment was aimed at us or the press, the fact remains we’ve heard all sorts of reasons over the years as to why Arsenal/Wenger will not improve the squad, and this one just sounds like another one to add to the repertoire.

    I’m not at all convinced we’ll be busy this transfer window. Instead, we’ll be treated to a litany of “like a new signing” when Walcott signs (mention will be made to tying down the other British players, of course), and when Diaby returns to training. These players will be used as excuses not to buy a winger and midfielder, despite the fact that a) Diaby will never play consistently, and b) we’re burning out Arteta and Cazorla at an alarming rate because we have no other quality midfielders.

    I do think we’ll buy a striker, no matter what happens with Walcott, but I’m not holding my breath with respect to the other positions in which we’re desperately thin.

    I hate to sound pessimistic, but I really do think we’ll pay heavily if the squad doesn’t receive substantial investment this January. At the moment, we can’t even keep up with Tottenham. We seem to be in direct competition with West Brom and Everton this season. If you had told me that a few years ago, I would have cried.

    Okay, I’m crying now. But. Still.

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ted Harwood

    All good, man. I’m glad we got it worked out! And by the way, since I didn’t comment on it at the time, I really liked your piece about total player valuation; I refer to and think about it often.

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1Michael Fournier

    I think the Messi comment was a joke but it does have a bit of irony to it in that it is Obvious that even if Wenger had 100M to spend he could not get Messi as we Know Barca would never sell him. And that leads to the other problem I think any sure thing player in other words a player that is well known and could make a immediate impact is NOT going to be a easy signing. If you can get a club to agree to sell one of if not their top player in the middle of their season your going to have to pay big and your going to have competition if they are really that good and ripe for the taking. So it is easy to say what we need it is another thing to get everything to come together in january. And that is the very reason when Wenger Knows we needs to sign some top players and he can’t afford to hope to get Messi he targets players that have potential but may not be household names as it is better to actually sign a player that might be great then to focus all your efforts on a big name only to end up signing no one when the agreement can’t be reached or a club offers them more wages then midis could pay to play for them.

  17. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

    The reason why Wenger and many other quotes are taken out of context is due to “LAZY” journalism. Rather than research the context it’s much easier and “sexy” to write an entire story which attracts readers although it’s remotely far from the truth.

    Who was it that said, “The devil can quote the scriptures for his own purpose”? Sadly, we also have lazy readers, who instead of doing their own research, take these “mis-truths’ literally and in turn, blaze it over twitter and FB as gospel.

    We all need to share a little of the blame in this new world of instant gratification and attention deficit disorder.

    This transfer window will define AW’s intent for the future. If he doesn’t go out and get a Song “type” replacement, it will re-herald the move from having a strong, robust DM to a versatile, small, quick MF a la 2006. It didn’t work then, but will it work now?

  18. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Have to say I agree. I don’t think we expect a super top class signing, just a ‘top class’ signing will do thank you very much.

    The frustrating thing is we are always about 2 players short of really having the squad to be super competitive (and in recent seasons, the two players seem to be the ones who have been most effective)

    Hopefully we see a striker and a ‘DM’ if Walcott renews. Everything-else can likely wait the summer.

  19. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Have a slight disagreement about your tweet….boobs are awesome..!!!!!

    The site crash somehow made my comment in previous post disappear…sorry if it is a repost…

    I think its time to scour the eastern Europe market..

    Padrew has French Ligue covered..
    The good boys in La Liga are pole dancing in front of the money bags..
    Players from Serie A tend to come to England when it doesnt work out with them there…
    German players rarely come out..

    There should be a Crozilian some where out there.. a Checxican even.

    In my opinion, the number of players who will be a revelation for 1 or 2 years and then go tits up are always available…Thats the ones we get linked with…and fans want Arsene to buy. Which he doesnt want to having seen Arshavin, Chamakh, Squillaci…

    What we need is a Benayoun off the bench…there could be some option of that in Eastern european leagues…

  20. -3 Vote -1 Vote +1Elvis senthil

    People are idiots. Fact!
    I hope you don’t get flustered by idiots with no sense of humor @7amkickoff.
    The morons have no idea what sarcasm or subtle mean. They are ready to start Wenger Bashing at the smallest opportunity.
    The only thing worse than TV Pundits are Internet pundits (excluding a select few).

    I would love a couple of Cazorla like signings. (fingers crossed hoping some other sugar daddy clubs stumble)
    Keep up your great work :-)

  21. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    So where does David Villa lie on the Lionel MessiFamous Potatoes spectrum?

    That’s assuming we do in fact sign a 31 year old on big wages who’s had a big injury of late and will probably cost a club record fee.

    If this happens, my head will explode.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      I think you just explained it perfectly: he’s a former big name, injury risk, salary risk, record transfer. He’s not quite Messi and certainly not Gervinho. He’s a goldilocks signing!

  22. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1createstrain

    nice. this post plus comments would make an interesting lecture for ppl who wanna study journalism. fascinating.

    to me it does look like walcott will sign and we’ll only bring in or try at least to grab zaha from out of the devils clutches. it would be nice if we got a capoue type allowing diaby to crumble at a slower pace.

    dreamland would contain an experienced striker also but hey.

    sxzncsny/don vito





    still looks a bit short doesnt it.

    roll on February.

    ?=will they step up and or should they be playing or even starting there.

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