Neil Atkinson @Knox_Harrington
IT was a laugh. A really good laugh.
I enjoyed having everyone on HotMic, I loved seeing the games, and Michael Oliver’s barnet and his sheer incredulity at his own watch.
I thought Oliver Norwood played well and so did Raheem Sterling. Dani Ceballos was the best of a bad bunch for Arsenal and Jack Grealish is a lovely footballer.
I don’t know whether I would be laughing if I supported Sheffield United. I don’t know what my position would be if I were an Arsenal supporter watching David Luiz. But it was a laugh.
It’s worth remembering that bit. I have a secret to tell you all. In between the two Premier League games me and Steve Graves played Pro Evolution Soccer. We decided to play and have a running total and see who won.
I raced into an early-ish lead. Got to around 20 about six or seven ahead. But Steve’s class told and by the time all this wrapped up Steve had won about 100. I’d won about 70. There had been draws.
Had you asked me before all this who was better at the game, me or Steve, I would have said that Steve just about edges it but I have enough to keep it interesting. When we play first to three, Steve wins about three of those to every two I win. And they tend to be 3-1 or 3-2 on the night as well.
That’s extrapolated here. And that’s how it played out. But around 62-49ish I began to genuinely lose my head playing. Get unbelievably angry with myself, with Steve, with the fortunes of the universe. I almost couldn’t make the little figures out at times I was that cross. Couldn’t tell you who I was controlling.
When Steve was on about 80 I smashed my controller. This is my guilty secret. For the love of God, I am 39 years old. I smashed it against a wooden bedframe so hard it broke. And then I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of myself. What a stupid, stupid man.
Because it is meant to be a laugh. Meant to be hard. Meant to be taxing. But, ultimately, isn’t this meant to be fun? I had signed up for a laugh and was instead undertaking a repeated dark night of the soul.
So I decided to enjoy it. I ordered a new controller and endeavoured to enjoy the feel of it in my hand and use it to remember this is meant to be fun.
I wish, readers, I could say “I decided to enjoy it” and then there was some sort of comeback. There wasn’t. I broadly lost the same number of games in the same pattern.
I was good with Lyon and Juventus, bad with Croatia and Tottenham. I made similar mistakes. But I sent nicer messages to Steve, laughed when my keeper did mad shit and mostly felt better about things. Mostly.
We’ll play again at some point and the weight of being 20 behind will have gone (like a new season) and we’ll play first to three and I will enjoy that more as well. I’ll win two in every five of those and that will be fun.
But I will grow ever more desperate for the boozers to reopen. Because, frankly, I was winning with a sudden level of regularity when we played pool prior to lockdown and that, I think you will find, is the real quiz.
My point here is that we decide whether or not to enjoy things, at least in part. We decide whether or not we have a lightness of being around the things that don’t truly matter. A football match behind closed doors isn’t the same as people going hungry or not having work or not having prospects.
What we are going to see, in our footballers, our coaches, our media and our friends is what their mindset is during these games. In a sense, it is easy for us. We are all the way over the horizon.
But Chris Wilder made jokes after the maddest shit imaginable happened. David Luiz – who Arsenal should do everything possible to avoid playing – took responsibility for his performance.
This is the only show in town but then it always is the only show in town for so many of us. I’d missed it. It’s back.
It’ll be a fun summer to have it around, as long we keep our heads where they should be.
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