Those of you who regularly read Dispatches will probably appreciate that I was pretty glad to see the back of 2012. While everybody else in the country was basking in the euphoric glow of the Olympics, my young family was having to come to terms with a desperately sad personal tragedy. As a consequence of this, most of the year’s remaining months slipped away wrapped up within a patchwork of emotions ranging from handicapping grief through to quiet melancholia and then the anaesthetising numbness of just getting through the day.
When one of life’s tumultuous events strikes, it’s easy to tell yourself that things will be different from here on in and to an extent, I’m fully aware that I’m not quite the same person I was back in May (are any of us for that matter?). I’ve noticed it in my writing. It’s more muscular, leaner and to the point this season. There’s less room for whimsy. However, there are other character traits that through sheer force of habit, I’ve found myself slipping back into. For instance, I’m aware I take things too personally. The slightest off-hand remark or action that was probably uttered without due forethought by someone, will have me brood and mull for days. I worry too much about insignificant things. It’s not particularly an aspect I like about myself but it is what it is. Simple genetics and old routines are incredibly easy to be comfortingly smothered by.
So it’s perhaps helpful at the halfway stage of this season and at the beginning of a new year, to drop in and see what condition my condition is in. And it’s at times like this that I look to one of my favourite film characters for inspiration; The Big Lebowski’s Dude.
The Dude, like no other character in the history of cinema, epitomises what it takes to be at one with oneself. On the face of it, he’s an unemployed spiritual refugee from the mythical sixties who’s wasted his life, “bowling, driving around and enjoying the occasional acid flashback”. Look a little closer though, and you’ll find a character that embodies everything we should aspire to in order to live a quietly contented life. The Dude is neither ambitious nor is he driven by anything as inconsequential as paying his rent. He is also an incredibly flawed individual. The Dude however, will “dig your style” whoever you might be, is committed to taking it easy and just wants a decent rug to tie his room together.
“Greg, you’re halfway through a Dispatch which is supposed to be about football. Get to the point,” you’re probably thinking. You’re right but there are too many strands in my head, you see. Here it is, the point. When it comes to football, the most important piece of wisdom that we can take from this “deadbeat”, this “bum” is that the Dude abides. You’re shouting now. “You’re out of your element, Greg!”
Think about it for a minute though. To abide is to accept and for many of us who spend much of our time obsessing about football, our thinking can get a little uptight from time to time. I’m not exempt from that. I was somewhat invigorated last week after lancing the boil of contempt I’ve long held for a certain type of football fan but what did I really hope to achieve from biting my thumb at them? In the end, you become as tribally-minded as they are; the only difference being the newspaper you read. Like I said, The Dude is flawed too.
If you step back from it for a minute, you’ll be able to see how truly hysterical (in both senses of the word) football really is. The trick is to focus on the funny rather than the angry. In The Big Lebowski, the Dude rolls with the narrative as it unravels and as a result maintains a pretty steady equilibrium throughout the film’s duration. The same applies to football. What’s the point in all that shouting at the referee or lobbing an obscenity at your useless left-back? Why bemoan this week’s defeat when it’s more than likely you’ll win next week? Or the week after. Sometimes your team is on the up. Usually it’s on the down. But regardless, you keep showing up. So why get so upset about something you claim to love? You can’t control anything that’s happening on the pitch anyway. Things level themselves out, to use the parlance of our times. Damn, losing my train of thought here…
Think about how ridiculous Sir Alex looked in his Jim Royle garb, lambasting the linesman for giving a decision in Newcastle’s favour on Boxing Day. Alan Pardew’s subsequent response and the tit-for-tat that followed was just all rather silly, wasn’t it? A lot of people get angry about that kind of thing though. I try my best to laugh about it. And if I can’t laugh about it, I try to abide it. That doesn’t stop me from loving football but Spurs’ promising second half of the season would happen whether I was here or not, right? Now that’s Dude-esque.
Football too has had its own Hall of Dudes over the years. Players and managers who in some form or another extolled some of the Dude’s finer qualities. Take for instance Socrates’ laconic penalty in the shootout against France in 1986. Socks rolled down, barely any steps taken and he misses. The man took it in his stride, never won the World Cup and is still held in higher esteem than the likes of Rivaldo, who did win it. Dimitar Berbatov is probably the best possessor of Dude-like qualities at present. Looks like he doesn’t care but can do and always was capable of doing great things on a football pitch just because he can. His teammates just need to keep calm and pass him the ball. But the title of Most Dude-Like Dude In Football History can only be given to one man. Matt Le Tissier. I needn’t have to explain why. But that’s just, like, my opinion, man, as the Dude would say.
So there you are. I’m beginning 2013 positively. Things will inevitably happen throughout the course of this year that will test such newfound resolve. I don’t expect to be able to uphold it. But throughout the month of January, I’ll be accentuating the positive in my posts. Then I can at least say I tried. I’m sure that’s something the Dude would wholeheartedly abide. As for everything else, slowly but surely, slowly but surely.
Further reading: The Soothing Banality Of Football
For more on how you too can live like the Dude, visit Dudeism.com
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