Invinciblog Exclusive! Adams Interview…
“Going to watch the match this afternoon then?”
Ford glanced round at him.
“No, no point,” he said, and looked back out of the window.
“What’s that, foregone conclusion then you reckon sir?” said the
barman. “Arsenal without a chance?”
“No, no,” said Ford, “it’s just that the world’s about to end.”
– Douglas Adams, “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”
On May 11, 2001, Arsenal lost the FA Cup Final to Liverpool. 2-1, in Cardiff.
On the same day, in Santa Barbara, California, beloved author and Arsenal supporter Douglas Adams’ world did end. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the tender age of 49.
Let’s just say it was a bad day for Gooners and leave it at that.
The following is an imaginary interview with Douglas Adams. (DA) – conducted by yours truly: Batmandela (BM). Mr. Adams’ replies are culled, verbatim, from his numerous books, letters and scripts. It is an interview I would have loved to have conducted during Douglas Adams’ lifetime. But things don’t always work out the way we planned.
I have a feeling, though, that he’d have found this concept mildly amusing…
BM: Douglas – I can’t thank you enough for doing this interview. I’m a huge fan. And the fact that you are a Gooner is the cherry on the top. No disrespect to Tony (he’s entitled to his opinions) – but you’re definitely my favourite ‘Arsenal Adams’, so to speak…
Tell me one thing: as someone who famously didn’t believe in God, or an ‘afterlife’ – I have to ask you this: how the hell is this interview even taking place, since you’ve been dead for over ten years!?
DA: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.
BM: Hah! Well, that’s that then! Hopefully you are in a good place? It’s the least your living admirers would wish for you…
DA: I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be!
BM: (chuckling) I can see nothing’s changed. You give the answers but it’s up to us to find the questions! 42, and all that. Fine. I’ll just carry on as if interviewing a dead person was normal…
DA: The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be ‘normal’ is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.
All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it’s pretty damn complicated in the first place.
BM: Right… Thanks for that! Enough of the airy-fairy stuff then, and on with the real reason you’re here: Arsenal.
It’s 2013 now, in case you didn’t know… When you died we were in a pretty good space that got even better for a couple of years… Arséne Wenger is still in charge. But we’ve moved from Highbury to a big fancy stadium. And since then, we haven’t really won anything. Except for the annual Champions League qualification. If that counts as winning…
Did you ever meet Wenger? I think I read on some internet site that you met him a couple of times…
DA: Don’t believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose. (Laughs.)
He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.
BM: Did he tell you anything meaningful?
DA: Having not said anything the first time, it was somehow even more difficult to broach the subject the second time around.
BM: That sounds like Wenger. He can be pretty evasive. He gets a lot of stick for it…
DA: We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!
BM: Ha-ha. I suppose we do. But on the other hand – a little more transparency would be nice.
DA: It can be very dangerous to see things from somebody else’s point of view without the proper training.
BM: Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Wenger even has a point of view. He’s a little unpredictable. An enigma…
DA: He attacks everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it’s often difficult to tell which is which.
BM: (Laughs) Well put! Take for example the transfer window: we’re desperate for new players… a striker, perhaps. And a defensive midfielder (or two). We’ve known it for a while. But it’s almost the end of January, and the deadline–
DA: – I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by…
BM: Hah! As I was saying – the deadline is fast approaching and we’re no better off than we were a month ago. Worse off, perhaps – injuries… player fatigue… No new signings in sight.
DA: It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
BM: Huh? Potatoes..? Who said anything about… Ahhh. So you’re saying that getting new… uh… potatoes… won’t necessarily fix the problem. That it runs deeper than that?
DA: See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that.
BM: So – expecting our problems to be solved by signing this or that fancy, um, potato is delusional? Short-sighted?
DA: A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment.
BM: That’s an interesting take. I’m sure the Arséne Knows Best crowd would be happy to hear it. It’s pretty Zen. But it’s not very realistic.
DA: Reality is frequently inaccurate.
BM: (Laughs) But someone has to do something, or things will stay the same. Which means, they’ll get worse… Wenger’s supposed to be pretty smart: he certainly achieved a lot in his first seven years at the club. And he has a lot of power. But he’s not being too clever right now. In my opinion, of course…
DA: Sometimes unusually intelligent and sensitive children can appear to be stupid. But stupid children can sometimes appear to be stupid as well. I think that’s something you might have to consider.
(Long pause) The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armor to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.
BM: Hmmph. The Wenger Out Brigade will love that. So, Wenger may not be the right person to lead us out of the wilderness, since he was the one who got us into this mess..?
DA: The complexities of cause and effect defy analysis.
BM: OK. Fair enough. The blame game never solves anything. Do you think we put too much emphasis on past achievements?
DA: Let the past hold on to itself and let the present move forward into the future.
BM: The future isn’t looking too bright, though. If things continue as they are, then Arsenal could easily be faced with an unthinkable future that involves playing European football on Thursday nights. If we’re lucky…
DA: Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.
BM: Admittedly, Champion’s League qualification, winning silverware, competing for the League title – these are things Arsenal supporters have taken for granted. There’s a sense of entitlement. Like it was our birthright…
DA: This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for…
BM: OK. But surely you admit that we have a small amount of control over our destinies? There are have been recent decisions (or lack of decisions) that were… for lack of a better word: shit?
DA: If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
BM: Right. Here’s an example: Wenger’s decision to sell our biggest asset to one of our most bitter rivals…
DA: He had a nasty feeling that that might be an idiotic thing to do, but he did it anyway, and sure enough it turned out to be an idiotic thing to do. You live and learn. At any rate, you live.
You know what a learning experience is? A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”
BM: Sure. Hindsight is always 20/20. But that whole affair seemed to happen in slow-motion – like a car accident. And, like everything in the modern game, money played a huge part.
DA: [The] planet has a problem: most of the people living on it are unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
BM: Everything that money touches becomes dirty…It’s like the anti-Midas.
DA: Very deep. You should send that in to the Reader’s Digest. They’ve got a page for people like you.
BM: Thanks for that. Not! (laughs) That’s Life, I guess.
DA: Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can’t like it.
BM: But seriously: selling your best players, year after year – and refusing to spend money on replacements when you need to… What could possibly go wrong?
DA: The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
BM: Absolutely. I think that’s what’s happening now. Getting rid of Fabregas, around whom Wenger built his team, and then van Persie, around whom he built his team – Arséne is desperately trying to find the centre again. For a while there it looked like it would be Walcott. Perhaps it will be Wilshere.
The point is – it’s really hard constantly being in transition – trying to fix something while it’s in use! Wenger has tried so many different things: playing players out of position and so on… Most of the squad doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. Except during the transfer window, of course, when there’s no coming or going!
DA: If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.
BM: Ha-ha! Exactly. Sometimes we have a very non-working cat. We’ve certainly got our share of non-working players. (In both senses of the word!) Most of whom Mr. Wenger always seems reluctant to part with! Take Diaby, for instance… He just seems to be an injury waiting to happen. What’s up with that, you think?
DA: As he drove on, the rainclouds dragged down the sky after him, for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him, and to water him.
(Long pause. A bit too long…)
There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler’s mind…
BM: (Chuckles) I think you were intimating that injuries love Diaby. That’s why they follow him around. And all this time he thought he was just cursed…
DA: (Shrugs) The idea was fantastically, wildly improbable. But like most fantastically, wildly improbable ideas it was at least as worthy of consideration as a more mundane one to which the facts had been strenuously bent to fit.
BM: Sorry. Having a bit of an existential moment here. I mean – I should have known that you’d be like this – you know – in ‘real life’… Or whatever this is. Kinda crazy and logical at the same time. Always unpredictable. Just like your books.
DA: If everyone knew exactly what I was going to say, then there would be no point in my saying it, would there?
BM: I suppose not. Hmmm. But going back to the Arsenal-Under-Repair discussion. What you were saying earlier: you’re probably right –
DA: – I’d far rather be happy than right any day–
BM: – it’s best to just let the cat do what the cat does best. Go with your intuition. Don’t try and dismantle it.
In some ways – I think that’s what Wenger does. He has a gut feeling that certain players will come together and make magic. But anytime the gut is making decisions, it’s bound to upset a lot of heads. And that’s kind of what’s happening in the club these days. At least, among the supporters.
Some desperately want to trust Wenger… to believe that he’ll deliver us through the valley of the shadow of death…Others are driven mental by the fact that he keeps his cards so close to his chest. And can be so confoundedly, annoyingly stubborn. Machiavellian almost.
Opinion is heavily divided…
DA: All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.
BM: Sure, but logic and argument aren’t usually the things you reach for when your world is crumbling around you. The thought of sliding off of our shiny pedestal is anathema to some fans. It’s a fear, of sorts. Even more: a dread…
DA: What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can’t move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.
BM: (Laughs) You’re a strange one, Mr. Adams! I can’t tell if you’re super-zen, or über-cynical. Or if you’re just taking the piss! My gut says that if we took your advice though, and just let tomorrow take care of itself, we’d all be in deep bog.
DA: The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.
BM: ‘Quality of life they lead’!? You’re dead! What’s that supposed to mean? You answer questions with riddles. You’re just like Wenger. Perhaps he should write a five book trilogy too.
… Every now and then it would be nice to get a real answer to a question! To know what’s really going on. So that we can take that information and do something about it! Like prepare for the worst…
DA: What is the point? We assume that every time we do anything we know what the consequences will be, i.e., more or less what we intend them to be. This is not only not always correct. It is wildly, crazily, stupidly, cross-eyed-blithering-insectly wrong!
The chances of finding out what’s really going on in the universe are so remote, the only thing to do is hang the sense of it and keep yourself occupied.
BM: Keep calm. And carry a towel…
DA: (Chuckles) Don’t panic.
BM: I knew you were going to say that.
DA: If the Universe came to an end every time there was some uncertainty about what had happened in it, it would never have got beyond the first picosecond. And many of course don’t. It’s like a human body, you see. A few cuts and bruises here and there don’t hurt it. Not even major surgery if it’s done properly. Paradoxes are just the scar tissue. Time and space heal themselves up around them and people simply remember a version of events which makes as much sense as they require it to make.
BM: So your advice to Gooners is basically: “Shit happened. And it’ll happen again. And shit may not necessarily be as bad as it’s cracked up to be. So just chill…?”
DA: (Intercom announcer’s voice) We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.
It is folly to say you know what is happening to other people. Only they know, if they exist. They have their own Universes of their own eyes and ears.
BM: I get it. You don’t want to be right. You want to be happy.
DA: My capacity for happiness you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first.
BM: Hah! You are a Gooner!
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— invinciblog (@AFC_Invincibles) January 25, 2013