Hello. My name is Batmandela.
I suffer from Advanced Statistical Recall Deficiency (ASRD), and I have done since like, forever. Or just recently. I can’t be sure. Little is known about this embarrassing neurological ailment, although it is estimated that it afflicts 1 in 10 (or 391) people.
I’m not one for publicly airing my shortcomings. I’ve found that it isn’t conducive to maintaining my god-like stature in the communities I frequent. Instead of eliciting the desired sympathetic acknowledgment and understanding – I’ve found that showing any sign of weakness merely presents an opportunity for others to goad and ridicule me.
On the other hand – more and more often I find myself in situations where ASRD is affecting my ability to maintain aforementioned loftiness. So I’ve reached the point where admitting my ‘problem’ may mitigate some of the future scorn I’m bound to receive, when discussions turn statistical. Which they tend to do. A lot. (At least seven or sixty-one percent of the time.)
You see – I’m an Arsenal fan. (Have been since either 1984, 1992 or the Invincible Season. I think.) And, as every Arsenal fan knows: it’s not how close to the stadium you live, or how many generations of your forefathers have supported Arsenal since 1783 (when the club was first formed in Woolton, Essex) that defines your Gunnerness…
Nope. The true Arsenal fan is the one that can remember every single goal, every match result, every player who ever donned the glorious red and white. And takes great delight in smashing you upside the head with their superior knowledge.
One of the unfortunate side effects of ASRD is known as Goldfish Syndrome: where even the most familiar situations seem strange and new. For instance: I play golf. (I use ‘play’ in the loosest sense of the word, since every golfer knows you don’t play golf – you suffer it.) When I’m standing on the tee box, on a course I have suffered many times, I have no ability to remember whether it’s a par 3 or 4 (or 5). A dog-leg left over the water, or a short lay-up to a protected green? I have no idea. Which doesn’t help with club selection, or instill much confidence.
And when I’m on the green, retrieving the (provisional) ball from the cup, and the scorer asks my score – I literally have to turn around and imagine every single shot I’ve played, replaying the hole out loud, like a kindergartner:
One – onto the freeway. Three – into the rough under the tree. Four – into the tree. Five – bunker. Six – other bunker. Seven, eight. Yup. I got an eight. (Only one-over with my second ball, though…)
Don’t even ask me about the hole before that. Or how many holes yet to play. In fact: I’m always surprised when the clubhouse comes into view. Wow! We’re finished already? Nope. We’re only half way.
If I turn on the television and there’s a football match showing, I have to press the “Info” button to see whether it’s live or not. The baggy white pants, black boots and mullets – the grainy black and white image – they don’t seem to scream “It’s a replay!!” quite as loudly to me as they do to others.
My first response to seeing Arsenal on TV playing in gold isn’t “Oh – it’s the 2001 kit, therefore it’s a replay…” it’s normally confusion: “What the hell is Freddie doing on the field? Is this a testimonial? Must be. Hence the special kit.”
So – when you ask me what my favourite Dennis Bergkamp goal is, my urge is to say, “The one against Sheffield Wednesday (or Derby – the opposition was wearing white, I think) when Charlie George chipped the ball over to Ray Parlour, who cut it back to Dennis, who cruyffed the defender and slotted it through Grobelaar’s legs. Brilliant!”
But I don’t say it, because I know that it probably didn’t happen. Except in my head, where it’s being replayed as clear as daylight. (It was a night game. At the Allianz Arena. I can tell, because of the massive yellow flags billowing in the crowd… Friar’s Cup Semi-Final playoff.)
And when you talk about Denilson, and what percentage of his passes were backward or square – (23%, you say. Or 81%. Shit. Should’ve paid more attention!) – all I can recall is him wearing that silly black snood that was in fashion back then. No, wait… I think I’m picturing Chamakh. Or Nasri.
Stats, though… Stats are King. The yardstick of your footballing pedigree.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m in awe of your amazing powers of recall. Must be incredible to be walking around with an encyclopediacal archive of everything Arsenal-related.
You’re sitting there, spouting vast streams of numbers, like a parabola, shooting off into infinity.
I’m here, wondering if Özil could play keepy-uppy with a live fish.
They’ve got stats for everything these days. Well, almost everything. I still haven’t seen stats for how many times (on average) a player spits during a game. (315, I reckon). Or which Arsenal substitute has the record for stepping on the most white lines during extra-time in a Champions League semi-final. (Probably Arshavin. Versus Barcelona, 2003. 86 times.)
Maybe I’d be better at remembering those kind of things. Although I wouldn’t bet on it.
Yup. ASRD is a funny thing. While it puts me at a severe disadvantage in post-match autopsies, cripples me in transfer-window player analysis, and makes my eyes glaze and mind wander in any conversation that turns to numbers or dates… It also keeps me in the present.
I don’t care about 2012 Ramsey – because the one on the pitch, right now, dominating the midfield, tackling like a demon and scoring for fun – he’s the one writing history. Breaking records. Which are there to be broken, after all.
If statistics are indeed used for support, and not illumination – like a drunk uses a lamp-pole – then my ASRD shouldn’t matter.
I love my club. Every time The Arsenal take to the pitch somewhere in the world, you can be sure I’m sitting there on my couch in front of the TV – a goldfish in a bowl (of gin and tonic, usually) – soaking it all in.
And retaining none of it.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoy seeing the world through the Eye Of A Bat – check out some of my other scribblings on invinciblog.com.
Or send me an interesting stat on Twitter. (@invinciblog)
Incredible Goldfish Photo: Max R for Betta Fish Tank Bank
Paul Hepker (aka invinciblog/batmandela) recently returned to South Africa after a 16-year stint in Hollywood, where he plied his trade as a film and TV composer. He adopted Arsenal in the mid-80′s, and if it doesn’t start behaving soon he’s going to send it to boarding school.
As an ardent Gunner propagandist – he has contributed a number of tongue-in-cheeky images to the Goonerverse – one of which is bound to get him into trouble at some point.