Tuesday, 25 November 2014
Match 20 - Genoa
In the 60’s, an American sociologist called Orrin Klapp, considered what he saw as modern America’s sudden restlessness and search for identity as stemming from the simple question: Who am I?
“ [Identity] includes all things a person may legitimately and reliably say about himself; his status; his name; his personality; and his past life, but if his social context is unreliable, it follows that he cannot say anything legitimately and reliably about himself.”
Klapp goes on to contend that in this absence of identification people turn to shallow materialism or protests. Eric Simons takes this on and argues that fans everywhere fight with questions of identity and self-concept:
“Teams can offer one source of identity while confirming another, like the way that Tottenham fans link themselves to the North London Jewish community or Latin American teams link themselves to universities. Fans can connect with political traditions - conservative Real Madrid and independent Barcelona. Or artistic expression - Johan Cruyff and the aspirations and aesthetics of unshackled sixties liberalism”.
He concludes, “the more opportunities the team gives you to establish an identity for yourself, the more firmly you anchor your support in it, the easier it is to answer the question: Who am I?”
Personally, I have more than one answer. Living in a foreign country, no one here knew me when I arrived, so I could have invented a new self. You can airbrush out the parts of your past that you’d rather people didn’t know, and project a different version of yourself. I wouldn’t say that I did that, although my reputedly extensive knowledge in the fields of fly fishing, Krav Maga and glass blowing (at times all performed simultaneously) are yet to be put to the test here. Living in another country does allow you a bit of leeway with how you want others to see you, but ultimately no matter how hard you try to fool other people into believing that you’re some kind of effortlessly cool and witty cat, you’ll trip yourself up and reveal your true self (perhaps by using ‘cat’ to signify ‘person’ in the twenty-first century).
That doesn’t bring me any closer to the answer though. Who am I? It’s a question that has (snoop doggy) dogged humanity’s mightiest thinkers for millennia, from Socrates to Calvin Broadus. These two don’t help me with their input (“man, know thyself”, and “the n**** with the biggest nuts, and guess what? He is I and I am him, slim with the tilted brim”, respectively), but if you’ll pardon the cod psychology, Dr Seuss was closest to the mark with: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.
It’s an admirable position to take: it doesn’t matter what people think of you, so be what you feel. Now, I’m a Scot, a son, a brother, a TEFL teacher and many other things, while in the future I’d not be averse to being a father and a gazillionaire. These aren’t particularly clear adjectives to define ourselves by though. Genghis Khan fathered numerous children. Thomas Hamilton was Scottish. I’ve met a few deplorable TEFL teachers. If, as it’s been said, our body chemistry changes every seven years, our identities must be fluid too. Who am I, therefore, is a question with no fixed answer. I hope I’m good. That’s all. Football helps us label ourselves, though. And so thanks to that, I can say that I'm genoano.