Monthly Archives: November 2011

Confessions of a Chelsea Fan: How I came about supporting Chelsea

When one begins to like and follow a particular sport, the first immediate, important and binding choice that he is forced to make is that of choosing a particular team to root for. Who you decide to root for, however, can and will go a long way in determining your mental state every weekend (and many mid-weeks)  for the rest of your existence. Your expectations and aspirations will largely be a function of the team you decide to dedicate all your energy, passion and commitment to – week in week out – for the rest of your life. Not to forget how often you get to win the bragging rights or feel awesome watching THAT look on your friend’s face when his team loses (- very important)!  Also to be kept in mind, is that there is strictly no jumping ship, and if you do jump ship, you will forever be treated as an outcast. So you see, making that one choice is perhaps as important , if not more, as choosing your life partner. Well, come to think of it, you can still change your life partner without being treated as an outcast! There is really little doubt that this one decision or choice  really does go a long long way in dictating the level of happiness in your life.

When it comes to football (if you are in America, it is still football – the other game is Hand-Egg), the first tournament everyone talks about (and rightfully so) is the Barclays Premier League or the English Premier League – arguably the best league in the world, both in terms of quality of football AND the popularity. And when you first begin to watch the sport and realize you like it so much that you have begun to watch it week in and week out, you also understand that it is now time for you to pick a club to support. And one of the factors strongly influencing that choice is going to be – your friends circle.

Everyone likes to be accepted in their friends circle and nobody likes to be treated as the odd man out. And so, for the most part, any newcomer to the sport almost inevitably ends up choosing the team his friends have been supporting. This facilitates the newcomer to feel one among the crowd, allowing him to share the SAME feelings as the rest of his group – irrespective of whether the team wins or loses. And really, who doesn’t like to belong to a group with similar interests?

And when it comes to the BPL, there are really only so many teams you can support without subscribing to a higher risk of feeling crappy every weekend. As of today, those teams are Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and to some extent Tottenham. Any other team and, as pointed out, you run the risk of feeling depressed every other weekend for the rest of your life. So unless you live in England and near one of those mid-table clubs, or your great great grandfather did, it is highly likely that your friends support one of those few above mentioned clubs. And so will you.

Back in the day when I started watching football regularly (it was early 2003), I was surrounded by people who either supported Arsenal or Manchester United. At that time I tried to find out which club I would perhaps enjoy supporting. During my subsequent conversations with those fans, one thing became fairly clear.

There are many ‘reasons’ that are provided by passionate and over-enthusiastic football fans as to why one should support the club THEY do.

Chelsea FC

If you spoke to a Manchester United fan, you would learn that he supports the club for its ‘rich history’, great players, great culture of ‘winning trophies’ and also because they had the greatest manager in the world – Sir Alex Ferguson. He will also make sure to point out that United is the only valid club to support – again, for the same reasons – and that other clubs have no history whatsoever. And that this fact, for some reason that is never really mentioned, automatically makes ALL other clubs ‘unfit’ to support. And if you look around, you will find every Tom, Dick and Harry mouthing off self righteous praises in favor of United, completely convinced that all other fans are not supporting a ‘real’ club. Oh! And of course, you will also be subjected to that inevitable chant: “Glory Glory Man United!”

Now if you spoke to an Arsenal fan, you would be subjected to this inevitable lecture on how Arsenal plays the best, most entertaining, free flowing, passing football in the league. And that Arsenal is the only club that follows the sacred philosophy of investing and developing youngsters from their teenage and moulding them into world class stars. You would also be told about  a particular Frenchman by name Arsene Wenger and his affinity to get young French teenagers into his squad. You might even get the impression that Arsenal is the proverbial underdog trying to make it big with limited resources. (And in all fairness, it is true to an extent). The Arsenal fan essentially tries to convince you that even though Arsenal does not have the ‘habit’ of winning trophies, it is still the ONLY club fit for supporting because of the way the club is run.

At the end of the day, you have two sets of fans, each supporting either United or Arsenal – and who strongly JUSTIFY why they do so. In all honesty, I haven’t met a single fan so far of either club who has not told me WHY he supports them. And perhaps THAT was the reason I never really developed a liking to either of them. I just could not wrap my head around the idea of having to justify my choice of team to support.

 And so, back in early 2003, I never really liked either team, which meant I took turns deciding which team I hated more – United or Arsenal. (In fact, I clearly recall an event back in my Pre-University years (in 2003) when I was asked to participate in a class march which would feature a flag of our own design. And due to the fact that there were more United fans than Arsenal fans in my class, it was decided that the class flag would more or less resemble the Manchester United symbol. When I got to know about this, I simply refused to participate in the march – as a matter of general principle). But I digress.

Going back to 2003, there was this bunch of young lads just going about their business trying to finish as high as possible in the table. A spot in the Champions League was considered to be the target to aim at. And they calmly secured 4th place and eventually did make it to the UCL. These lads wore blue shirts and shorts and they had never heard of anyone by name Roman Abromovich. And neither had I. They just seemed happy playing their football and to have qualified for the Champions League. These young lads played for Chelsea FC and I was just happy supporting them.

When I was asked why I chose to support Chelsea, I realized I didn’t really have an answer. But then, in just a few months time, I would learn that the answer would be forced down upon me – whether it was true or not. And it probably had to do with a certain Russian going by the name of Abromovich who decided to spend a small fortune in building the club.

Sure, along with a billionaire bank rolling the club came good players, managers and even trophies. But the package also inevitably came with a branding. And the branding said that ALL Chelsea fans were ‘the new breed’ who were in existence only because they have a billionaire bank rolling the club’s finances. And then suddenly I was pushed into the tricky situation of having to JUSTIFY why that was NOT true!

Since then, life as a Chelsea fan has been fairly interesting. The Russian has not left and so hasn’t the branding. Sure Manchester City fans now seem to have taken over the spotlight – but I am still told that I am not supporting a ‘REAL club’! There have been a lot of ups and downs but an eventful ride nonetheless.

In my next post, I intend to write about how it has been since. All the arguments about which club is better – both online and offline- along with all the memorable and forgettable moments I had to go through and the subsequent not-so-amicable ‘conversations’ with fans of other clubs. And also more on the short term and long term consequences of the branding. All that in my next post.

Till then, KTBFFH!

Karma and the Just World Fallacy

The Just World Fallacy (or JWF hereon) is a fairly well known idea among psychology circles, even though outside of it, it hasn’t really created waves. It probably should. It has the power to make you feel horrible about the world.

Consider this:

YOU are walking by a busy street in Bangalore and spot two beggars, who are evidently in need of money and help. One is blind and the other is completely weak and malnourished. Of course you do not know the background or history of either of them. All you see are two beggars on a street begging for money.

Your friend next to you asks you, “Do they deserve to be so miserable?” What are YOUR first thoughts?

Consider another scenario:

YOU are glancing through a magazine not really reading any of the stories in depth, when you happen to see the cover story: “Two of the richest women in the country”. You take a look at both the women in it, acknowledge that they have a lot of money and then just move on to a different story. So you are completely unaware of the backgrounds of either of them.

A person sitting next to you asks you, “Wonder if those women deserve all that money?” What are your first thoughts?

Without knowing the background of each of the beggars, the first place your mind goes to is to think that these beggars had at some point made choices that made them deserve their current plight. And without knowing the history of the two women, the first place your mind goes to is that these two women must have made the right choices at some point that made them deserve all the money that they currently had.

THIS rationalization that you just did is what is called as the Just World Fallacy. The tendency of human beings to attribute good outcomes to good actions and bad outcomes to bad actions lies at the heart of this fallacy. We all do it – all the time. We make judgments on how each person deserved what they got or are going to deserve what they WILL get. We want to believe that making good choices in life will result in good outcomes and that making the bad choices is going to result in bad outcomes.

In other words, we want to believe that this world is ‘just’ and ‘fair’ and that whatever goes around comes around. And that ” …you want to believe hard work and virtue will lead to success, and laziness, evil and manipulation will lead to ruin, so you go ahead and edit the world to match those expectations.”  However, our failure to take into account chance and luck into the outcomes of the choices made is a clear demonstration of our own need for a just and fair world. We like to believe that we are in control of our lives – by making the right choices and by not making any bad choices. We do not like the results of our actions to be dependent upon chance. Hence, we embrace the Just World Fallacy.

Lady Of Justice

As much as this appears obvious, leading you to believe that YOU have never fallen prey to it, the truth is likely to be otherwise. This phenomenon is part of being human. So don’t blame yourself if you find you are guilty of it.

Now lets go back to the beggars and the women. You have already worked it out in your head that the beggars must have done something horribly wrong at some point of time to deserve this and that the women too, must have done something right at some point of time to deserve all that money.

Later, you learn about the beggars’ history and life. This is what you learn:

BEGGAR 1: A man bets all his life savings on a cricket match and loses it – all of it. He is bankrupt, cannot feed his family and is eventually deserted by his wife and kids. He becomes an alcoholic, loses his job and his life in general, becomes miserable. He now makes a living begging on the streets.

BEGGAR 2: Another man loses his parents when he was young in a car accident with a truck whose driver was drunk. This led him to be sent to an orphanage where he was a model boy leading a disciplined life. He then becomes a victim of human trafficking and ends up working as a slave to a wealthy man, occasionally molested  during the time. He then has his eyes taken out and is forced into begging. His ‘owners’  leave him to himself after a few years and he has since made a life out of begging on the streets.

Curious about the 2 women, you then decide to read the entire cover story. This is what you learn:

Woman 1: A middle class couple have a girl baby. They bring her up and give her all the education and love they can. She grows up to be an A-grade student at school, topping her class and getting into the best universities. She works hard and lands a well paying job and has now established a company by herself which is doing tremendously well. She is featured on the cover of a popular magazine as one of the richest women in the country.

Woman 2: Another middle class couple have a girl baby at about the same time. She is given a good education as well but she drops out of school and college as she does not make the grades – possibly due to her constant partying and neglect of her academics. She grows up to be a woman with very loose morals,  becomes an alcoholic and eventually gets into prostitution. She does not make any effort to start a new life and continues to make a living out of prostitution. One day she wins a Jackpot at the lottery and goes gambling. She wins all her hands and overnight becomes one of the richest women in the country. She is also featured on the same magazine cover . She now lives in a big mansion with a lot of servants and with her money safely stashed away.

NOW, what are your thoughts?

There are 4 scenarios here, with each scenario being a combination of the kind of choices one makes, and the eventual outcome. The possibilities are fairly evident: Bad choices/bad outcomes (Beggar 1); good choices/bad outcomes (Beggar 2); good choices/good outcomes (Woman 1); bad choices/good outcomes (Woman 2).

Our Just World Fallacy works perfectly well for Beggar 1 and Woman 1. For they both appear to get what they deserved. After all, the Beggar 1 did make the bad choice of betting all his money –  which is clearly a bad choice. And also that Woman 1 worked her way up the society with hard work, discipline and making the most out of what was given to her. On first thoughts, it appears that this is how the world functions and in fact, should function – the good getting rewarded while the bad getting punished.

Now lets get to the tricky part about the other beggar and the other woman.  Now that you are aware of the choices these two have made previously, do you still think they deserved what they got? Do you still want to believe that chance and luck have no bearing on the outcomes and that it is dependent only upon the choices you made?

Maybe deep down inside you know many times it just boils down to dumb luck and chance. But that knowledge doesn’t make you feel good about the world you live in. After all, how can someone who has made no wrong choice in his life end up on the streets as a blind beggar? Or how can someone who has wasted away their life and indulged in immoral activities become one of the richest women in the country?

So how does one explain this glaring anomaly in what we consider a fair and just world? The known causes and effects are not sufficient to explain, justify or rationalize what happened to these 2 people. But the fallacy is so strong that you WANT to believe in it –  no matter what. This is because you believe this world works under the just and fair laws of the entity we have come to refer to as God. And God always makes it right.

So then, how does God make his laws such that the situation with this seemingly unfortunate beggar and seemingly undeserving woman are justified?

Now, for a moment, let us go back in time – a few thousand years ago, when organized religion was still on the horizon and people were still preaching their God and their religion to their people. Now imagine if, during one of these preaching sessions, someone got up and asked the preacher something along these lines: “I have never committed a single misdeed that you have described in your teachings, but I lost my wife and son last week. My neighbor steals, cheats, kills and harasses people, but he is living perfectly well. How is this fair? My only daughter asks me why she lost her mother when she has been a good girl and did everything she was told? What do I tell her?”

Now if you are the preacher, you know that you have been preaching that this is a just and fair world and that God is always just – rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Then how do you explain to this man that what you have been preaching is still right?

Thousands of years ago, the preacher DID come up with an answer. And it was a masterstroke!

The answer comes in the form of Karmic retribution – or simply Karma.

Now do not underestimate the reach of this Karma. Unlike the straight forward manifestations of the JWF, Karma goes out and beyond to enforce it! Karma takes into account not just  the actions of the individual that they have committed in this life. No Sir! The Gods (or maybe just that charming preacher) have realized that, in order to make anomalies like the above two cases appear completely just and fair, Karma has to take into account the actions of the individual in his previous lives too!

Because you see, by including the activities performed by the individual in his previous life as potential ’causes’, one can explain and justify EVERYTHING that has ever occurred on this planet from the beginning of time and forever and ever!

Show me a man who has had the life much akin to Beggar 2, suffering bad outcomes after bad outcomes for absolutely nothing wrong he may have done in this life – and I will show you a religion which tells you that he is suffering because of something bad he must have committed in his previous lives. (Actually you can just look at Hinduism).

Show me a woman who gets rewarded even after having lived a wrongful and immoral life filled with neglect of responsibility  - and I will tell you that she had done something tremendously good in her previous life for her to deserve that sudden change of fortune!

And Karma doesn’t just stop there!

Show me a man who is getting away with crimes against humanity and is still living a luxurious care free life –  and I will tell you that he WILL SUFFER …. albeit in his NEXT life!

Show me a man who is doing all good deeds in this life but not getting rewarded in any way – and I will tell you that he WILL be REWARDED … albeit in his NEXT life!

The fact that the scriptures say you will go to hell if you do not believe this, coupled with the complete inability to know what EXACTLY the individual did in his/her previous life – gives rise to a tremendous masterstroke!

You now have an explanation for every seeming violation of God’s ‘just and fair’ laws while at the same time, there is no way that non-believers can disprove this – as the burden of proof (of choices in previous lives) is thrown upon the shoulders of the non-believers!

The preacher had told the skeptic: “You prove to me that your actions in the previous lives DO NOT affect your present outcomes and I will take back what I said. I believe that it does because God said so. And I believe in everything God says!”

To which the skeptic said, “Ok preacher. I believe in God now too. Because if I don’t, I might go to hell.”

So you see, the idea of Karma is a masterstroke. There is no way of disproving it for those who do not believe in it. And for those who do, well, there IS NO necessity for proof!

And so the world goes on, with people attributing every seeming violation of a just world law of God to some action the individual must have done in his previous lives. They convince themselves that he/she deserved whatever they got because God is only giving out justice by making them suffer!

Truly, what a sick world we live in….

 

Breaking News: Neymar reveals Short Term Memory Loss Condition

In a not so surprising development, Brazilian football starlet Neymar, who has been widely touted as the next big thing in football, has revealed that he has a short term memory loss condition. Neymar, 19, read out a pre-written statement at a press conference after he signed a new deal with Santos that would keep him at the club till 2014.

Today, I would like to reveal to the whole world that I suffer from a short term memory loss condition. I have been having memory losses ever since the first European club became interested in me.

Neymar trying to Remember

Neymar has been scouted by all the big names in European football over the past couple of years. During all that interest, Neymar has repeatedly heated up discussion and gossip among the transfer rumors by declaring his interest to play for a particular club. The only problem was that that particular club kept changing every few months.

Initially it was thought that Manchester City had secured first refusal over Neymar, but that did not materialize into anything. However, what it did do was to act as the trigger for his condition. After City’s apparent first refusal scenario, Neymar simply could not remember what he had said previously. He elaborated about this in the press conference:

Around the time Manchester City got first refusal over me, I got to know that European clubs were really interested in me. It was around that time that I began to have lapses in my memory. I could not recollect what I had said in the press conferences about my preferred club.

This appears to shed some much needed light over the continued changing of his ‘preferred club’ in the past couple of years.

In November 2010, Neymar had vividly declared his love for Italian giants Juventus:

The proposal that I like most is that from Juventus. They have great worldwide appeal. Inter have prestige. Ronaldo played there and he is one of my idols, but I prefer Juventus. I say this without problems – I’d willingly wear the Bianconeri jersey.

Such strong words got the transfer mill buzzing and all Juventini to fantasize about the possibility of seeing Neymar wear the Old Lady’s jersey.

However, in a few months’ time, Neymar appeared to be wanting to play for Chelsea:

Chelsea’s a great club. It’s a dream of every player to play at Chelsea. If one day it happens, I will be very happy to come

He once even got Arsenal fans excited when he said (about the Emirates Stadium),

…the stadium is great; the pitch is too. The [English] weather I don’t like all that much, but I could get used to it.

In his press conference after signing a new deal with Santos, Neymar said he does not recollect making any such statements.

I told you I do not remember anything! I might have said all that because I did not remember which club I was interested in. Sometimes I might have even forgotten which club I was playing for!

Neymar had also made many statements declaring his love for both Real Madrid AND Barcelona calling them  the greatest football clubs ever. His move to Real Madrid appeared to  be getting closer and even looked like a done deal with reports all over the world claiming that Real Madrid had signed him for 60 mil Euros. 

On that news item, Neymar provided some clarifications in his press conference:

It appears that I might have agreed a deal in principle with Madrid last week. But then I totally forgot about it and seeing that I had no recollection of the agreement, Santos might have made me sign an extension in order for me to stay here. But honestly, I cannot remember any of it so it is very possible.

The betting world is going bonkers over which club Neymar is likely to declare his interest for next. The bookies believe he will go in a totally different direction and say that PSG is his new interest.

It has to be seen if and when Neymar joins any club at all or if Santos will continue to trick  him to sign contract extensions.

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