I woke up this morning to a tweet from a director of the Aston Villa Supporters' Trust. I had (once again) been criticizing the group on twitter, and this time for the fact that their grammar on an official announcement was atrocious. In response, I received this:
@7500_Robert How many times have you been to Villa Park Rob? Before anyone proofreads your answer, let me take a well educated guess. 0.
— Kris Carr (@1KrisCarr) October 30, 2015
Alright then. I don't even want to get into the issues behind the argument at hand here. Because in this context, it doesn't matter at all. What I want to focus on is the beginning of Kris' tweet: "How many times have you been to Villa Park Rob?"
Stop. Using. This. Argument.
As a fan based in the United States, this gets thrown at me every once in a while. We talked about this instance in the 7500 to Holte chat room, and James asked if the argument pisses me off. And to be frank, it doesn't. Because it means that whoever I'm arguing with has just admitted defeat.
Not following? Well, ask yourself this: how many times do you need to have been to Villa Park to understand that Tim Sherwood was bad at managing this club? How many times do you need to go to Villa Park to get that Brad Guzan can't distribute the ball and that Rudy Gestede is almost as bad with the ball at his feet? How many times do you need to go to Villa Park to understand that this club is in danger right now, and serious action is needed to fix that?
The answer to all of those is the same: zero.
Having ever seen a match at Villa Park is not a prerequisite to being a knowledgeable Aston Villa fan. I spend hours every week thinking, talking, and writing about this club. There are certainly some fans who know more about it than I do, but no one can ever (accurately) accuse me of not knowing what I talk about when it comes to Aston Villa. That I do this from an ocean away should make no difference whatsoever.
Going to Villa Park is not necessary to being intelligent on the vast majority of issues that surround this squad. (Certainly, if a question of the quality of concessions at VP ever comes up, I will recuse myself from the discussion.) And to use the "Well have you ever been to VP, m8?" argument is tantamount to saying "I cannot rebut your argument, but oi look, I'm a better fan than you because I've been."
Plenty of people have been to Villa Park. Plenty of people who know far less about football than do I. Plenty of people who know far more about football than do I. Plenty of people who aren't even Villa fans! Simply going to Villa Park does not make you more or less of expert than any other fan.
There's a subtle irony in this claim, too. It often comes, as in this particular case, from people who complain about ticket prices keeping the average fan out of the game. Kris is a director of the AVST, an organization that has lobbied forcefully for the Twenty's Plenty campaign. They want everyone to be able to make it to Villa Park at a reasonable price.
Do you know why I have never been? Because buying a plane ticket to cross the Atlantic, finding a place to stay, and attending a match at Villa Park is stupidly expensive. I'd love to go to Villa Park (and put an end to this stupid argument) but I can't because writing a blog is not a lucrative job. If twenty really is plenty, you'd think people might be more sensitive to the plight of fans who would have to shell out well over £1,000 to see a match. We can still be fans even if we've never had a chance to go where (most of us) desperately want to.
So stop using this argument. It encourages an atmosphere in which only people who have been to Villa Park can be "Real Fans" and it basically admits that you're too lazy to actually rebut someone else's argument. The former is unfair and the latter makes you look dumb. Neither are good.