2016 has been a horrible year for most. Hatred seems to be on tap at the bar of life and everyone seems to be drinking it.
The thing is, it’s the easy path. Anger is a natural emotion and it’s so easy to flow into xenophobia and hatred. It’s the natural way of things and sometimes, we can’t stop it. Sometimes, we don’t know any different. It’s time to change that and learn to love your fellow human. That rule goes for everyone, no matter if you’re white or black or a being from the plains of R’yleh. We could all do more to cross the divide.
So, why was 2016 bad for you? For me, it was seeing the constant stream of death. No matter if it was David Bowie, a refugee fleeing from Aleppo or someone involved in a bombing - 2016 has represented death for me.
In a way 2016 brought death to Aston Villa as well. Villa were relegated from the Premier League for the first time ever (though not the first time they have been relegated, mind). This is the first relegation I’ve seen in my lifetime and it was gutting. Aston Villa went out with a whimper, and not a bang.
The same can’t be said about the fans. My best memory of a Villa game ever will remain the 5-1 rout of Birmingham City, but a close second was back in February, when the entire Holte End raised in cheer despite being crushed 6-0 by Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. It was this match that will enter Aston Villa folklore, because a few hours afterwards, an unfortunate tweet was sent via butt cheek.
I remember how many people left after the second goal went past Mark Bunn, and how many people left after the fourth. The stadium was practically empty by the time Kolo Toure (yes) scored Liverpool’s final goal of the night. That’s upsetting. When Villa needed them most, where was everyone else?
Football is a recreational activity, not something to change our lives. That’s the cold truth and it’s time to accept it. It means far too much to us, like everything else. My favourite comedian is Bill Hicks and in the past few months, I’ve had him on repeat. He’s a mad bastard and he was taken at the very start of his career, but one single line he said will always resonate with me.
“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, "Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride." And we … kill those people. "Shut him up! I've got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real." It's just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn't matter, because it's just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”
That’s life. It’s just a rollercoaster ride at the fairground. Everything will have it’s highs and crushing lows. Life will and Aston Villa will. That’s just the way it is. It is just a ride. You can get off at any time, but you shouldn’t (and if you are thinking of it, please talk to someone like Samaritans) because it’s not over and why would you do that?
We can all make the ride better for others. If someone is crying or upset, comfort them. If they don’t seem upset, ask if they are ok. Open up and talk about your experience and indulge in others.
It’s time to make a few changes, it’s clear we are all one collective - that much is obvious. Just search #AVFC and see how many opinions people share. We’re a hivemind, like the rest of the human race and we should act in acceptance and inclusion rather than hate and exclusion. That goes for the world outside B6.
Learn to love, it’ll make the ride a lot easier. We are taking all of this far, far too seriously.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.