You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious. You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says , "What are you thinking about?" you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that. And it would be obvious at once from your answer that your thoughts were straightforward and considerate ones - the thoughts of an unselfish person, one unconcerned with pleasure and with sensual indulgence generally, with squabbling, with slander and envy, or anything else you'd be ashamed to be caught thinking. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3:4.
Sitting on a plane from Philadelphia to Raleigh on Sunday afternoon, I finished Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Over the last week, I spent lots of time on planes, in airports, and in a house without cable television or the internet. I spent that time plowing through books, finishing Meditations during the final leg of my trip. I did it on purpose.
Today, January 31, is one of the two most insane, frantic, and purely illogical days in sport. The other is, of course, August 31. I knew that I would be coming home from my vacation to the height of transfer madness and the deadline day, an unbelievable exercise in human overreaction. A comprehensive, 24-hour feeding of pure bullshit. It is very easy to get caught up in all of the rumors and speculation, and I wanted to finish off my vacation by finishing a book that some of the world's greatest business leaders and statesmen have read to help them see life in a logical and level-headed fashion.
As of Monday afternoon, I wanted to approach this day in a manner much different to everyone else. I wanted to take everything with a grain of salt, think about everything logically, and wait until clubs made announcements to react to anything. I wanted to clear my head of any unreasonable thoughts and make sure that I treated this day like any other. On Monday night, I decided otherwise.
That's a fantastic way to live life, but even philosophers and statesmen need days off. This is my day off. I have decided to embrace the beauty and wonder that is illogical behavior and terribly self-indulgent thinking, for just this one day.
Transfer deadline day happens twice per year, meaning that is also how often millions of sane, reasonable and logical football fans and journalists turn into unreasonable, bumbling jackasses. No one is immune. Today, you will see the most credible of reporters and news outlets reporting utter nonsense. Your friend who always reminds you to not believe anything until the club reports it themselves? He'll be gossiping about what La Liga star has been spotted at Spurs Lodge.
Why? Because it's too much fun. It's one of the most joyous things in the world, to speculate about the rumors flying around, whether they're well-sourced or completely made up. This is the case during the free agency periods in American professional sports and on National Signing Day, but the European transfer deadlines take the cake. Sky Sports News makes ESPN look calm, prudent and like they have reached the pinnacle of journalistic integrity. The presence of multiple countries and hundreds of teams provides another wonderful variable that the NFL and NBA can never match. The rumors are more fun, more plentiful and more absurd.
Legitimacy is not relevant; we'll know for sure who goes where on February 1 anyway. The rumors will fly in from not only the Sun, the Mail and the Mirror, but from the ITK boards, the Phantom of the Lane and "some guy on Twitter". You will hear absolute nonsense that, 363 days per year, you would dismiss. On this day -- one of two per year -- you will accept it. You will lap it up, like transfer rumors are water and you are a thirsty dog. You will embrace the bullshit.
The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out. There are brambles in the path? Then go around them. That's all you need to know. Nothing more. Don't demand to know "why such things exist." Anyone who understands the world will laugh at you, just as a carpenter would if you seemed shocked at finding sawdust in his workshop, or a shoemaker at scraps of leather left over from work. - Meditations, 8:30.
Don't wonder why this day changes us, and don't wonder why Jim White is screaming at you. It just does, and he just is. Instead of getting mad at people for getting emotional about unsourced twitter rumors or getting mad at White for yelling when he is clearly wearing a microphone, just accept them for what they are: just two more things about the world that affect our lives as human beings who choose to follow football.
Just as birds fly and babies cry, Sky Sports presenters yell and football fans get worked up about transfer rumors. This is simply the way the world works, and there's no reason to ask "why?". To ask Jim White why he is yelling on television is to ask the carpenter why there is sawdust in his shop.
Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone - those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the "what" is in constant flux, the "why" has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what's right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us - a chasm whose depths we cannot see.
So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignation, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted.
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. How small a role you play in it. -Meditations, 5:23-24.
Remember that not only is there no reason to ask why this day exists, and not only is there nothing you can do about this day and its absurdities, but that this is simply one day. Whether this day brings you great joy or irritates the living hell out of you, it will be gone soon. There are only two days of this kind every year. Only one half of one percent of all of your days on this earth will be a transfer deadline day, provided the rules never change and football -- in its current state -- lives on forever. This, like many other things in life, will not last. The pain or euphoria is temporary. Tomorrow, you can return to your regular life; a live in which you are a logical and level-headed human being.
Either pain affects the body (which is the body's problem) or it affects the soul. But the soul can choose not to be affected, preserving its own serenity, its own tranquility. All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them. - Meditations, 8:28.
If you are not like me or like the majority of this site's members, you can choose to walk away. If, for some reason, you do not like transfer madness and you wish it would go away, that is not my doing, the doing of any of the Cartilage Free Captain staff, or the doing of sports bloggers and journalists around the world. It is your doing; it is a problem that lies within, not with society. As long as no one here or anywhere in media is inflicting physical harm on your body, your pain is internal.
No external factor has caused you to hate transfer deadline day or transfer rumors in general. We do not make you mad. It's all about you. So walk away, think about what has led you to this and make the decision to stop caring. The soul can choose to not be affected.
Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions - not outside. - Meditations, 9:13.
Similar principles apply to those who embrace this day, but become too overcome with anxiety to properly function as a result. It is okay to love and to relish everything that comes with transfer deadline day, but anxiety is dangerous, even if you're only going to be anxiety-riddled for one day. To lose most of your inhibitions in order to have fun for a day is healthy, but if you have an anxiety problem on deadline day, it's probably best that you sit it out.
Remember: you shouldn't be surprised that a fig tree produces figs, nor the world what it produces. A good doctor isn't surprised when his patients have fevers, or a helmsman when the wind blows against him. - Meditations, 8:15.
Daniel Levy is extraordinarily tight-fisted, Roman Abramovich and John Henry will do anything that they think will help their teams win, and Harry Redknapp thinks that everyone is a 'triffic lad. Giovani dos Santos will not leave for less than £7m, Chelsea and Liverpool could sign anyone, no matter the price, and 'Arry's endorsement of a player is no indication that Spurs have any interest in them.
If, at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage - thank a mind satisfied that it has succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what's beyond its control - if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations - it must be an extraordinary thing indeed - and enjoy it to the full. - Meditations, 3:6.
I will take your advice, Marcus, and enjoy the living hell out of January 31. Now, and forever.