"'What's wrong?' I yelled. 'We can't stop here. This is bat country!'"
- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I don't want this to be about Hunter S. Thompson. I like Hunter S. Thompson; I think he was important. I think gonzo journalism was important. But I don't want this piece to be about Hunter S. Thompson, or his book, which I also like. So let's not talk about the book. Or rather, let's only talk about a part of the book, really the best part of the book, which is the first part. Let's talk about wilderness for a minute. Let's talk about shadows on canyon walls. Let's talk about how in a desert or in a forest, all cardinal directions melt into one direction, which is nowhere. Which is inside. Let's talk about silly season. Let's talk about what happens to us when Tottenham Hotspur don't play.
How about we sit around this digital fire in the midst of all this desolation and try to make ourselves heard over the echoing cries of the coyotes. Let's talk for a minute about what it means be a fan in the football off-season.
Let's talk about "bat country."
Let's start with all this managerial business, shall we?
Tottenham Hotspur, which is a team I love, are currently without a manager. This is terrible. Nobody should have to be put through this, what it feels like to support a team in the off-season that suddenly finds itself sans head honcho. To be clear, there are worse things (way worse things) out there. This is the very definition of a #firstworldproblem. I know this, but that knowledge doesn't make me feel any better. In fact, it makes me feel worse, because as a Spurs fan in the offseason I am miserable. I teach, and that means I'm currently trying to relax, recuperate, I'm trying not to think because thinking (really concentrated thinking) is what I do for like 14 hours a day during the school year, often about things I don't want to think about, like grades. So I think about soccer, which, along with poetry, music etc pretty much dominates my brain when it's not chewing school-related stuff. What I'm trying to tell you is that summer is supposed to be fun. But now I'm on Twitter and this shit is going to be the death of me. Do you know how many times I've searched "avb" or "blanc" or "thfc" in the last week? The last day? I'm a pitiful, obsessive person, and this managerial absence is killing me.
Until it's not. Until the club make an official announcement (which we know can't be too far off, can it? Right?). Then it's on to the Modric saga - spinning as it is right now off in the metaphorical Atlantic, biding its time while we work this whole "Oh hey, who's in charge here?" thing out, gathering energy and pace until it slams into us. It will be an unending storm, the Modric situation. Until it ends. And then, #weneedastriker.
This is summer, this is wilderness, this is bat country. It wasn't just Jesus Christ who wandered in the desert for forty days and nights without food or drink or anyone but the Devil for company. History, western, eastern and all points in between, is littered with accounts of people heading off into the great nothingness beyond the camp's edge. And in those stories, there is no destination. No one is trying to cross anything. There's nothing on the other side, because there are no sides. There is only interior. And this is where visions happen.
I love the Simpsons. Not late-period Simpsons, of course, though I'm fond of the movie. I'm talking seasons 1-10 (which is really the outer limit of how far a show should be allowed to go, amirite?). One of my favorite episodes is an early outing in season eight entitled "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)". I hope you're familiar with the episode, but if you're not, Homer consumes some extra-hot Guatemalan peppers at a chili cook-off, which send him on a hallucinogenic quest into a technicolor desert, guided by a celestial canine voiced by Johnny Cash. (One of my all time favorite Homerisms: "Take that, Space Coyote!') As much as books like Abbey's Desert Solitaire, Walden, Sebald's Rings of Saturn or, yes, Fear and Loathing, those 22 minutes of animated bliss illustrate an essential truth about wilderness literature: these infinite interior spaces are fraught with dangers imagined and real (or both); the goal is insight, the road to which, such as it is, is peppered with toothy monsters. Until the great inbreaking, when we will be bathed in holy light and filled with universal knowledge, until that point it's bats all the way down.
So it is any mistake the ITKs sound as nutty as they do? They aren't oracles, friends, they're fellow mendicants on this wasteland journey. And what about us? We have it on good authority from reliable sources that X will be manager, or Y will be, we're sure Modric will stay or go, Bale will sign a contract extension or he won't. We're here, the car is broken, birds cast horrible shadows across an acrylic mesa. Put one foot in front of the other; it doesn't matter which direction you take, because there are no directions. We'll wear holes in our shoes, we'll clothe ourselves in sack cloth and brand new Under Armour home kits, we'll type "Vertonghen" into Twitter one last time, and we'll swing wildly at every bloodthirsty bat we see.
Works Cited: Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Flamingo: London, UK, 1993.