Groundhog Days

Toward the end of the Wenger era, Wenger’s teams and strategies tended to repeat themselves. We would see a “small” club play low block defense and hit Arsenal on the counter, get a goal or two, and occasionally walk away with the points. Or, Wenger’s transfer plans would fall through, a player would be “swooped” by some other club, Arsenal “wouldn’t bid enough”, and we’d end up “one or two players short”. Whenever these (or hundreds of other things) would happen at Arsenal, folks would say “it’s groundhog day all over again.”

But for folks who have seen Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day, it’s a bad analogy. Groundhog Day does start off with the protagonist repeating the same three or four things over and over again, and he does live the same 24 hours, presumably thousands of times, but after the first few passes through the loop, he doesn’t repeat the exact same events over and over – he tries tons of different things. Wenger, on the other hand, struggled to find new systems, struggled to break his old habits, and ultimately, this is what led to his retirement; unlike Bill Murray’s Phil, Wenger did repeat the same mistakes over and over.

The human Phil from Groundhog Day (unlike the groundhog Phil) is also a terrible person; he’s selfish, vain, abusive, rude, dismissive, and generally misanthropic (he also doesn’t like groundhogs). The majority of the movie centers around him trying to find selfish ways out of the loop he’s stuck in. He sleeps with at least one woman, using his loop to find out about her past and then using that to help seduce her. And he spends the vast majority of the movie setting up “the perfect date” with Rita, the main love interest. He uses his loop jump to figure out everything that she likes, right down to having a pint of Rocky Road ice cream stashed on his window sill, as a last ditch attempt to get into her pants. But Rita is smart, she knows what she wants, and despite the magical, surreal date that Phil takes her on, she stops short and Phil’s entire charade falls apart.

The entire film is an existential crisis. It asks the question, “What would you do if you only had one day to live, and also had to live the same day over and over?” Phil tries all the normal stuff: food and drugs, crime, seduction, acting out, and giving up on his responsibilities. This all culminates in his grand deception of Rita. But after it all falls apart and he fruitlessly tries to kill himself (multiple times) he decides to do something different. He works on himself. He makes himself a better person.

As an alcoholic in recovery, Groundhog Day is a metaphor to me for addiction. Addicts are selfish, they use people for their pleasure, they steal, they act out, they lie, they think themselves invincible, and even sometimes, before they get clean and learn to confront their behaviour and live in truth, they can construct elaborate fantasy worlds (like Phil’s “perfect” date with Rita) where they are able to still use “if they can just get the perfect conditions”. These things always fall apart, just like they do in the film, and the user finds themselves right back where they started, 6am, listing to fucking Bob Dylan.

It’s not until Phil accepts his situation, lives in truth, and decides to work on self-improvement, kindness, and love for others, that he can even be healthy enough to get Rita to sort of really like him, and eventually fall in love. The love story at the end feels like the sort of thing that a movie has to had to have in it in the 80s and 90s. If I were to write a story like that I wouldn’t have them fall in love at the end and I probably wouldn’t make his transformation so impeccable, such a paragon of virtue and self-improvement. Often us folks who struggle with addiction just need to be sort of better, a little bit less selfish, and frankly for most of us it takes decades to even see the myriad ways that we are so utterly selfish much less iron them out. But it’s a Hollywood movie from the 90s, of course he “gets all better now and gets the girl”.

I’m not sure that Harold Ramis or the writer Danny Rubin intended the movie to be a metaphor for addiction but it has been taken that way by a huge number of folks in recovery. There are literally thousands of blogs about it, and here I am adding my own.

I offer this post as a suggestion of something that you might want to do instead of watching the Champions League final. I know that most of you aren’t Man City or Inter Milan supporters so the only reason to watch the Champions League final today is to hate watch – to hope that Man City fail and fail spectacularly. I suppose you could watch it, hoping that City will win because you think that if he wins the treble, Guardiola might leave Man City if he wins the treble.

But to those folks I just wonder where you think he’d go? He needs a club with bottomless resources and the very best recruitment teams available so that he can do his work. There aren’t very many of those clubs in the world and just one outside of England. Unless you think he’s going to retire entirely – which I don’t see happening – or Man City get stripped of their titles and kicked out of the football league or something, I honestly can’t see him leaving Man City. He’s in the perfect situation, with the perfect team, endless money, and if they win the Champions League, they become an even bigger draw for top talent.

He could get recruited to coach in Saudi Arabia – I’m sure they’d offer him more than they offered Messi – and if that happens, great. But I can’t see any scenario outside of the Saudi’s offering him billions of dollars or Man City getting stripped of their titles which would get Pep out of City any time soon.

So, I’m not watching the Champions League final. I don’t really care one way or the other what you do or even who wins, but I’m not adding my eyes to the spectacle. City shouldn’t even be in this competition after they were found guilty of cheating but the conviction thrown out because they managed to stall long enough. I won’t hurt UEFA, City, or anyone by not watching, but I just have better things to do. I think I’ll take Clyde to play disc golf, play some guitar, study a bit of Japanese, and read a book.

In one scene in Groundhog Day, Phil is watching Jeopardy with the folks who are all staying in the same B&B. He answers every single question correctly, wowing the elderly gathered around him with his amazing skill. Watching this Champions League final feels similar to me: we all know that City are going to win, and Sheik Mansour is going to listlessly pop a kernel of popcorn into his mouth and say “what is Lake Titicaca”.

On the off chance that Inter win this, I suppose I’ll watch the reruns, but even if it’s a close match and “Inter play well”, I’m really not interested.



  1. That’s a very thoughtful read for me there Tim; I hadn’t thought about that aspect of the film Groundhog Day.
    I hadn’t realised you had addiction travails and wish you all the best in your battle.
    As someone who has been affected by a person close to me who had addiction problems I can sympathise. It can be all-consuming and overwhelming.
    Good luck my friend.

  2. “…listening to fucking Bob Dylan” – Sonny & Cher, shorely?

    Great post.

  3. At least so far, it’s hard for me to get to a “hate” level with City. They certainly aren’t traditional rivals. And by the time they got really good, we weren’t, so there wasn’t an element of direct competition the way there was with ManU in the Wenger/Fergie years. And Pep isn’t unlikeable the way Mourinho is.
    Most importantly to me, they play fairly attractive football. I was out rafting on Saturday, so didn’t watch the match, but probably would have if I’d been around the house. Yes, they have some unfair advantages, but that’s definitely been true of Bayern and Real Madrid too, and that hasn’t kept me from watching their matches in the past. OToH, there’s absolutely been times where I haven’t wanted to watch Mourinho teams because of his unlikable personality and often unlikable tactics.
    We’ll see if my feelings about City change if they keep finishing just above us. Sounds like Pep has said he’s not going to stick around past the end of the current contract, and Haaland aside, their team is comparatively old.
    And thanks for relating the thoughts around Groundhog Day and addiction, I’d certainly never thought of the movie that way, but makes quite a bit of sense.

  4. well, unlike you, i did watch the game. what can i say, i love football. i’ve always maintained that i love football even more than i love arsenal so my perspective is a bit different.

    i love guardiola too. this guy’s a trend-setter that so many have spend the last decade trying to copy. as a u19 coach, i love it when ops try and play like guardiola. i let them know that they’re not pep because their players don’t know what they’re doing…and i commence to busting their asses. pep has transcended the game by doing new stuff and even bringing back old stuff like the wm, the false 9 and more. likewise, it’s not his fault that the teams he’s managed have big money. we all know that money is not a guarantee of success. the fact is he’s beloved because you seldom hear him gripe about officials, other teams, or any other excuses except his team and their play.

    i empathize with anyone struggling with any type of addiction. i’ve never had that misfortune and hope to live the rest of my life without having known that struggle. the groundhog day analogy is a lovely one because it forces you to focus on your process and living each moment of each day one at a time. i can’t imagine a battle with addiction allows you the liberty to look too far into the future. you simply have to focus on your process to survive each critical moment. good habits are paramount.

    1. i have had a soft spot for pep since that first barca team where he got henry, eto’o, and messi to press hard from the front. even though he’s now managing a league rival for arsenal i like him better than most managers. however:

      “it’s not his fault that the teams he’s managed have big money.”
      he picks where he manages. it’s not like he was picking random cards and just happened to draw 3 aces. for me*, if he really wanted to show what he can do after city he’d take some time off, then come back to a team mired in serie b like palermo or sampdoria, bring them up, and have them competing for the serie a title. show us he can do it without all the money. and speaking of money…

      “we all know that money is not a guarantee of success”
      few things in life are guaranteed, but my understanding is that wage expenditures are highly correlated with league placement in association football.

      *yes, i know that (a) this is highly unlikely and (b) he doesn’t really need to burnish his credentials at this point.

  5. As a musician, addiction is a given in my world. I too experimented with sex, drugs and rock n roll but I was in the control group:)
    (Well, maybe not the rock n roll part). I wrote here before about some of what I’ve seen and experienced about addiction in this life and it’s terrible.

    I’m one of the lucky ones: over 30 years married to long-suffering-wife-of-1-Nil and never having taken anything stronger that marijuana, and that was many years ago. I drink (sometimes a lot) but I’ve stayed out trouble with alcohol. I’ve got two beautiful kids and consider myself extremely fortunate for all I have, especially as I see everyday people who have so little.

    Of course I wish nothing but the best for Tim and anyone battling one a daily level to stay sober or clean. Keep it at. Though much sucks, it’s a good world.

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