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.