Boro: Beyond Good And Evil

GOD IS Dead! Gordon Strachan is poised to push Boro beyond good and evil in a Nietzchean sturm und drang summer in which he will re-engineer the human condition at Hurworth to shape a team of ubermensch. No, really.

So far the no-nonsense Scot has danced around questions about his philosophy but in his clearest statement yet on the nature of football, the human condition and the path to a better and more successful group he has revealed a nihilist kernel of Germanic steel.
“I’ve got to test their characters,” he said. “I need to weed out the mentally and physically weak. Or I make the mentally or physically weak stronger.”
Dug-out eugenics? It certainly sounds like the Nietzchean quest for social and moral development through struggle; the need for individuals to strive for a higher state through “the will to power”.
“If you want an easy ride, there are other clubs for you,” he said, posing a practical question of personal philosophy for the squad to ponder. “If you want to stay at the same level of ability and fitness, you might have to go to another club, but I’m not accepting everybody stays the same. Even for the older ones, I want to see them keep improving. Like Robbo (Barry Robson), he’s desperate to get even fitter and better.”
Robbo is Strachan’s Superman, his template for a footballing ubermensch (and that’s Nietzche’s philisophical vehicle of personal morality rather than the concept the fascists hijacked and bastardised as a mitigation for imperial agression by the way. I don’t think we’ll be turning out in black shirts next season.
Robbo has embraced the ethos of working and fighting to reach a higher plane. He is a leader by example in the fight to shrug off the shackles of under-achievement and has already won the hearts and minds of the squad and supporters because of his dedication to realisation of the ideal, his drive for progress and success.
Nietzche believed that man was held back in a condition of perpetual failure and a battle for mere existance rather than striving for enlighenment because of the ‘the elective slavery of the meek’… that people – individuals, groups, nations – were prepared to accept mediocrity, drudgery, moral and intellectual poverty and institutional failure as their norm and will actively celebrate the ideas that trumpet that as the norm, meaning mainly religion, nationalism and selfish hedonism.
I think as Boro fans we can see the landscape of analogy forming here. The meek will accept relegation, mid-table water-treading and an eternal struggle for the most basic form of survival as a type of success and embrace the enslavement of ideas such as that we are are punching above our weight, that this is our natural status, that a foam fingered blind faith will triumph in the end. And at least we aren’t Preston or Watford.
Instead Nietzche said the superman was ready to break from the bondage of mediocrity. He argued “the will to power” was more important than pressure to survival and that supermen did not desire mere living but wanted power, glory, and greatness, often being prepared to sacrifice their personal security and comfort to achieve it. Or their lives… but that might be asking a bit much from Robbo.
I think most Boro fans would share elements of the Nietzschean ethos: demand promotion or bust; a squad of conscious ubermensch battlers totally dedicated to achieving the greatness of victory and ready to take one for the team. Most fans would suffer for the team. We have before.
And when the gaffer outlines his proto-Nietzchean position it says a lot about the nature of the great purge to come this summer. The morally weak, the self indulgent, the lazy and those prepared to accept the norms of mediocrity will be gone (you can compile your own list of the meek) and in will come the zealous, the industrious, the brave and the strong. Ubermensch.
So will we get Mittlesburg-am-Rhine after all? Maybe Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries blasting out of the PA instead of Pigbag? I love the smell of na-parmo in the morning.
*Next week: Gareth Southgate’s flawed reflection of the Platonic ideal.
And yes, this is the kind of thing we talk about at work.
TALKING balls and playfully over intellectualising football is a great excuse to revisit the best bit of football footage ever. …. “and Marx is claiming it was offside”
And by coincidence…. that famous Monty Python Germany v Greece game is being restaged soon as part of a campaign to get “philosophy” into the national curriculum as the fourth R… reasoning. You can find out more at


36 thoughts on “Boro: Beyond Good And Evil

  1. I think the Boro version of Apocalypse Now would have the line “I love the smell of Parmo in the morning” but I do like the idea of the team running out to the Ride of the Valkyries – it would sound more like the team meant business rather than the cartoonish Pigbag.
    Anyway, I’m not sure how Nietzche’s Will to Power argument is affected when the motivation of the individual is somewhat tempered by the guarantee of huge weekly wages regardless of performance.
    Does the modern player seek glory? or is a lucrative five-year contract with signing on fee and image rights the main motivation of many individuals.
    Though perhaps Strachan is embarked on more of a Darwinian Survival of the Fittest exercise – though a lot may depend on whether the propensity of Boro to induce injuries to their players can be avoided next term.
    **AV writes: You’re right about “parmo”. I’ll change it.

  2. I like the idea of ‘fighting the elective slavery of the meek’, i.e. the apathy and consequent poor decisions that have dogged the club in the past few years.
    But it has to extend to everyone at MFC, from Steve Gibson down, otherwise the players summer of sweat, blood ‘n’ tears will end in just tears. For us all.
    To be fair to GS, for us to challenge this mediocrity and its accompanying 20th best team in England tosh, his thoughts and your interpretation make good sense. And good reading.
    I presume you meant to write analogy and no anology? Normally I’d just see it as a typo but given the heavyweight blitz of the opening pars it seemed sensible to look it up about three times just to be sure.
    On a separate note, many congrats to Mark Schwarzer, exactly the kind of mistake we cannot repeat ever again. Yes he was on good money (and this is not hindsight) but point me out a Boro fan who didn’t think he was worth another three years.
    Just giving him the £6m Mido money as a signing on fee would have made economic, emotional and common sense than letting him leave. Anyway let’s hope he gets a winner’s medal this time out, bask in the goodwill and move on and up.

  3. AV there seems to be a bit of change in direction in the comments from our ginger hairian Scot in todays paper. Not, weak are out, massive overhaul, but we dont want players to leave, stability in the squad.
    Did the previous comments cause a bit of unrest in the camp and how they are trying to settle a few jittery nerves?

  4. Ridiculous article. German nihilism? Nietzsche wasn’t a nihilist, he despised nihilists! Apart from that, Vickerthustra speaks the truth. About time we had Nietzsche involved here. I approve wholeheartedly. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.
    U T B

  5. You could get the team and crowd to sing an emotional “Land of my Fathers” before the game but give me a George Best, Juninhio, Rodney Marsh, Tony Currie, Stan Bowles, Graham Souness,J im Baxter and many more you could add. They were pure entertainment back in the day ,and worth the admission price.
    Thats what we need. The robots have taken over around here. We need a few players who can put a smile on your face,

  6. I like Strachan’s style, he’s talking the talk now and I’m looking forward to next season when I expect to see him and the team walk the walk. He’s an experienced manager with a tough streak, just what we need.
    Now that this season is over along with grieving process following relegation, i’m looking forward to next season. It will be a high pressure season, knowing there are no more parachute payments to follow, but if Strachan brings in a couple more players with Robbos determination and class we’ll be okay.
    Richard’s point that the whole club needs to buy into Strachan’s philosophy is spot on, lets hope SG and KL have seen the light.
    I dont agree with you on Schwarzer though Richard, when he left Boro very few fans mourned his departure and several posted on here saying we were well rid!
    Personally I tink he needed a change and has been reinvigorated playing under a man who is clearly an excellent manager.
    Good luck to Fulham, I hope they go a step further than we did.

  7. German Neanderthal Battlers, bring them on. Before each game the mantra should be; I am Spartacus.
    Show them the movie, see how he ended up!

  8. So you’re saying that the meek won’t actually inherit the earth? But that’s ok – they won’t mind. (paraphrased from Eddie Izzard)…

  9. AV, I would hope all Boro fans have the ubermensch mentality – for the team at least. The problem is that many fans have lost the will to live listening to things from the club and it turning out to not be true.
    I don’t think I have ever gone into anything, whether it be work, sport or Xbox without the drive to be the best and win. It is not part of my make-up and possibly why I may come over as rather critical on the board so much. Through training for my profession you were constantly tested through opinions of peers and tutors, and it continues into professionalism.
    Nietzche, from what I have read in the past has some very valid and intresting points on a number of subjects. Though football is not rocket science – it is simply a game that envelops millions of people worldwide.
    How can any club and team settle for mediocrity – many do and it infuriates me that this club has since McClaren left. If only there were 11 Barry Robson’s with one that could play in goal.

  10. Id prefer a Hobbesian red in tooth and claw mentality. Lock the players in cages, throw them lumps of raw meat and let them loose on a Saturday. Fun.

  11. Ha ha Ha! What a hoot. the thought of this gang of Scottish misfits trudging out to ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’ defies the imagination.
    This lot wouldn’t recognize Brunnhilde if she poked them in the eye with her spear!
    No, if you are going to illustrate your ‘STURM and drang’ thesis with the Ring cycle, why not try ‘Gotterdammerung’ especially the scene where Hagen (the seeker after the gold aka as ‘Boro) is dragged down to the nether regions. Perhaps the scene where Valhalla (Riverside)burnt down would be more appropriate!

  12. AV –
    great article, but perhaps you should invest in a German spellchecker? ‘Nietzchean Strum und Drang’ sounds like a Krautrock metal band of the Scorpions variety – all dodgy haircuts and tight leather strides.
    He may have proposed the Ubermensch, but according to certain other students of philosophy…
    “There’s nothing Nietzche couldn’t teach ya
    ‘Bout the raising of the wrist.”
    Must’ve been a lifelong Boro fan. Here’s hoping for a Scrachanovite-Nietzchean ‘Wind of Change’ next season, anyway.
    **AV writes: Good one. Maybe we could all grow mullets and hold our lighters aloft as they run out at night matches. Sue Watson would go mental. .

  13. AV terrific article. At last someone else who recognises the symmetry between great Philosophical thinkers and Middlesbrough FC. Quite often during a quiet spell during the match (anytime between 15.00 and 17.00 on a Saturday) me and the no-necks can be heard debating Franz Overebeck, Ulrich Von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff and of course Lou Andreas Salome.
    To be honest it went right over my head, but I think the gist of it is that we want a team full of never say die merchants, of in football parlance ‘winners’. Roy Keane was Fergie’s spirit on the pitch and Barry Robson is the same for us, he just needs some company.
    Right, back to what I do best…
    Ciders Chintz Heifer
    Bench rems

  14. Enjoyable nonsense. I like the idea of Ride of the Valkyries (with added chopper sound effects and maybe some machinegun shots) but it will be hard to clap along too.
    Thus Spake Strachathustra

  15. I enjoyed the video clip but I must admit I am uncertain whether the Greeks were onside. What worried me was the fact the way the German defence lined up and played, looked awfully familiar.
    I will be away for the final match of the season. I am off to Bonny Scotland, you know the place.
    They dont have University tuition fees up there but 26 Scottish Labour MP’s helped get the Government a majority of 19 in the House of Commons vote safe in the knowledge their own kith and kin would be spared our fate. Swines, some revenge that is.
    And they complain about the English! They even forget we got their King to lord over us (James 1st)
    Exits stage left to avoid incoming.

  16. I think it is about Calvin rather than Nietzche, the old protestant work ethic rather than anything foreign. That’s why it involves so many Scots. I think that is at the root of the success for Shankley, Fergie and Moyes too.
    The presbytarian culture puts an emphasis on hard work as a key to (and evidence of) earning worldly success and spiritual salvation. It sees work as a duty which benefits both the individual and society (or the team) as a whole.
    I know that the Scots lads we have brought in have come mainly from Celtic which is the “catholic” club, but they are all from that same environment. Is there any way, out of interest of finding out AV?
    **AV writes: It is an interesting thought. I think despite managing Celtic Strachan may be a protestant.

  17. Strachan was born in Edinburgh, played at Dundee and Aberdeen. East coast would hint at protestant though I am no expert.
    Dont think it matters to us.

  18. Robbocop….
    Part man. Part machine. All Pro. The future of midfield enforcement.
    Middlesbrough FC – in the future – is injury ridden, and run by a massive company. The company have developed a huge skilled fighting robot, which unfortunately develops a rather dangerous glitch. (Apathy and Disinterest)
    The company sees a way to get back in favour with the fans when a midfielder called Barry Robson is crocked by a street gang called The Rockliffe Raiders. Robson’s body is reconstructed within a steel shell and named Robbocop. The Robbocop is very successful against criminal non triers, and becomes a target of super villain Lamb.
    This summers blockbuster!
    Coming to a Championship ground near you, this August, 2010.

  19. With Boro supporters in mind, Nietzsche said, “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man”

  20. Gordon Strachan will no doubt attempt to make his own history, but he does not do so in circumstances of his own choosing (Engels & Marx). The economic base determines the superstructure of the club and we wait to see if history is about to turn. We need to be in tandem with the huthbeat of history, which may well be streamlined cost effective clubs. Big spending chairman and over-demanding fans may well act as the gravediggers for the live now pay later clubs.
    Though we might be better looking to Hegel for inspiration. Hegel claimed that it was ideas that drove history. The clash of old ideas would produce new ones. The idea of well run, tight knit, affordable clubs underpinned by a good academy has a risen from the ashes of the previous largesse.
    Though before we get too optimistic we may ask Mr Lamb why Boro fans ‘are free yet are everywhere in chains’ (Rousseau)
    It is certainly a Hobbesian ‘war of all against all’ in the championship and we must add teeth, claw and guile to the squad otherwise all we will be able to do next year is remain philosophical.

  21. Robbocop Vs The Terminator
    “Give me your clothes and your motorcycle”
    “Stitch that!”
    The End.

  22. My earlier argument that the modern footballer no longer seeks glory but a lucrative contract seems to have been reinforced by an article in today’s Guardian.
    Spurs defender Benoît Assou-Ekotto informs us that “I play for the money. Football’s not my passion” and seems to imply that this is the motivation for most players who join a club in England.
    Whilst many may not be shocked by this revelation, it sounds to me very similar to the famous Gerald Ratner quote where he said the jewellery his company sold was “crap”. Fans often feel like they are being treated like mugs but surely this is just rubbing their faces in it.
    So maybe we are wasting our time thinking about which music would stir the passions in the players as they take to the pitch. Perhaps a better alternative would be the threat of players having to leave the pitch to different music depending on the performance and result – I’ll start the ball rolling with offering the theme to Laurel and Hardy after throwing away a lead in the last 15 minutes.

  23. Have you heard anything about the possible signing of Georgie Boyd AV?
    **AV writes: Only that Boro have made an inquiry but I think it depends on whether or not Forest have first option after the loan deal.

  24. Forever Dormo @ 11.48PM on 30 April :
    Insightful & funny, but over the relatively short term that is a football season, and in the ultra competitive environment that is the football leagues – unlikely, I’d have thought! (So GS2’s “philosophy”, is probably right in that closed environment).
    Danger of pooping the Philly-fanny’s party here by introducing a bit a scientific cross-over. But unlike football, it’s probably not mainstream enough to reach a memetic Tipping Point and consequently, won’t go any further.
    If you haven’t been there already, you may be interested in Richard Dawkins: “The Selfish Gene” 30th Anniversary edition (paperback), Pg 202, Chapter 12, “Nice guys finish first”.
    It scientifically and mathematically argues that, over time – a long time – “The meek shall inherit the Earth”, even if my juxtapositioning of scientific and spiritual sources does appear to be paradoxically incongruous. I think it does serve to demonstrate however, that we do live in a connectable, if not already connected, Universe.
    This is no basis of an argument for sticking with Gareth Southgate as manager, by the way!

  25. Words. More words. Months into the job and more words. Clever words. But just more words.
    p.s. gr8 article AV

  26. In a moment of magic today Adam Johnson dummied Stewart Downing and not only sent him the wrong way, but sent him to a beach holiday this Summer, whilst simultaneously booking his passage to South Africa for the World Cup!

  27. It seems to me, having considered the most pertinent points from our discussion on this blog, that philosophically speaking, football is already dead and we are paying the vultures to eat what is left. Nihilism indeed.In the words of Seinfeld we follow “laundry” as everything else is transient.
    That said: I saw John Hendry on T.V today and it made me happy. Just his fat face.
    Powls, GHW, Werder, Aussie/African/USA Boro massive – to you all, how is it possible to feel so alienated, distant and divorced yet cheered up by John Hendry’s fat face?
    What I am asking is simple – what is football really about in 2010?

  28. jp –
    The fans have been left behind. John Hendrie reminds you of how it used to be to go to Ayresome Park and enjoy the day from a fans point of view.
    Unfortunately with the Sky money, football can survive without the fans. It is just a matter of time before CGI is used to add crowds to TV games. The recent addition of 3D is just the latest nail in the match attendance coffin. Online subscription is the future dream of the TV companies. Why trudge in the pouring rain when you can sit in your front room and enjoy the whole matchday experience?
    They can even edit out the boos, sanitised viewing for the 21st century.

  29. JP asked: “What is football really about in 2010?” Well in the philosophical spirit of the article – and since it’s late…
    If you imagine that Football in 2010 is a star with each of it’s five points representing five groups – The Owners, The Players, The Fans, The Media and The Governing Bodies.
    Each group demands that each point of the star is pulled in their own direction, which is making the star larger and larger, until eventually it is in danger of being stretched to breaking point.
    However, each group thinks if it stops pulling then the star will no longer give them the energy they crave – and if they let go then the others will make the star collapse into a black hole.
    Each group thinks it is the most important point and without it the star would not exist – but in reality without football there would be no star.

  30. Football, rather professional football is a business, always has been, the difference being is that we are all better informed, less likely to be fooled and significantly more sophisticated than the massed crowds that would pack Ayresome in the post war years.
    Football in 2010 is what is missing in large chunks from the present day MFC, we are still culturally stuck in the early 90’s. Harking back to halcyon days won’t work, we need a new modern Boro that isn’t defined by the area but helps create a brighter future with a fighting spirit that can meet the challenges to come.
    You can stick all your philosophical rhetoric, it’s too complex a message for the club to understand. Strachanovitism is the future as we dig deep to forge a new identity and earn our place in the new capitalist future, there will be no space for prisoners, no space for the meek.

  31. JP – nice one – and Grove Hill – in the words of Echo and the Bunnymen – Bring on the Dancing Horses
    It’s rubbish being a boro fan these days
    And maybe its Capitalism thats dead
    Vote Early Vote Often Vote Red

    The season is over and, as ever, Boro fans are full of indignation: Steve Gibson hasn’t delivered on his promise to return the club to the Premiership to which of course “we belong”.
    But what possible justification is there for that view? We’re a club that has won practically nothing. The recent years of plenty which delivered the extraordinary and regular experience of major cup finals were, at the time, greeted as nothing more than our right.
    And the architect of our greatest success on February 29 2004 followed by the journey to Eindhoven, left us without much regret on the fans part. Boro fans thought we could do better or as it was so often put: “we could go to the next level.”.
    The same fans who screamed for the replacement of McClaren – today crowned as the manager of the new Dutch champions – were soon insisting that the cerebral and utterly decent Southgate should follow even when our start to this season was indisputably promising.
    Now, Strachan’s honeymoon is long over and it seems clear that if we’re not at the head of the championship in September his departure will be widely demanded.
    We had eleven great years in the Premier League. We don’t belong there, not measured by our history or our achievements and certainly not measured by our support which is modest in numbers and alarmingly apathetic in behaviour (at least at the Riverside). The Sheffield Wednesday fans who this afternoon so loyally and loudly roared their team – without success – to championship survival put us to shame.
    Just what do we think makes us different to Sheffield Wednesday? Instead of assuming a rapid promotion to the top division, as our right, we need to contemplate the threat of further relegation as has recently happened to Leeds, Norwich, Southampton and now Sheffield Wednesday: all bigger clubs than us and with better support.
    Let’s hope that doesn’t happen but let’s accept also that if it did, only Boro fans would be shocked. Assuming Strachan can soon return us to the Premier League and treating anything short of that with more of the sulking silence that now epitomises the Riverside will only hasten his departure because, right now, in terms of stature, Strachan could be doing so much better than managing us.

  33. What’s wrong with playing more of the young lads? James Gray has scored 16 goals in 18 Games and scored five for Northern Ireland ?

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