It seems daft now but, one year ago come the 21st December, we were all going to be abruptly vaporised. Or at least, we were going to wake up with mild hangovers, and fail to enjoy the rest of the day. The Mayan Calendar, source of these distressing rumours that so preoccupied us twelve short months ago, was a little lax on detail.
If the worst had come to the worst, and it’d been Armageddon time, then just think of all that Christmas shopping gone to waste, in a time of austerity too. And all we’d had on TV to cheer us up was Big Brother and The X-Factor. It would have been so easy to get depressed, even though as Leeds fans we’d had the enticing possibility of Middle-eastern Knights riding in on white camels, to save us from a fate worse than the mere end of civilisation as we knew it. GFH Capital, had we but been aware of it, were the means by which we would eventually be rid of Kenneth William Bates Esquire. Little wonder that we were a little distracted from the possible End of Days.
It was a perilously uncertain time, therefore, from two sharply differing points of view. In the mundane real world, ancient rumours were disturbingly current that everything was about to end in a most summary fashion, and people rightly or wrongly got into quite a tizz about this. On Planet Leeds United, however, such airy-fairy considerations were as water unto wine against the appalling possibility that Uncle Ken might continue to have us clutched firmly by the unmentionables in his cold and merciless talons. It was a real worry at that time – just a year ago – and along with that nagging background concern about the planet suddenly vanishing into the awful void of space, it caused a few nails to be bitten even among normally phlegmatic Leeds fans. Yet consider. Let’s, as they say, look at the big picture. Life could seem awfully bleak – until you consider the alternative. And really, it was and is worthwhile stopping a moment to draw breath and ponder just how unimaginably fortunate we are simply to be here at all. So – bear with me here – let’s wax philosophical a while – and see if that affects our world view, or even our appreciation of the New Order that eventually did take over, after all that stress and worry, at Elland Road.
Leave aside for the moment then the incredible miracle of having a habitable planet to live on – which as far as we know exists nowhere else in the whole of creation (as I write, and subject to any revelations NASA may be about to make from their current Mars Rover, or about the increasing number of newly-discovered but vastly distant exoplanets). It’s long odds against us even having a suitable rock to live on – but given that we do, that’s hardly even the start of the battle.
The thing is, even given our temperate and nurturing planet Earth, it’s still vanishingly improbable that you should be alive today and able to read this. Anyone who knows enough about the birds and the bees will be aware of the myriad possible ways genes can combine to create a living organism, from the simplest virus or amoeba right up to the most complex and beautiful form of life we know, i.e. Ross McCormack. And if that earliest amoeba hadn’t, in the face of awesome odds, somehow come into being on a hot, wet rock somewhere, then ultimately – no Rossco.
Each of us, then, has to be thankful for his or her own unique existence; in the first place that their parents met when they did, and that they then followed a course of actions leading up to just the right place, time, and romantic ambience for our life’s journey to begin. This is how we all came about, after all – even Mr Bates – and any departure from that chain of events would have seen us never existing.
Further, behind those parents, on both sides and stretching back generations without number, the same miraculous combination of fortuitous circumstances had to occur, and it had to keep on occurring. Any stumble off that chance-studded path of destiny, at any time over thousands, millions of years, and we just wouldn’t be around, any of us. No you, no me, no David Haigh, no Salah Nooruddin. It’s that serious, this business of genetic chance.
So this is the massive lottery we have all won – in fact if you calculated the odds of a lottery win next Saturday, with one to follow it the Wednesday after, going right up to, say, Easter of the year 2084 and maybe a pools win and a tax rebate each week after that till Leeds United buy back Thorp Arch – you’d still be way, way short of the odds you’ve had to beat, just to be alive right now. It’s true.
And not only are you here, you lucky sod – you’re a human being instead of, say, a fruit fly (I exclude our Norfolk-based readers from this statement). What are the odds against that? Have you any idea of the factor by which insects out-number humans? You could so easily have been a wasp, or even Ken the Anti-Christ himself. It’s difficult to say which is the less desirable.
What’s more, not only are you a human being, you also live in a time of relative peace and prosperity and one, moreover, in which Leeds have been Champions three times in living memory, and remain the Last Real Champions. How many of the hundred billion people who have ever existed wouldn’t give their eye-teeth to swap places with us, with our mains water and services, our electric light and labour-saving devices, our Billy’s Bar and our information super-highway? Or, alternatively, how many Newcastle fans, who would have to be in their mid-nineties now to remember a Title-winning Toon Army, would opt instead to be Leeds, with all our glorious memories?
We might, instead of our fortunate and cossetted existences, have emerged in the 12th century, digging privies for the feudal Lord, or for a brief and consumptive existence in the typhoid slums of 19th century London. Or we could have been born at a time when Leeds United were a mere appendix to a footnote in football history, meriting hardly a passing mention anywhere the game was discussed. Are you cheering up yet?
On the whole, we don’t have it so bad, and as we’ve seen, there is good cause for all of us to be extremely grateful we’re here at all. And that makes even Big Brother seem a little easier to live with, though naturally we’d draw the line at the former Chelsea owner Papa Smurf still being in charge down Beeston way. A little philosophical rumination along these lines might have been therapeutic for traumatised Leeds fans a year back, unsure as we were whether to be more worried about TOMA or the End of the World.
And just think – if those ancient predictions had been right and we’d all been plunged into oblivion two shopping days short of last Christmas, well then – at least we’d have been spared the January sales and the heart-wrenching loss of Luciano Becchio. Every cloud…..