The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Let’s get one thing straight. Damien Comolli is not a sociopath. As he reveals in his first interview since being sacked by Tottenham, he’s just a man trying to correct some misconceptions about a job he did. You can say what you like, but that does not make him an amoral charmer whose primary psychological characteristics include compulsive self-aggrandizement and an inability to perceive the reality of other people’s suffering.
Okay, so he doesn’t go out of his way to mention Spurs fans in the interview. In fact, he doesn’t mention them at all, except to complain about the way they blamed him for the agony they felt as their club slumped to the worst start in its history this season. But doesn’t a man have a right to defend his legacy? Does simply setting the record straight automatically make him an example of acute antisocial or dissocial personality disorder, the main attributes of which are an incapacity to take responsibility for one’s actions and a talent for glibly and persuasively justifying all one’s misdeeds?
Not in my book, Charlie. I mean, just look here. At one point in the interview, Comolli says that in his entire tenure at Tottenham, he made “about three or four mistakes.” So he admits he made mistakes! Does that look like a delusional inability to perceive oneself as ever in the wrong, such as would characterize a mental condition marked by extreme disregard for the devastation one causes in other people’s lives and a pathological need to believe oneself to be all-knowing and virtually all-powerful?
Sociopaths are known for lying without remorse, twisting the truth in order to make themselves look impressive, and manipulating others in order to create victims who slavishly echo their thoughts. But Comolli is just being honest when he expresses his belief that his work was “very profitable for the club,” “very positive for the club,” and, in the words of his interviewer, the Telegraph‘s Duncan White, the foundation of “a robust legacy that will sustain Tottenham for years, if not decades to come.”
Now, sure, I realize that the more astute media critics out there will claim that taking credit for success that happens after you’ve left a job, when your time in the job was marked by steady failure, is a classic move made by many people who’ve been unceremoniously dumped by their employers. But while sociopathic personality disorders are noted for their frequent correspondence with pathological narcissism and a driving need to win the affirmation of the sociopath’s victims, make no mistake about this: when Damien Comolli says that Didier Zokora played well in last week’s game against West Ham, he is absolutely right.
So listen. It’s time to stop throwing around reckless psychological diagnoses that have no basis in fact. It’s well within Damien Comolli’s rights to believe that he is single-handedly responsible for the run of success at Spurs that started the instant he was no longer there. If he can persuade you of this, so much the better. If you begin to perceive him as a somehow unusually important, talented, charismatic and misunderstood individual—if you start to see him as set apart from the rest of humanity by a special grace or light—then it’s no more than his abilities deserve. Perhaps you would like to apply for a job at the Telegraph, where you could interview him yourself.
by Brian Phillips · December 15, 2008