An old colleague of mine once remarked that, although Freudian psychoanalysis is supposed to bind sex and death together, in practice Freudians tend to emphasise either one or the other. In one camp, you’ve got the lusty gatherers of phallic symbols, the rigid Oedipussers; in the other, the thanatotic worriers over transience. I’ve never quite decided whether or not I properly constitute a Freudian, so I’m unsure as to what kind of Freudian I’d be or, if I am one, I am, but I think I tend to find the post-World War I Freud, the doomy, negating Freud of ‘The Uncanny’ and Beyond the Pleasure Principle slightly more engaging.
Toni Kroos plays for Bayern Munich. The city of Munich makes me think of doomy Freud via its dual iterary associations with the glum, bereft bit of modernism. It’s where von Aschenbach feels the onrushing death of desire – what Freud’s biographer Ernest Jones called ‘aphanisis’ – in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice; it’s also where those disinherited, displaced aristocrats faff around drinking coffee and fretting about the end of civilisation in Eliot’s Waste Land. This, of course, will be the sketchy justification I use to claim that the German midfielder, who I remain to be convinced by as a player, has of late allowed us to understand something about how tödlich-Freud might interpret a particular aspect of fandom.
Kroos spent the second half of the season just gone being ‘hotly tipped’, as they say, for a move to sporting-colossus-turned-professional-crisis-club Manchester United. He was, and it seems necessary to ontologise the idea through the use of capital letters, The Solution to United’s Midfield Dilemma. Last week, however, we learned that Kroos, who quite a lot of Reds were already tacto-grooming, did not want to join and would most probably remain in Munich to do civilised Central European things in the Hofgarten.
This, of course, is not the first time in recent memory that United fans have built an emotional relationship with a player out of nothing but transfer speculation, the pseudohard news of sport, only for the bride not to turn up for the wedding. Last summer, the protracted (TM) non-signing of Cesc Fabregas seemed to traumatise the club. In fact, in narrative terms and even perhaps in footballing ones, Fabregas was United’s most important ‘player’ in 2013-2014. His not being there intensified into a sort of negative presence, a glob of antimatter whose voidal obnoxiousness dictated how United played, namely appallingly.
Freud argued in his 1917 essay ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ that the loss of someone or something loved – through their death, the end of a relationship, even the loss of a favourite pen – is responded to in two ways. Mourning involves a negotiation with the reality principle followed by the development of a new attachment – a new ‘cathexis’, in Freud-speak – which might be apprehended in more banal, pop-psychological terms as ‘moving on’. Melancholia, by contrast, is being ‘hung up’. No new cathexis occurs; instead, the lost object undergoes incorporation or ‘introjection’ in the fantasy life of the bereaved, acting as a drain inside the psyche down which libido trickles.
Having believed Fabregas was theirs for so long before the transfer became a non-event, United seemed to fall into a state of abject melancholia. The signing of Marouane Fellaini represented not a new cathexis, but the acquisition of a monumental representation of Fabregas’ loss, a Salfordian Taj Mahal. Now, United seem to be falling into a pattern, a compulsive jiiltedness which starts to look more and more like an elongated failure to properly mourn midfielders past. Perhaps, then, it’s time to roll out what may be the most niche pun in the history of joking and start talking about FCUM – Failed Cathexes United of Manchester.
Posted by Joe Kennedy