The year is 2020. An Arsenal spokesperson has, presumably with a straight face, released the phrase ‘Gunnersaurus is not extinct’.
This is a real sports news story, possibly the biggest in the sport, the day after the biggest day of transactions in the league. A story of a club at odds with its fans, and with its best paid player. A story about a man in a large, smiling dinosaur suit.
How did we get here? How did we, as a society, as a group of individuals, as people who watch football, get to this point?
You could try to trace this back to last summer, when Mesut Ozil – would-be saviour of Gunnersaurus and man who is being paid £350,000 a week to not play football – and his teammate Sead Kolasinac were attacked by a couple of fellas wielding sharp objects. Rumours of gang involvement in the incident were rumoured. That was weird, but…it doesn’t have anything to do with this.
It’s the 6th October 2020 and Arsenal fans are being torn in two, for the seventeenth time this year, over a man in a dinosaur suit.
He might be the 56th member of non-playing staff that the club have made redundant in the last few months, because of revenue issues caused by the massive global pandemic that’s still kicking around.
Arsenal spent €50m on a footballer on Monday, and agreed to pay him the best part of a million pounds a month.
The signing is a very good thing for Arsenal as a football team. The disconnect between the spending on the pitch and being seen to throw a beloved, 7′ felt effigy of a reptile into the Thames is the thing people are struggling to get their heads around.
So the football media, the day after transfer deadline day, is writing and reading stories about a man in a dinosaur suit.
You could trace this back to the day Arsenal left Highbury. A Thierry Henry hat-trick and a Spurs capitulation secured fourth place in the league, the club was preparing for an honest to god Champions League final, and Arsene Wenger was king of all he surveyed. Then they moved out of their home, lost the final, never returned to that peak, and Wenger’s ten-year decline began. They’d never have it that good again.
But that isn’t how we got here.
The world has been in the grip of a historic pandemic for most of the year. America’s eyes are on the White House, where their president has just come out of hospital. Elsewhere in Europe, eyes are on a brewing war in the Caucasus.
England is watching Twitter to find out more about one football club’s future, with regards specifically to a man who will (or won’t!) be wearing a giant dinosaur suit.
The first dinosaur started walking the earth about 243 million years ago. It wasn’t big – about the size of a labrador – but it started something very special in motion.
For more than a hundred million years, dinosaurs ruled the planet. Then, some 65 million years ago, they died off – doomed by forces far beyond their control or understanding to fail as a species and be known to us only by the tiny handful of bones they left behind, buried deep under the Earth’s surface.
Then in the summer of 1993, Gunnersaurus Rex was found. The sole survivor of a doomed species. The mascot for a time gone by. And people loved him. And then he was put in danger.
That’s how we got here.
There or thereabouts.