Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prologue: Make me whole again

And, looking to the sky, scanning across and through the horizons, he implored the spirits that drove his emotional torment to carry him back. And, with hands clasped and knees tendered from the collapse he hoped would prove the sincerity in his request, he threw his head back and opened his eyes wide as can be. And, with the hopelessness of a man lost at sea, he opened his mouth and shouted ... "Please, lead me, again, to get angry when we lose! Lead me, again, to rejoice in victory!"

I've spent the better part of the last year falling out of love with winning and making up with losing. We adapt, don't we, out of simple necessity? I'm an Arsenal supporter and, as has been over-documented, they've made a fortune out of manufacturing mediocrity the last couple years. Top management has even strived to shout, "Hang on! We're right there, aren't we? We're competing every year. Damn close, we are. Damn close. Win or lose, we're damn close."

Maybe it's the utter lack of fight on hand in the Arsenal. Maybe it's the willingness, nay, it's more than willingness, the team's ability to roll over to an opponent defined as a higher quality simply by Arsenal's ability to act like a milk-moneyless second grader facing the school bully is best described, at this point, as a fetish.

Perhaps that's why I seem not to care. I care. Really, I do. I still get awfully fired up for a football match involving the characters, athletes and colours I've found the most attractive to my mind and heart. Though, a lot of the spirit I toss at the football nowadays can be summed by friend and fellow Arsenal supporter, Phil. Toward the end of the West Brom match ... the horrible, horrible West Brom match (it was horrible, wasn't it? right? it's supposed to be really awful when  you lose a match, isn't it? especially to 'lesser' competition, right?) ... Phil says, "I'm gonna get hammered after this match. If we lose, I'm gonna get REALLY hammered." The emphasis on the word "really" was lost on no one. With the final whistle, we blasted through Van Halen's "Panama," an uncountable number of beers and a series of air guitar riffs and rock-emphasizing air kicks. All was brought, once again, into focus. What mattered mattered. Losing a football match was certainly that which did not matter. And hey, that horrible, horrible match was fun in the end. Nasri gave us a couple of a winks and two goals. Fun, fun, fun, eh? Right? Right.

Not long after that experience, which stood as an affirmation of this attitude I'd been carrying for the better part of a year (win or lose, I still love it! doesn't mean a thing, winning, does it!?), Arsenal played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. I thought, heading over to the pub to watch, that there really was a chance this time. I thought a page would be turning for this group of players. And, I hoped, without really admitting it to myself, that I'd be turning a page myself. WIth a little bit of hope for success, in any venture, comes an attachment to what it might actually mean to have that success. 

What did I think would happen? I thought the Arsenal would put in a performance as assured as the way I walked through that door at 9:00 a.m. I thought we'd cruise through a very hard fought win. I thought we'd carry the level of possession, and flex enough will in the final third, needed to allow me to take a big puff of air at the end of the match and cast that glare of aspersion over the masses I'd so grown to love ... but ... this time ...

I'd peer in, mustering every ounce of patented prickishness I could ... And even the dimmest passerby would be able to read, sprawled across my eyes, lips and forehead ...

"I told you so."

But no. If the travails of ol' Jim and the hoards of Liverpool supporters the world round have taught us anything, life ain't no fairy tale, kiddies. While I've been wallowing as a soul tearing its way through the endless hallway of footballing purgatory (not winning, not losing, not caring, no indifference), friends and a Club I have endless respect for have had their brains on a tilt-o-whirl for months. And the last 48 hours have been a tilt-o-whirl with a never-ending roller-coaster drop as a capper. Their plight has helped steel my focus. Their plight has reminded me of my wealth. That Chelsea loss, when we seemed to be in the passing lane for long stretches of the match, steeled my focus. That Chelsea loss, that inability to achieve what I had actually and rather stridently hoped for, reminded me of how much I had to lose. It reminded me of how much I had invested.

Winning doesn't beget caring. Caring doesn't beget wining. If I shout harder, sing more or slap another goddamn stupid ass piece of clothing with my team's colours on my body, it's not a deeper expression of caring and it sure as shit won't bring three points. Caring is in and of itself. I was finally recognizing the investment, the deep emotional investment I'd made of holding through this long stretch of mediocrity. I finally realized that investment, that huge vault that stood behind me, meant I actually did care quite a bit more than I'd been letting on. I'd peer around my shoulder and the trail I left for myself and recognize everything I left behind and how it carried me to where I was. I accepted the value in it. And I accepted how much it meant to me.

That's why I was beyond happy when I saw Nicklas Bendtner's quotes this morning. I wasn't just happy, I was energized. I was reminded. I was hella fired up, people. 

For months, and seemingly for years, quotes coming out of the Arsenal charges have focused on development. They've focused on learning. They've focused on the next step. That dulled me. It sawed off my senses. It had me looking forward to Van Halen guitar solos instead of prickish glares that reeked of "I told you so." It made me accept the process of development. It lead me to this "winning ain't shit, only macho pricks want to win, I'm an artistically aware individual who values performance over winning" mentality.

But then, this morning, I woke up, got dressed, fixed a little raisin bran, and read Nicklas Bendtner's quotes. 

I read this ... posted in Arseblog this morning:

It is quite amazing. I reckon I'm probably right to be involved in the fight on Saturday for Arsenal - and I am excited. I thought ideally that I should play one or two reserve games first, but I am in such good shape that it is not needed.
And I thought, quite simply,  HELL YEAH! Get in there, Nicklas. Welcome back and get in there. How can you not be fired up by comments like that? After emailing my collaborator here at Match Pricks, Jim, it all came into focus. "Bendtner is so ridiculously unappreciated," he said. After some rambling, he finished, "Kid's got balls, brutha. Brass balls."

My reply? 

"What was that? Sounded loud. And heavy."

"Oh, that? That's just Nicklas Bendtner's balls clanging together. He started training with the first team again."

Welcome back, Niko. Your influence is greater than people realize. 

(sidebar: for the image, I shit you not, I searched "smug" and it gave me Match Pricks favourite, Slavan Bilic.)


Kuba said...

Great post Colin, you capture what it really means to support a club.

Anonymous said...

that `horrible game~ was freakin awesome