It’s like seeing your best friend being mauled (possibly to death) by a rancor, as people cheer on. Only a much more elegant and classy rancor than you would imagine. Everyone around wants blood, death, and entertainment worth their money. You look helplessly, as your friend is taken apart. Why can’t he put up a fight? Well he tries, even manages to spill the rancor’s blood. But you know how it is. People don’t kill monsters. They can only run. But run, your friend cannot, for the gates don’t open until it’s time. The fight was never meant to be even. Everyone knew that. Yet you hope against hope, for a miracle. That your friend can at least hold on, dodge the beast. For 90 minutes. There’s a limit of course, to how brave one can be. There will be blood, and there is blood. And the clock strikes. The beast is pulled away. And in the arena is a dejected, hurt, and devastated man.
But it’s not about the fight. And it’s not about being down in the dumps. What matters now, is whether the man can stand up, lose his fear, and enter the arena again. Stronger. No points for guessing what I’m talking about. I’d been watching the 8-2 capitulation of Arsenal, at the hands of Man Utd. It hurt every single time, when people went wild saying OMG! What a goal. Or Fuck! What brilliance. Being the only one supporting a different team is hard. More so when your team loses. Even more so when it loses like this. Credit to United, they played some amazing football. Rooney seems to be in the form of his life. Ashley Young has now developed superpowers after arriving in Manchester. The young core of the team is good enough, even if players like Berbatov, Vidic and Ferdinand are absent. Ferguson has built a team for the future, and it is the team to beat.
Being an Arsenal supporter is tough in these times. If the way we surrendered in the title race last season was not enough, we had to be prepared with the realistic possibility of losing our best player and captain over the summer. And possibly one of our best midfielders. Lose them, we did. The replacements are yet to come in. But even without Fabregas and Nasri, Arsenal are better than most other teams. In terms of core talent and ability. True, they’re short of the strength of United, or Man City, or Chelsea. Probably even the supremely confident Liverpool right now. And with the team that started today, with 8 first team players out through suspension or injury, this was always going to be a rout. I was prepared. I secretly hoped for a shock, but that was not going to happen. This was a weak team. A team lacking in experience, and probably confidence too. But this was also a team that tried. The players fought, tried to create chances. We scored too. But we couldn’t finish well, the defense was disorganized. Conceding 8 goals is the confluence of bad defending, and a supremely confident opposition attack.
I see all these pseudo football fans out there, who’re taunting and mocking me at the defeat. No way I can defend myself here. Not so long ago, I used to feel the need to say something, say that the team wasn’t fully fit, players were suspended, and so on. But now I don’t, because it doesn’t matter. Most people out there know nothing about Arsenal anyway. I’ve been supporting the club for 8 seasons now. It did start with the brilliance of the Invincibles. Who would not be spell bound. It felt great. Arsenal were potent. They had this swagger about them, and it was downright sexy. Of course times have changed. No one promised they would be the same, always. Arsenal have been punching bags for the media and people alike. Everyone writes Arsenal off. That is tradition. People count the time since Arsenal’s last trophy. Never mind how long it had been for Man City until last season. After the 8-2 defeat today, someone makes a Facebook page predicting Arsenal to get relegated. 100 people like it within 5 minutes. Probably a 1000 more will within the day. But you see, that’s the dilemma with being a glorious club not so long ago in the past, and having these kinds of problems right now. People like a big club going down. One of my friends asked me today, why I still support Arsenal. Given they aren’t the team they once were, and what they are now. To him, and to all others with that question, I say that sometimes, supporting a team becomes more than just watching all its games. Of course, this connection is very abstract, and might not make sense to the rational thinker, if that is you. I would like to quote a fellow fan on this.
Click here for the source of the following.
The world was laughing, punching the Gunners in the face, and rather than defaulting to my customary despair and eating the whole pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, I got mad.
I don’t give two tugs that Arsenal’s best striker is made of cellophane and that the club has no left back. I don’t give two tugs that our holding midfielders are loose cannons and often out of position. I don’t give two tugs that the rest of the world see Arsenal as easy targets (Udinese learned the hard way). I don’t give two tugs that I no longer turn on the television with the expectation to win. Many supporters see it as terrible that the club is in a position where expecting to win is no longer the default position; they see it is evidence that Arsenal are now a “small club” (presumably one like Inter Milan, rather than one like, oh, Torquay United…small club? Really? In London? With a 60,000-seat stadium?) with “small club mentality”.
I don’t care about any of that. I know the team has problems, I know the squad is as thin as it’s been since 1995, beyond doubt. I know, but I don’t care. My bond to this team is different now; a similar shape, but tempered by anger and desire. Trophies were an expectation before, perhaps, but now trophies are two fingers and a farting noise to the world. Winning a trophy because it is expected and winning one against the odds; there is a big difference. If we don’t get one, it doesn’t matter, because this team has made me remember the angry defiance of failure. The cool objective-yet-engaged distance I had with Arsenal for five years has burned away in the fires of my fury. No longer do I project the fascistic single-minded love of the new fan, but no longer do I wear my allegiance like a nice overcoat and expect people to blow kisses at me, either.
My new emotions scare me a bit, because I fear irrational support from a political and social standpoint, but this is not irrational; this is the most rational I’ve ever been. Things will not be rosy all the time; things will not be all style. We’re down in the mud and the blood again, but we’re like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of Predator; we’re just hiding in the mud and blood waiting for the enemy to get close enough to surprise him. And we just might do it, boy. We just might.
I’m sure things will start to look up soon enough. Seriously, how much worse can it get, after one point from three games, a red card in each game, and 10 goals conceded already. But I’m calm. I still support the club as much as I did earlier. I still think Arsenal are a good team, and will do well in the future. Because we have nothing to lose right now. And often, the best comes out in this situation.
P.S. My Facebook feed is full of people posting celebrating the 8-2. Seriously, how many Man Utd. fans are there!