Sunday, March 30, 2008

TWAG: Too Old Not to Know Better

I was 11 when US Reed hit that shot.

I know because I was there.

"Was" being the operative word. I was indeed in the arena that afternoon. That was an NCAA regional in Austin, TX. My dad was a professor at UT, so he dropped my older brother and me off at the arena (the tourney wasn't near the big deal that it is now, and you could just walk up and get tickets at the box office) then he went to his office and did some work.

With less than a couple of minutes left, Arkansas was up maybe eight points, maybe double digits. And Louisville hadn't played well all game. So with time on the clock, my brother and decided it was over and and started to walk back towards my dad's office (the arena is just on the edge of the University of Texas campus).

Like I said, I was in the arena that afternoon, but I left before the final seconds ticked off. So I have no memory of that shot. None.

When we got back to my dad's office, my old man greeted us with something like, "Oh my Gosh, that must have been exciting."

Uh, what was, dad?

He had been listening on the radio. He knew what had happened. We had no idea.

I pretty much vowed then and there never to leave another sporting event early again. If there was any silver lining to that day it was that lesson, oh, and that I was pulling for Louisville and, despite the comeback, they lost anyway.

Saturday wasn't so kind to me.

Okay, technically, I didn't break my vow. I didn't leave a sporting event, I left a bar.

But still... a man down, and after another dude named "M. Taylor" was about to fuck the Gunners' season (this time with a first half brace), what the hell was I supposed to do?

Answer: have some semblance of faith or patience or at least continue to make friends commiserating with the other Arsenal fans at the bar. Nope, technically, I didn't even make it to half. After the 43rd minute deflection off Gallas and passed Almunia I just up an left. I screamed "fuck" as I stepped outside, then drove home listening to 'Wait, Wait. Don't Tell Me" on the radio not because I'm a pretentious dick, but because I was too pissed to care what I was listening to (Note to NPR: Paul Provenza and Paula Poundstone are not funny).

It wasn't just that game that had pushed me to leaving, it was everything leading up to it. Save the CL tilt against Milan, the Gunners have been shit since getting their asses kicked in the FA Cup by United. In fact, even in the Emirates round of the Milan home-and-home, Arsenal blew all kinds of chances to draw at nil. Basically, for every minute of soccer played on English soil since about mid-February, Arsenal was either deliberately torturing its fans or simply sucking for reasons unknown.

Dropped points against Wigan, Birmingham, Villa, and I can't even remember who else anymore. So, sure, drop more points against Bolton.

Never mind that Bolton are fucking useless. Never mind that Bolton hadn't scored in its last seven-plus hours of play but somehow not only managed to net one on their first chance of the match but also get another on a deflection before half.

What sane person wouldn't leave? It's just football. I've got other shit to do with my day.

The worst part of leaving though, is that I get nothing from Saturday. By that I don't mean that the win doesn't even really "save" Arsenal's season. The Prem is gone. United looks unbeatable. Sure 2nd place would be nice for automatic CL qualification, but, if it doesn't happen, eh... big deal.

I mean I get nothing. Like with US Reed, I have no memory to go with the comeback.

Well, I do, but it totally sucks. My memory is seeing the gamecast tick by on Soccernet. And, about the 4th from the last comment, the person describing the action wrote something like, "Oh, that's a bit unlucky" as Bolton scored an own goal in the 90th to hand the minor miracle to Arsenal.

That's a pretty shitty memory for such an unreal comeback. I'm sure I deserve it.

Yes, it is just football, but that's why we watch. Or at least part of the reason—because the improbable might happen; because it is possible to be a man down on the road and outscore an opponent by three in the second half, including the last one on a bad-luck-evening-out own-goal deflection; and because those moments can be celebrated with near strangers like they are brothers.

Instead I was staring at some pixels on a screen. I wasn't there. I didn't even see it (except on highlights). And, although the comeback is nice, I robbed myself of all the emotional euphoria that makes being a fan worth dropping points against Avram Fucking Grant, makes it worth the suffering (or "suffering" rather... I do still have perspective).

But, in the name of US Reed, I vow I'm not leaving Ginger's early again.


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