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Closing time

The idea of going back to that bar in SE Portland for a game of this magnitude is really too much. The stress level and the potential for threats of violence toward that annoying fake-accent guy and the woo-girl cause us to gather in an apartment in NoPo instead. Eight of us in red and white.

Everyone brings something to share: donuts, bagels, juice, fruit, but most goes untouched in the kitchen as we gather around the television.

This is Arsenal. This is the FA Cup. This is everything.

Hull goes up by two early and unexpectedly. There’s no way this is how this is supposed to go. Absolutely no way.

But Santi steps up for a free kick and curls one into the upper far corner.

We enter the half still down by one. When Sone Aluko comes on for Hull, I stop breathing for a moment. It was his goal against Celtic in the March 2012 Old Firm match that I wrote about just days ago and it’s replaying over and over in my head. Every time he even comes close to putting a foot to the ball, a voice in my head says,”NOOO.”

A goal from Laurent Koscielny brings the game even and time runs out. Two extra periods are tacked onto the end of the game. The play is tired, slow. The earlier, almost frenetic pace is gone. This is now a game of survival.

The initial fifteen minute period is over. The second begins.

The intensity of those around me is much greater than my own. They’ve suffered with this team longer than I have, some a decade or more into their love affair with Arsenal. At best, and with great apologies to those who’ve coaxed me through my first year of support, Arsenal is my third team.

My heart is at Ibrox, my soul at Providence Park. But, for a time yesterday, my imagination was at Wembley.

In the end, the gentlemen of Arsenal climbed those stairs – 107 stairs, to be precise – and lifted a trophy.

It used to be that I felt I didn’t have room in my life for more than one team. Now I can’t imagine what it was like without them.

So a heartfelt thank you and congratulations to my fellow Gooners: to Jason and Caleb and Grant, to Chris and Eric and Kody and Felicia and all the others. Ninety days until we start all over again.

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Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Arsenal

 

Feeling strangely fine.

We’re standing outside the bar after the match. He’s even more of a little storm cloud than I am when the Timbers lose. He’s furiously tapping words into his phone, no doubt more anger-tweets about the loud guy who’d sat behind him or the “woo-girl” who was, one match into the season, talking about transfers.

“You okay?” I’m almost afraid to ask.

He looks up from his phone. “No. No, I’m not okay.”

And this is my first morning in Arsenal’s world.

***

I don’t know the players. I don’t know anything other than what I’ve read on Wikipedia and that Giroud’s hair is Laudrup-perfect and that at some point someone will make derisive comments about Nicklas Bendtner. But here I am.

I’m late because it’s too early on a Saturday morning. I stand in the back, near the door, until the first and only Arsenal goal is scored. The boys have been kind enough to save me a chair that could not possibly be any closer to the screen. I slouch in awkwardly and spend the next two hours drinking black coffee and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

And a soft penalty is saved and then lost and the wheels are already off the bus. “Get up!” someone behind me says to a downed player thousands of miles away. “We don’t have any more defenders.” This. This all feels familiar.

I don’t know that I need another club that will break my heart. I have the Timbers and, though things look good now, the heart-breaking will eventually come around again. I have the Thorns with their inconsistent play and questionable coaching decisions. And I have Rangers who are, for now, more of a mess off the pitch than on.

But a young player catches my eye and I know I’m done for. I do like that fire. A little spark is all it takes.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2013 in Arsenal