15 May 2014

A Gooner bares his soul...briefly, at least.

I'm scared. Tense. Agitated. Worried. And worse. Like many of you, I've invested a large portion of my happiness and emotional well-being in this club. Like many of you, I turn to it to escape daily frustrations, disappointments, and obstacles in my life. I figured that living vicariously through this club would allow me to transcend those niggles, to set them aside for a few hours midweek and again on the weekend, subsisting in the meantime on a thin stew made of fish, vegetables, prawns, coconut milk, and four kinds of rice. Sorry. I retreat to sarcasm and Simpsons references when I'm nervous. As suggested from the outset, I'm on tenter-hooks ahead of this FA Cup clash. As I enter the fifth decade of my life, this match feels even more-fraught with significance than I'd like to admit.

The wife is throwing a party Saturday night. A week early. For my 40th birthday. I'm terrified. No, not because I'm facing some kind of midlife crisis (although a Triumph Bonneville would be rather nice). I'm terrified of how I'll feel and who I'll be after the FA Cup. Win, and I may celebrate a bit too heartily—and there will be a fair few Spuds in attendance. Lose, and I may sulk somewhere off in the corner—again, there will be a fair few Spuds in attendance. It could get ugly, either way.

I started this little blog in February 2013, just after the signing of Nacho Monreal. At the time, I was frustrated at our inaction in the transfer-window—again. What was once a lark, a diversion from the day-to-day, has grown into a full-blown obsession. I admit it. When we play well, as we've done in recent weeks, I'm confident. I'm ebullient. I'm the life of the party. However, when we've faltered, I sulk. I snap. I...I...I don't want to admit much more. I pour more of myself into this club and its current members than is healthy, thrusting my chest forward when we win and crumbling to the ground when we lose. My children have learned how to plan their weekends around Arsenal's results. Lose, and avoid daddy. Win, and engage him. I'm not necessarily proud of that, but it's true.

I have been fortunate enough to play football for a long while, and, what's more, to support Arsenal almost as long. It's been since around 1981 or so that I discovered Arsenal, and I've never looked back. Most of my fandom has consisted of gleaning what little I could from American newspapers before the internet allowed me to actually read about and then watch Arsenal in action. It's a bit unhealthy, to be honest. Here in America, Gooners are few and far between. When I see a hat or shirt of a certain shade of red, even from a distance, I peer in. I've met a few other Gooners along the way. However, it's here that I feel most at home. Each day, I can vent or whine or extol, and something in what I say resonates. I've connected with Gooners here in America, in England (of course), Ireland, Germany, France, Nigeria, India, South Africa, Kenya, Canada, Kuwait, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, and a whole host of others too numerous to name. 

There have been many opportunities to switch allegiances, to support a club that enjoys success more regularly if only more recently. However, there's a method to our madness, especially in the last few decades, a method that says, "we will focus on developing players, not just signing them." We have a chance to prove that method worthy on Saturday, a chance to say to the clubs that spend and spend and spend, "there's more to football than trophies. How you play, how you win, matters just as much, if not more, than winning itself." I don't know what will happen on Saturday. I do know that, win or lose, I wouldn't trade the experience with that of any Red Devil, Blue, Citizen, or any other.

At some point, I'll learn to temper my madness, to base my emotional stability on factors I can control, but I'm not sure I'm looking forward to that day. In the meantime, the current madness will more than suffice. We've got a cup to win. I'll be watching from six time zones away. The success or failure of my 40th year on this Earth depends in no small part on our fortunes Saturday at Wembley. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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