05 May 2014

The Hairshirt Chronicles: It's gettin' hairy. And smelly...

Regular readers may recall a certain promise I made, vowing to wear my once-lucky jersey until Arsenal win a trophy. Originally, the vow didn't cause much trouble. Sure, I had to stop wearing certain lighter-colored dress shirts, and, yes, it's getting a little gamey, but that's part of the point of wearing a hair-shirt. That's all well and good when I'm only wearing the jersey as I walk around. After all, here in the Chicago-area, it's been unseasonably cool, and my excellent personal hygenie, not to mention my kavorka, have combined to produce a manly, alluring musk that Mrs. Blog finds well-nigh irresistible. She hides it behind a thin veneer of disgust, crinkling her nose and asking me to sleep on the couch, but we both know that I and my unwashed-for-weeks jersey are driving her crazy. She says "up the wall" and "to distraction", but these are but Victorian euphemisms for the raw, animalistic urges I'm surely inspiring. However, all of this was before my own Sunday league resumed.

Having come back from ACL surgery of my own, I've now played two matches in the jersey. In the process, I've added to the heretofore manly musk. Mud. Grass-stains. Goose droppings. And so on. I'm pleased to say that the squad are off to a strong start, having won our first match over the defending league champions 2-0 and drawing with Stoke-on-Chicago 1-1. I've moved back to keeper from my libero position because our regular keeper has a mysterious virus that has seen him lose almost two stone. I'm ashamed to admit that I conceded that equalizer to Stoke in the last minute, but in fairness, there was a wall of humanity crashing into the box that stupefied and awed me. Six or seven men, all of them twice or thrice my size, stampeded into the box on a last-minute corner. I and two defenders ended up in the back of the net with the ball. Words were exchanged, as were blows. Comeuppances were delivered. Sadly, though, the goal stood.

But I digress. We are not here for match-analysis. We are here for penance. For exorcism. The jersey I wear on every day except Arsenal's match-days is one that once seemed to bring luck, inspire confidence, deliver results. Sadly, that ceased to the case some time ago, and so it has been become my hairshirt. I'll admit to a wavering of faith as I itch, scratch, and sniff. My children shy away. My wife begs me to wash it. Neighbors keep their distance (more than usual, it seems). So it goes. What little support I can offer through my suffering has been worth it. If I and my debasement have played any role in the late-season resurgence, though, I refuse to take any credit, for it is just that kind of hubris that landed me in this dilemma. Once, I thought of myself as a long-distance talisman of sorts, someone whose passion and fervor for the club transmuted to the players on the pitch. For as much as I have learned the sad truth, that from six time zones away, I have precious little impact on this club's fortunes, I know that I must still do whatever I can. As I write, there are but twelve more days before I can consider taking off the shirt. Win and we will decide what to do. Wash it? Perhaps. Lose and dire future looms. I hope, for the sake of my children, my wife, my coworkers, that I don't have to ponder that...