Monday, March 21, 2011

Arsenal, The Mets and What Makes a Fan

Gunnersaurus, meet....
.....Mr. Met
The frustration has continued since my last post.  Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup by hated Man United and then put on a sub par performance away to West Brom this past weekend.  Arsenal were down 2-0 with about 20 minutes remaining to an inferior team and looked pretty uninspired throughout.  The team turned it on from there and ended up with a draw, but with ManUre getting a lucky win, it just put Arsenal 2 points further behind the top. 

So, in less than 3 weeks Arsenal went from being in competition for four trophy's to fighting for just one.  If Arsenal win all of their remaining 9 games, they will be champions.  It is in their control.  Unfortunately the team roster is depleted with enough injuries to fill an entire ward of a hospital.

Rather than dwell on all the negatives and the second guessing, I refuse to give up and remain optimistic and loyal to the team.  There are currently 18 teams in the EPL that wish they were in Arsenal's position.

Instead of the game specifics, I'm going to focus on fandom.  The Twittershphere was a buzz recently with Arsenal fans calling for Arsene Wenger to be fired, trashing various squad players and most interesting of all questioning the non North London based Arsenal supporters.  In essence, some long time London born fans were directing some vitriol at those fans from abroad that dare to support THEIR team.  Comical isn't the word.  FIFA and the major European leagues, including the EPL have been courting a global fan base for years.  Clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and AC Milan as well as top English clubs including Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have been marketing their "product" to attract an international fan base for years.  I've had the chance to see a number of these teams here in New York.  In fact, I got Thierry Henry to sign Arsenal programs from games that I attended while he was with Arsenal, only when he was in New York with Barcelona.

So when locals lash back at "outsiders" and "foreigners" it reeks of total xenophobia.  They get all high and mighty and talk about how their great grandfathers had to walk 15 miles in a snow storm to see the Woolwich Arsenal or they skipped the births and graduations of their children in order to attend a match as if that makes them a "real" fan.  To use an English colloquialism, that is bollocks.  Give me a break.

I once took a train from London to Leeds by myself (my London based friends didn't want to travel) to see Arsenal at Elland Road in an FA Cup 3rd Round tie.  (Arsenal won 4-1 despite Lehman gifting a goal to Mark Viduka to start the scoring).  Then on the way back to London I was verbally assaulted by some crazy lunatic shouting anti US and George Bush comments at me (I did not vote for Bush).  Who came to my rescue?  Fellow Arsenal fans.  They didn't jump in and start accusing me of being a fake fan and a bandwagon jumper.  They were thrilled and amazed that I, a girl on my own from New York, loved Arsenal enough to head to Leeds to see the Gooners.  Does that make me more of a fan than someone who lives on the other side of the world but watches games live at ungodly hours on horrible streams or at stinky pubs at 7 a.m.?  I don't think so.

(I also want to know what the "real fans" think of all the young English kids I see wearing Yankee hats and Kobe Bryant jerseys or attending the recent NFL games in London.)

That brings me to my other team, the New York Mets.  There is no comparison between my 2 teams.  Arsenal are like caviar while the Mets are like spam or marmite.  The Mets truly do suck and truly do deserve grief, yet the fans stick with their woeful team while the crosstown money grubbing Yankees get all the attention.

Our owners lost millions in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme and are named in a major lawsuit currently heading to court.  We have no money to sign good players and therefore we head in to the new season already knowing that we are going to suck.  We would love to have more folks across the world as Mets fans and I invite you to join us.  We need your support (as well as your money).


An example of the Mets' fiscal stupidity are the events of the past three days.  On Friday the Mets finally released the gimpy Luis Castillo (he will earn $6 million this year) and is best known for dropping a routine pop up that turned a Met victory in to a loss at Yankee Stadium.  Then today, Mets fans everywhere rejoiced when news broke that the man the team will be paying 12 million dollars this season, Oliver Perez, was FINALLY cut from the team.  No more booing for Ollie. So, with the season set to begin in less than two weeks, the Mets spent $18 million dollars not to bring in players, but to get rid of 2 players!!!

$18 million to say goodbye
Here's a sampling of some of the fan reactions on Twitter:

Oliver Perez was released by the Mets today. It was worth the $12m. There is a god.

The name "Oliver Perez" became synonymous with failure in the same manner "Madoff" is equated to fraud"

Time to throw a party lol RT @DavidLCreme: The Mets released Oliver Perez....finally

The best move they've made in years. RT @Mets The Mets officially announce LHP Oliver Perez has been released.

Finally the Mets realize that Oliver Perez is a terrible pitcher. I no longer have to know a loss is coming in the playoffs when he starts.


Goodbye Oliver Perez, Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

The Mets have finally released Oliver Perez. We're freeee

Mets release Oliver Perez... Already have released Castillo. Looks like a better year already!

JoePontillo Joe Pontillo
The mere fact that Oliver Perez was wearing sandals the day he was released makes me that much happier that he's gone. #mets

The New York Mets release Luis Castillo and now Oliver Perez... thank god #ourseason #11daystilopeningday

Wow. Fans so happy #Mets released Oliver Perez, his name is a trending topic in NYC. Wonder what the fake @MrOlliePerez46 will do now (C;

Glad I don't have to share a city with Oliver Perez anymore.

Yes da mets release oliver perez about got damn time

this week has started off great. oliver perez cut. good shit. #mets

Never having to see oliver perez pitch in a mets uniform again makes me incredibly happy.

Bye bye Oliver Perez... I doubt you'll be missed by anyone in NY.

Oliver Perez finally released from the Mets!!! Let's send him to the nuclear reactors in Japan and put him to good use!!!

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS Oliver Perez is not a New York Met anymore ! YEEEAAAHHHH BUDDYYYYY !!!!

Come down to Kodiak's at 1 for the next Mets preseason game vs. Atlanta. Guaranteed to be Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo free!!!

The #Mets & Oliver Perez are over. I think I'll miss the laughter the most.

Thank god the mets released oliver perez he was absolutely horrible.

Dear Oliver Perez, its been real, now get the fuck out of here! Xoxox love, every mets fan

Twelve million U.S.dollars to Oliver Perez not to pitch for the Mets .Seem like thats the money we should have used to bomb Libya

Por finnnnnnnn dejaron los Mets libre a Oliver Perez... Bye, Bye Ollie creo que nadie en los Mets te va a extra├▒ar.

I like to imagine that in Queens right now, some poor intern is physically eating the paper of Ollie Perez's contract.

@TheRopolitans Will they declare that henceforth from this day, March 21 will be known as Oliver Perez Independence Day

I'll give the final word to new Mets GM Sandy Alderson who was interviewed by Gary Cohn during today'sMets pre-season game.  When asked about the release of Oliver Perez Alderson laughed and said, "It allowsthe media to go on to something else that they can point to negatively."  That's the way it is to be a Mets fan and it shows that Alderson is aware of the shit he’s stepped in to and that he has a sense of humor about the situation.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Born of Frustration - What's Worse, Your Team Underperforming or "Fans" Turning on Your Team?

The meaning of fan from
an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.

The past ten days have been beyond frustrating and downright gut wrenching for fans of Arsenal.  After beating Barcelona 2-1 in the first leg of the round of 16, Arsenal have had a less than impressive run of form and luck...some of it of their own doing and some of it from HORRIBLE officiating. 

The Carling Cup trophy was there for the taking as Arsenal met Birmingham in the finals at Wembley on February 27th.  It was 1-1 when misfortune hit.  Arsenal gifted Birmingham the winning goal in the 88th minute as Wojcech Sczeny and Laurent Koscielny inadvertently crossed paths while trying to defend a Birmingham attack.  This one hurt and it was beyond painful to watch Birmingham celebrate and see the disconsolate looks on the faces of the Arsenal players.  Another painful element was seeing some of the vitriolic comment coming from Arsenal "fans" on Twitter, blogs, discussion boards, etc. 

Then a few days after Arsenal easily disposed of lower division Leyton Orient 5-0 in an FA Cup 4th round replay, they had the chance to get three points closer to ManUre who had lost to Chelsea earlier in the week.  Sunderland was the opponent at the Emirates and frustration reigned again.  A blatant penalty on Andrei Arshavin was somehow not spotted by the referee and then an onside GOAL by Arshavin was incorrectly called offside.  So, a 2-0 Arsenal win became a 0-0 draw.  One point gained rather than the deserved three.  This injustice was cushioned by ManUre's humiliating loss to Liverpool but the frustration was still there.  Again, daggers were out from some Arsenal fans calling for various players' heads on a platter.

Then came the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 at the Nou Camp in Barcelona.

Before even dissecting this debacle I have to vent: why do Arsenal always get the hardest draws no matter what the tournament is?  Every year Arsenal get Barcelona and every year Chelski and ManUre get the easiest draw.  No disrespect to Marseille or Copenhagen, but I would have much preferred to face them.  Then who do Arsenal get in the FA Cup next round, ManUre away.  Of course. 

So, to the Nou Camp it was.  It sucks to have to admit it, but Barcelona looked like Arsenal when we play Wigan, except this time we were Wigan.  Arsenal couldn't get the ball.  Add in that the ref was handing out yellow cards to the Arsenal players like the meter maids hand out tickets in Manhattan.  Meanwhile, the Barcelona players committed fouls freely without punishment like New York City politicians double parking at fire hydrants.  Despite this, the defense held.  Then in the dying moments of the first half the most unlikely of culprits, captain Cesc Fabregas, made a misguided back pass that led to a Messi goal.

The officials didn't see this choke hold but it seems the photographers did

Early in the second half Arsenal got a return gift from Barcelona as Busquets headed in to his own goal on an Arsenal corner.  Then the most ridiculous, insipid, pathetic, idiotic, moronic, f'd up call I have ever seen in a game came from some Swiss referee who's name I won't even take the time to look up.  Robin Van Persie streaks across the pitch with the ball at his feet and fires a shot towards the goal.  It goes over and wide.  The next thing you know, this d-bag ref is taking a yellow card out of his pocket and Van Persie is off as he was given an earlier b.s. yellow card for some b.s. reason.  What was the infraction here?  Well apparently Van Persie was supposed to know that the whistle had gone for offside despite a crowd of 95,000 cheering fans and Barcelona defenders clipping at his heels.  Yes, in that one second with all that noise he was supposed to not follow through on his shot.  For actually taking a shot and "wasting" one second of play, Van Persie was shown a red card and Arsenal had to play the remaining 30 plus minutes with one less man.  Yes, Barcelona were superior and yes they controlled the possession but this was a kick in the stomach and the worst bit of refereeing I have ever seen.  It made the ref of the Sunderland game look like Einstein.  Barcelona scored two more times and went on to win 4-3 on aggregate.  Frustration is not even the word. 

The worst referee in the world at work
Even worse though, "fans" ripping Arsene Wenger, cursing Cesc Fabregas, bashing their own team.  Frustration plus irritation = a term I have yet to come up with.  Come on fans, be fans.  Support your team through thick and thin.  I have to go back to my other team, the New York Mets to make this point.

The Mets have sucked for 75% of their 49 years.  Maybe even 80%.  They have 2 World Series titles and have appeared in the World Series just 4 times.  They are second fiddle in a city where the money grubbing Yankees buy titles on a regular basis and steal the headlines constantly.  When the Mets make the front page news, it's because of something horrible like their owners losing a bundle in Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme or a clubhouse attendant being named in a steriod scandal.  In other words Arsenal fans, the Mets are the Tottenham of New York.  In fact, it's even worse.  They're like the Watford or Crystal Palace of New York.  The only saving grace for the Mets is that they can't be relegated.  They get to suck every year and still come back. 

One thing is clear, however, Mets fans are loyal.  Through thick and thin they hang in there with the team.  Yes, the fans bash their players and bitch on call in sports shows, however, the difference with them and Arsenal fans is that the Mets fans are entitled to complain.  Their team genuinely sucks.  Arsenal on the other hand are an amazing club run by one of the best managers in the world.  Perhaps Arsenal fans are too used to winning.  Yes it's been frustrating, but remember this is a team that competes at the highest level every year.  They did just beat Barcelona 3 weeks ago. 

Maybe I'm just trying to cheer myself up, but come on Arsenal fans.  Stay loyal, support your team and keep the faith.  Oh to be a Gooner.

If any Arsenal fans want to follow a real bad team and have reason to bitch and complain, I invite you to follow my beloved New York Mets.  The new season gets under way on Friday, April 1st.