Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Arsenal's 7 Year Drought In Comparison to the Mets' 26 Year Drought

Arsenal lift the 2005 FA Cup
These are tough times for Arsenal fans as the club's up and down season has been all downhill of late. Following Arsenal's 3-2 FA Cup comeback victory over Aston Villa at the end of January things were starting to look up. This, however, was followed up by a lifeless and uninspired 0-0 draw with an inferior Bolton squad.

The following week saw the Gunners come out with a brash confidence and absolutely destroy Blackburn at The Emirates 7-1. Next came Arsenal's 2-1 comeback victory away to Sunderland with Thierry Henry scoring the game winner in extra time. The win, combined with some fortuitous results elsewhere, put Arsenal back into the 4th spot and things were starting to look up.

Then came a little midweek trip to Milan. Arsenal were beginning their home and away match-up with AC Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League. Back in 2008, the Gunners defeated Milan 2-0 over two legs at this same point in the competition and progressed on to the quarter-finals. Fans were optimistic and hopeful heading in to the match, but the team flat out let everyone down. They stunk. It was a total embarrassment and the final 4-0 scoreline was actually flattering to the team. Unless a miracle occurs during the second leg in London, Arsenal will have limped out of Europe's elite club competition.
Victory in Milan 2008

Sadly, sucking up early exits from competitions has become a regular part of being an Arsenal supporter. So, with the humiliating defeat behind them, the team turned its attention to its 5th round FA Cup match-up with Sunderland. Arsenal had beaten Martin O'Neill's squad one week earlier and Gooners crossed their fingers for a committed team performance.

Instead it was another disaster, highlighted by the feeble play of the absolutely horrible Sebastien Squillacci and Johan Djourou. Djourou seems like a nice guy and comes across as a funny person on the weekly Arsenal 360, but the truth is he is a terrible defender. As for Squillacci, an oak tree would probably give Arsenal better defensive cover than the clumsy Frenchman. The 2-0 defeat saw the Gunners exit yet another competition early.

The journalists have been merciless, the fans have been hostile and former players are labeling this Arsenal side the worst they've seen during the Arsene Wenger era. Many are calling for him to be fired and for a massive fire sale of the under performing players.

I agree that changes are necessary, however, the nastiness and entitlement coming from all directions are pretty shocking. The fact that Arsenal have not won a trophy since their 2005 FA Cup victory over Manchester United has been repeated constantly for the past 7 years. I will say that not being a local and not having grown up with a family tradition of Arsenal, may make my assessment of the situation different than others. However, I find a number of the daggers being thrown at Arsenal a bit unfair and a bit over the top. This article from The Telegraph sums up my point very well. 

First, there are only so many trophies up for grabs each season. In looking back at all trophies that have been awarded to English clubs since Arsenal last won one in 2005, there are only 7 teams that have won silverware. Granted five of them are Arsenal's main rivals (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham).  The other two, Birmingham City and Porstmouth have been relegated from the EPL and are playing in lower divisions. So, the truth be told, there are lots of teams that have not won a trophy in 7 years and even more. Of course, we all think that Arsenal are not just another team and that they should be achieving more. Yet a bit of reality is a good thing when looking at the current state of things.

Second, not every team can be the best. Some Arsenal fans seem to behave like Yankee fans in my opinion. As if the trophies and championships are just a foregone conclusion. In the 15 seasons that Arsene Wenger has been in charge, Arsenal have never finished lower than 4th. So, perhaps complacency has set in and we all think it's our divine right to have the best team year in and year out.

In looking back at previous Arsenal seasons, the team finished 5th in 1996, 12th in 1995, 10th in 1993. These are just a few of the seasons where the team underachieved. Did they come back from these down seasons? Yes. Did the club cease to exist and fade into oblivion? No. Folks really need to CHILL OUT. Again, it's just my opinion. Of course I want my team to win everything all the time. Unfortunately life doesn't work that way and fans stick with their team through the good times (there have been many) and the bad times (just the past few seasons and even the bad seasons aren't that bad).


The 1986 New York Mets
When I hear all the nastiness tossed around over Arsenal not winning a trophy in 7 years I can't help but think about how long it's been since the Mets won a championship. It was 1986 to be precise. In a city where the crosstown Yankees buy up as many championships as possible (sort of like Chelsea & now Man City) 26 years seems like a really long time. Of course the Mets had a chance in 2006 and came up short. Then of course they broke fans' hearts by choking down the stretch 2 years in a row in 2007-2008. While Arsenal fans have reason to moan somewhat this season, the Mets practically serve up irritation to their fans on a silver platter. Yet we keep coming back for more.

86 years later
Fans of some other teams would actually consider us Mets fans lucky. Before the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it had been 86 years since Boston were champions.  An entire generation of Red Sox fans never got to see one of the most popular franchises in baseball history win. Still, they are some of the most loyal fans in the game.

As for ongoing droughts...pity the poor Cleveland Indians fan. It's been 63 years since the Indians were on top of the baseball world. Yet super fan John Adam continues to beat his bass drum from the cheap seats season after season. 

Cleveland celebrates in 1948
The trophy for the most loyal suffering fan base has to go to the Chicago Cubs. The last time the Cubs won a championship was 104 years ago in 1908. Despite this, Cubs fans pack Wrigley Field every season.

It may not be fair to compare the two sports, but as someone used to supporting a perennial loser (the Mets), a 7 year drought between trophies for Arsenal is a bummer but not a sign of imminent collapse of one of England's most successful clubs.
104 years and counting for Chicago Cubs fans

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Remembering Gary Carter

Arsenal are taking a back seat today as the sad news that Gary Carter has died from brain cancer was announced this afternoon.  The former Mets catcher was first diagnosed with brain tumors less than a year ago and the disease quickly took his life in an incredibly cruel fashion.

For Mets fans, Carter will always be remembered as the catcher for the 1986 World Series Championship team. His single in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 with the Mets down by 2 runs with 2 out was the catalyst for one of the most incredible comebacks in baseball history. The image of Carter celebrating in the arms of pitcher Jesse Orosco after the Mets clinched the series is one of those indelible images forever ingrained in the minds of all Mets fans.

The Hall of Famer is being spoke of in glowing terms by his former teammates and fellow players. In a testament to his love of the game, Carter showed up to opening night of Palm Beach Atlantic University's season just two weeks ago tonight. As the team's head coach, Carter was committed to being there for the start of the new season despite his grave condition.                                                                                  Gary Carter is gone too soon. He will be missed but always remembered.