The Arsenal (make me want to off myself)

Chelsea: 6 Arsenal: 0

Hope is a powerful emotion, and one that we spend our lives embracing: we hope that our hard works pays off with a promotion, that there won’t be much traffic on the way home, that the weather clears up by the weekend, or that we pulled out in time. Hope and optimism are tied together, and without them, the troubles and pains we face in our lives would seem insurmountable — we need hope to survive. This optimism and the persistence it creates is one of man’s greatest attributes, and deserves celebration. Yet, hope can be an evil mistress, and without warning, it can transform into ruinous delusion. This has been my plight today.

Rationally, I knew that Arsenal’s chances of winning the EPL this year were pretty low after the winter transfer window, during which, instead of buying attacking reinforcements, they took an injured Swedish midfielder on loan who is still yet to debut for the club. I knew it didn’t look good. And then the injuries kept coming. The first eleven became like an emergency condom created in the last minute from a roommate’s saran wrap; it works, until it doesn’t, and when it fails, the failure is catastrophic. Today, Arsenal’s makeshift condom broke, and all of its fans are now pregnant with a sticky, unnerving despair.

Who, me?

Of course, on paper, I knew it was over long ago, but is the game played on paper? Oh no, it sure as hell is not! There’s the human factor of unpredictability, the one that makes us watch the sport in the first place, and what kind of optimist would I be if I didn’t believe that Arsenal’s team chemistry, grit, and belief – its intangibles – could make up for having an inferior squad list?

(A reasonable one, as it turns out.)

Today, I had to ask myself: why do I even support Arsenal? Every year, 20 teams compete in the EPL. As an American, I could support any of them. Yet, I choose the one that, year after year, comes frustratingly close to victory, only to falter in the final stages. The truth: I associate Arsenal with benevolence, with all that is good in the world, with chocolate chip cookies. Maybe this is due to their lovably philosophical manager and his fixture as an icon at the club in an era of constant sackings, or their policy of putting faith in young, unknown players and developing them into stars, or perhaps it is the free-flowing possession oriented style with which they play. For whatever reason, I see them as the America of WWII, as The Beatles in ’65, as the good guys.

If Arsenal are the good guys, then Chelsea are the villains. I imagine Chelsea as a team of ruthless mercenaries, with their services paid off by a mysterious Russian billionaire, true to the script. During games, as Abramovich stands eerily in shadow, grimacing even when Chelsea leads, I can’t help but think that he is plotting something sinister, probably to do with the Balkans. Abramovich’s close ties to Russia’s de facto dictator Vladimir Putin encourage this slanderous archetype, and allows the current manager, José Mourinho, to play the role of the bewildering, daring, and genius KGB agent with nothing to lose. Having been inundated with lingering anti-Russian sentiments from the Cold War, this team screams evil. Today, like Crimea, Arsenal stood no chance, and was easily conquered.

Abramovich returns to the game after (presumedly) waterboarding the fourth official.

When I watched the team self-destruct within the first ten minutes today, something inside of me broke. The veil was lifted, the spell broken; I knew that my hope had become delusion, and now both were gone. In their void came a great sadness. The good guys had lost, and the bad guys would win it all. All hope was gone, and no reinforcements were coming. Had I come to terms with their inadequacy as title challengers months ago, today might’ve been an easier pill to swallow. As it was, it made me sick.

Today, hope betrayed me.

I hope that’s the last time.

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