Little different approach to this here blog-o-roonie for a Monday morning.
The English/Barclay's Premier League was off for the weekend to make way for the FA Cup. Nothing against tradition -- I love any competition that dates back to the days of Old Hoss Radbourn as much as the next guy -- but the FA Cup simply doesn't translate, or more specifically resonate for me. Yes, the David v. Goliath aspect is appealing, as well as the idea of any two-bit pub team conceivably having the same chance to play at Wembley Stadium as a mega-club like Manchester United or Arsenal.
Yet, no matter how you slice it, the enduring appeal of the FA Cup is it remains in the fuzzy realm of English sports romanticism.
It's an idea, or a way to hearken back to the halcyon days of yore, as much as it is a sports tournament, which is slightly strange since the Premier League is a global phenomenon. The FA Cup remains an English cultural institution. Coming across the Atlantic, it gets lost in translation, sort of like the NCAA basketball tournament probably does from a non-gambling aspect.
Saturday and Sunday I tried to watch some of the Cup games here or there. The Manchester United/Liverpool game was interesting for everything that wasn't happening on the field itself. (Nice flop, Dimitar Berbatov.) It was eye-raising to see Newcastle United meltdown against some team called Stevenage. Manchester City drawing away to Sven-Goran Eriksson's Leicester City, too, was something a little different.
Overall, however, the FA Cup remains one of those English things no matter how hard I try I can't get into, sort of like the show "Absolutely Fabulous"(*), the music of Robbie Williams or steak and kidney pie.
(*) One thing about the show, "Ab Fab," I'd remember coming home from school and it would be on Comedy Central -- back before it got all highbrow with fake news shows for yuppies -- and I'd want to punch myself in the junk repeatedly. Yes, changing the channel to a "MacGyver" rerun was an easy fix to the problem, though it seemed this awful import was on all the time.
Looking for a soccer fix, like most of you I perused around the globe, watching Jose Mourinho try to incite a riot at Villareal, or AC Milan and Udinese combine for about six goals in ten minutes at the San Siro, or Ryan Babel continuing to make his impact on the Twitter world, rather than the field itself.
The weekend for me, and millions of other Americans, belonged to the NFL.
From a pure logic standpoint, it would easy to loathe the NFL for its rampant commercialism, Phil Simms and Troy Aikman's continued assault on our eardrums, lite beer advertising, the lack of player safety, "mongo" fans, the replay/challenge system, Tom Brady, etc.
(*) Mongo is a term I picked up on a message board I frequent. Hard to describe, best look at a picture. These are sports mongos. You know the type, the crazy, irrational fans who dress up for games. The type of folks that call in sports radio stations to make inane points or scream about how much somebody "sucks." It's a perfect term, except for the fact if you use it in polite company they probably think you're using it as some kind of slur, as Urban Dictionary would define it. To wit, I offer this clip from "Blazing Saddles" and former Chicago Bear turned WCW wrerstler, Steve "Mongo" McMichael. Let's move on, eh?
For better or worse, I'm a New York Jets fan so Saturday proved to be a hell of a satisfying night.
What's best about my Jets fandom is, I don't take it too seriously. I don't read a ton -- if anything -- on the team. I don't go to message boards or forums. I certainly don't blog about it. I tune in for games on Sundays, form my own opinions, enjoy the wins, stew about the losses and move on with my life, crossing my fingers the squad doesn't embarrass itself in the meantime. Granted, with team which takes it upon itself to call its receiving corps the "Flight Boyz", well, it's easier said than done.
It's simple this way, the whole not wearing it on your sleeve thing.
With this blog, if you read it regularly, my two main topics are the plight of the U.S. National (Soccer) Team on the English Premier League. As you call tell, the writing is much different for each subject. With the U.S. I grew up as a fan, therefore there's a much more personal attachment, though, the downside is that by writing about a team you're a fan of you tend to take a much more critical eye, thereby becoming you're own walking contarian. Instead of watching a match for pure entertainment, you're looking for angles and topics, thus decreasing the enjoyment level.
With the EPL, I'm an agnostic. I don't have a favorite team, though if there's a God his name is Gareth Bale and plays for Tottenham. My opinions sway, like five years ago I irrationally held a soft spot in my heart for Mark Hughes' Blackburn Rovers, now I could care less about the Chicken Boys. This is both good and bad, it allows you to play Devil's Advocate and tweak all 20 teams in the league equally, but its a very sterile existence, beyond the occasional transcendent plays that make the spirit soar, you're writing from a purely critical, non-emotional standpoint.
And speaking of spirits soaring, that was what happened Saturday night when the Jets beat the Colts 17-16.
Not sure exactly why this was so, as I came into the game with 0.0 expectations, doing my best to tune out the words, "Rex," "Ryan," "foot" and "fetish" the best I could. Like another famous Jets' fan -- Larry David -- my enthusiasm was curbed, mainly for the fact my realism toward the team convinced my mind that it wasn't going to be possible for the Jets to win this game and then go on to beat the Patriots in the next round.
Whatever, didn't matter, since the Jets did indeed pull one out of the fire.
Maybe it was because it proved to be a come-from-behind nail-biter, concluded by a game-winning field goal by maligned kicker Nick Folk. Maybe it was because it came against NFL golden boy Peyton Manning on his home turf. Maybe it was because WFAN host Mike Francesa goes out of his way to hate on the Jets. Maybe it was because Mark Sanchez actually threw a ball Braylon Edwards could make an acrobatic play to catch.
As soon as the ball went through the uprights with 0:00 in the Lucas Field scoreboard, I was downright giddy, grinning ear to ear.
Ever seen the old black-and-white "A Christmas Carol" starring Alastair Sim? Remember the scene were Scrooge wakes up realizing he's not dead and still can change his life and dances a jig around his house? That was me. (Here's the clip. God Bless YouTube, one and all.)
Out at the bar later I couldn't stop beaming -- or busting out in impromptu (awful) dance moves, even with the Black Eyed Peas playing. (Yes, for shame. For shame.)
It was a totally euphoric, body high, which reminded you why you go through your life devoting all this time to such -- let's face it -- downright silly pursuit as sports. For all the misery, for all the anxiety, for all the wasted hours ... we simply hold out hope for a payoff like this every once and a while, even if it's just a win in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs.
So as much as I poo-pooed the FA Cup earlier in this post, today I can relate to fans of Stevenage or Leicester City or Notts County or any of the other unheralded clubs which lodged positive results. Who am I or anyone to rain on your parade?
Being a sports fan, sometimes, it needs to be reminded, are about pure unbridled joy and euphoria not second guesses, snarky commentary and advanced analytic metrics.
As they say, "Sing when you're winning."