|Heads up, yo.|
Suppose, it's fitting, isn't it, that Manchester City celebrated its historic 1-0(*) victory over Manchester United by playing the ever-popular and evergreen singalong, "Hey Jude" as pure jubilation poured over the Eithad Stadium.
(*) SEISMIC SHIFT IN ENGLISH SOCCER!!! -- every writer on the planet.
Na na na, na-na na na
Na-na na na, hey Jude.
I'll be honest, although at this point in my existence, I'm pretty much a cynical, dried up husk of a human being, the end of the game and ensuing singing by the City fans did give me some genuine goosebumps. Granted, it this reaction might have been slightly chemical altered because it's abundantly clear that Dunkin' Donuts swaps out sugar and replaces it with a combination of crack-cocaine and methamphetamine when it makes iced coffee. Remember that old episode of "The Simpsons" where security footage showed Apu buzzing around the Kwik-E-Mart like a hummingbird? Picture that, or Michael Scott after eating a gourmet pretzel with every topping on it.
Enough about me and my reactions to caffeine and sugar, though, right? Yes, it's as fascinating as a subject as there is on the Internet, but we've got so much more to do and so little time to do it. Wait, reverse that, Wonka style.
If there's one place to begin with Manchester City, it's the fans, which might be the only redeeming factor in their likely run to the 2011-12 Premier League title. It says something about the character of a person to elect to root for the weak sister professional sports team of a city, especially when you have a team which has basically won everything on earth over the last two decades nearby, yet a portion of Manchester opts for the sky blue and finally they seem to have gotten their reward. Take you cliche here that the working class, "genuine" or "authentic" Manchester people root for City over United, but even if it gets to be a little rote at this juncture there is a kernel of truth to it. Not sure exactly where the Gallagher Bros. fall into the equation, but they seem like real fans who live and die with the team, not some celeb who just bought a scarf at the team store that morning. (Cough, cough, Drake.)
So yeah, full marks for the Manchester City fans. They win the day for me, because otherwise -- as I've written about repeatedly in this space -- City does nothing for me since you can't effectively and truthfully cast them as an underdog, hero or villain or put the white hat or black hat atop them. City sort of just ... exists.
Throw in all popular, powerful and preeminent teams in the world they illicit an immediate reaction. Think the Yankees or the Cowboys or the Lakers or Real Madrid or whomever. Maybe it's hate and loathing, but it's a reaction.
No team, however, inspires as much of an overall vibe of "meh" than City. Take away the antics of Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez, what's left? A collection of high-priced players and Roberto Mancini's blue-and-white kerchief? It's hard to work up and level of embrace or emninty toward this club -- at least until the eventual lame Hollywood celebs start sitting courtside at Lakers games in sky blue jerseys or greasy Williamsburg hipsters begin to co-opt the City brand, whatever it might become.
As it stands, City aren't out-and-out dislikeable since the bandwagon has hardly begun to form up -- a major factor why half the world seems to knee at the altar of Sir Alex Ferguson, while the other reviles it. Nor is City's club captain -- Vincent Kompany -- a girlfriend stealing, racist, cretin like a certain other noveau riche club from England.
And even with all the players City have brought in for whatever ungodly sum of money, all the spending hasn't fell as arrogant and swagger-filled as, say, Real Madrid.
So there's no real reasons to out-and-out dislike City.
Under Roberto Mancini they've certainly evolved from the best 1999 Serie A team money could buy, which they were at the start of last season, to a fairly attractive side to watch. Not sure they're as compelling, from a sporting standpoint, that what clubs like Swansea City, Newcastle United or even Norwich City -- a squad with next to zero previous EPL experience on its roster -- did this season, but hey, when and if City win in a couple weeks they'll be no disparaging the title as some still do to Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in 2005 with his nefarious, defensive tactics, will there?
Yet there's no reason to trumpet Monday's victory -- which likely -- gives them the EPL title to be looked at through the prism of good triumphing over evil. Whatever underdog points City might have accrued throughout the years, going back to the days of Bert Trautmann or Maine Road, it's all out the window once the oil money from the Middle East was injected into the club. Choosing to root for City, in the last two years, is classic bandwagon jumping no other way to spin it.
Pretty sure, though, the long-suffering, "authentic" Manchester City fans will sign for this trade-off, right? Let's see ... a Premier League title or the respect of some pale-faced, winy, wise-ass half the world away in Connecticut?
Na na na, na-na na na
Hard to say, too, when the league ends in a few weeks how this title charge will be framed? Almost impossible to see it any other way than Manchester United choking -- big time. An eight point lead with, what, five matches to go? Of course, this doesn't fit the long-standing Sir Alex Ferguson "mind games" narrative, United have no one else to blame for losing to Wigan for the first time in seemingly the history of recorded time and gagging a 4-2 lead at Old Trafford to Everton in the span of a week.
That's a choke.
If you peel away the onion, there's always this way to look at it, however.
One of the worst sports radio tropes, at least in New York, is when a mongo caller dials up Mike Francesa and wants to go position-by-position with the New York Yankees and Mets. Yes, it happens more than you think, especially when Hosey Reyes was still playing shortstop in Flushing.
Using that highly, stress highly, scientific, method if you go across the pitch with City and United, where exactly would you find a big advantage for the Red Devils? Maybe you can say Ashley Young (awful as a sub Monday) and Antonio Valencia are purer wingers than anyone City has, but by that token who does United have to compare in the same sentence with David Silva or Samir Nasri?
Wayne Rooney, on song, is obviously one of the best forwards in the world but this season, especially, he's not going to beat out Kun Aguero, or Tevez (when he decided to play) or even the insane yet occasionally brilliant Balotelli.
Let's make it easy: who'd you rather have in your midfield: Yaya Toure or Ji-Sung Park?
All 2012 we've wondered how this non-vintage, duct tape and rubber band United team -- yes, Paul Scholes is being compared to rubber bands here -- going to win a title when the best City team in history was going to end up second? Now, with two matches remaining, unless City stumble at Newcastle United -- which could happen -- the Premier League is almost going to end the way it probably should.
How does that make you feel?
If you hate Sir Alex and his smug, gum-chewing face right down to fabric of your DNA, then you're probably super happy. I mean, how dare somebody you know jump on the bandwagon of the world's most popular team, right? Serves those arrogant jerks right to get knocked down a peg, especially by their neighbors, no?
However, if you've accepted Manchester United, long ago, as a necessary evil in the framework of soccer, you're sort of in the boat with me.
I'm Happy for City, I guess, change is allegedly good, right? Overall it's a big fat "meh."
"Hoosiers" ... or even "The Mighty Ducks" for that matter, this aint.
Na na na, na-na na na
At least it sounded good.
Three Other Tiny Thoughts:
* Write it down without fail, at least 80 percent of the time when you get a mega-hyped, mega-watched soccer game it's going to be a cagey, taught affair like we saw today at the Eithad. The fact Manchester United didn't get a shot on target all match says it all. It also earns, yes, Chelsea some begrudging points for what the Blues were able to accomplish over two legs vs. Barcelona in the Champions League. (However, Bayern Muenchen lalalalalala)
That's not to say the game was bad or boring -- the final 20 minutes were high-wire, edge of your seat stuff, but it seems big soccer matches tend not to live up to the hype as much as we'd like. This one, as usual, was more about the result than the game itself creating the drama and tension.
* Kompany's game-winning header has roughly been scored, by my count, 659,122 times in games of "FIFA 12" this season -- about 89 percent by David Luiz, who apparently in the game is impossible to mark on corner kicks.
* Not the most insightful thought, but Manchester United -- in its weakened current state -- needed a player to proverbially "step up" or find a moment of brilliance and that didn't happen.