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Tuesday
Nov012011

A Different Brand of Class

BY RYAN SNYDER / @RyanPSnyder

I sort of chose Arsenal like I choose wine - by the name and the label. I mean, a cannon? How awesome is that? But, of course, there was more to it than that.

As an American, I was never able to watch much English football. Though I'd played "soccer" most of my life, I'd never actually watched any, apart from during the World Cups. But I loved the sport. It was fascinating and enthralling, and I wanted a team to call my own.

Unfortunately it was still off-season when I came to this decision, so I had nothing to watch just yet. I spent my time huddled excitedly in front of computers in my school library, reading and learning about each team instead of doing work for my classes. An education could wait. I was choosing a future much more important.

I made a list of all the teams that filled my requirements - talent, heart, but mostly a rich history, a die-hard fanbase, and long-standing tradition. These were the things I loved and valued from my university's sports teams(the University of Kansas Jayhawks, for the curious), and I wanted that carried over into my football club.

The list grew longer, but time and again my eyes would drift to the top. "Arsenal," it read. I didn't know what kept catching my eye. Maybe the simplicity, maybe the sound. It just sounded cool. Arsenal. It rolled off the tongue.

Then the season started and I was able to whittle my list down. Unfortunately, living in America, I was only able to watch the big-named, money-maker clubs. Manchester United and Chelsea, mostly, but Liverpool occasionally as well. They were on every weekend, so I used their fixtures to scout my teams.

Little by little my list grew shorter. This team is nice. They have talent, they have good fans. But I'd think, "I don't know. No, it doesn't seem right. Something is missing." I was starting to get nervous. My list was growing very short. What if I didn't find a club at all? What if nothing felt right? Over and over I'd watch the dwindling teams on my list and think, "Something is missing. This isn't the one."

And then I watched The Arsenal, and I knew what had been missing in those other clubs: class. That isn't to say that no other club had class or that Arsenal even had more class, but Arsenal possessed this different brand of class, this air of almost stubborn sportsmanship that was visibly noticeable. It was astonishing. And it wasn't just the team, it was the manager. And, looking back, that may have been the true dividing point.

Arsene Wenger seemed to hold his team to such a high standard of class and sportsmanship, you could tell that were any player caught lowering himself to the level of any other team, he would be sorely disappointed. The way your parents never get mad, just "disappointed." It instils a much more terrible, guilty feeling. But I'd found them. They had talent, a top squad, great fans, and a rich history of legendary players. Everything felt right.

I don't even remember the match in which I first saw Arsenal, but I remember the feeling. "This is it," I'd thought. "This is them. The team. My team."

I spent the next off-season reading the history, learning about the players old and new, and getting to know the team. I was a Gooner, dammit, and I was going to bleed red (Arsenal red, of course, not that boring iron-filled burgundy bullshit). The first real match I remember was the '09-10 opener against Everton. A 6-1 shellacking (is that a British term? Am I doing this right?) that's had me hooked ever since. I was officially a Gooner. I am a Gooner. I will always be a Gooner.

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