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Saturday
Nov192011

Half A World Apart

BY JON MCCLINTOCK / @jmcclintock

I'm one of the red and white diaspora. The far-flung tribe of those who love The Arsenal from time zones afar, the ones who keep odd hours and adorn themselves in fan-ware our friends don't understand.

We're the ones who awake in the dark - or stay up way too late  - the unnumbered cult who invent reasons to leave work after lunch to see a Champions League fixture at 2.45pm knowing its taking place half a world away at the end of the day. We don’t live there, but we care about the North London Derby.  We live in a place where football means something to us, but not to all.

Our significant others are those who accept- some more easily than others - that a fairly expensive and exotic TV cable or satellite bill is the cost of us being happy. (In order to get Fox Soccer in the U.S. on satellite TV, you must also buy every premium movie channel - and spend another $15 to get Fox Soccer Plus/Champions League.) Perhaps, in reaction, that's why I have a spouse who supports Manchester United above all, and anyone who plays against Arsenal as a back-up – it’s what we call love in the USA.

My life takes place 3631 miles from London. But distance is neither a cushion nor a refuge from the travails of the Gunners.  I wrote to Arseblogger forlornly telling him earlier in the summer that I was having a serious re-think about renewing my $70+ a month Arsenal video habit.  I felt, on a very personal level, that I was committing more to the club than its players and coaches.

Ridiculous , I know, but in your heart-of-hearts you have to admit the pain of last season and the start of this outing was not unlike the fading days of a love affair gone wrong. Anger, disappointment, despair, lowered expectations, feelings of dread.  Wait, aren't I describing depression?  I think I am.  

The shit sandwich of a thrashing by United was cruel and saw the TV remote thrown hard at the couch. It was immediately followed by the dizzying, final hours of the transfer market, a welcome distraction , akin to the brief high of a candy bar. A win, a draw...a defeat to Blackburn. Was that really this season?

This club that seems to love to break our hearts, whose ability to self-destruct froze my fingers as they prepared to re-new my budget-breaking TV package, had a strikingly ordinary game recently against West Bromwich Albion and clinically defeated a team as overwhelming favourites should.  Only a Gooner can read that last sentence and see the wonderfully irrational rationality of joy embedded in it.  We beat the piss out of a "lesser" club - and we did it after a totally unpredictable trouncing of a better club.  It doesn't happen that often anymore, does it?

And it wasn't only Super RVP, it was the return of the Verminator, the blossoming of Mikel Arteta and the emergence of a midfield unit that at long-last soothes the ache in the heart caused by Cesc’s departure.

It was just a blink, almost a footnote in a season that lasts forever. But an Arsenal supporter has learned to revel in stats that proclaim we actually won four league games in a row.

Suddenly, and I mean I am truly shocked, I think we can do anything.  There's a normalcy returning to my soul. It feels very Arsenal. It compels me to skive off work early once again and, yes, lures me back to the satellite provider.

North London and Williamsburg, Pennsylvania USA don't feel so distant anymore.

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