I tend to get attached to athletes relatively easily. If someone plays for a team that I like, I'm going to like him (or her) basically no matter what, even if the player has some sort of awful personality defect. I cheered Curt Schilling for years, so I can do almost anything.
But there are tiers of love for me, even then. I like all Arsenal players (though in the case of someone like Sebastien Squillaci, it's more like a crushing pity), but I don't like them all in the same way. There are some who I truly love to watch, who I want to succeed in every way possible; and there are some who I basically only care about because of the crest on the shirt.
Robin van Persie was the former case.
I'm not really sure exactly why I liked him so much. At least a bit of it was the fact that he was one of the first footballers that my dad and I had a bonding moment over, when I started getting into the sport. My dad went to high school in Belgium and has always had a soft spot for the Dutch, so when I'd watch the Oranje in the 2006 World Cup (to see van Persie play, mostly), he'd get interested too. He's not a huge football fan - he understands and likes the sport, but isn't as immersed in it as with other sports, or as I am - but that was something that opened the sport up for us.
And part of it was just that he was really good (when he was healthy, of course), and that he was the man who scored perhaps my favorite Arsenal goal ever. Honestly, a huge part of why I think the sale of van Persie to Manchester United is upsetting me is the nostalgia value. That goal is totally different in my mind now. This video is probably my favorite Arsenal highlight ever, and now it's doubly ruined. It's not just that videos of goals lose their luster: almost every memory of last season that I have (the good ones, at least) involve van Persie in some way. Last year was his year, and in retrospect, I enjoyed it quite a bit. And now the memories of it are forever altered, like memories of fun times you had with a girlfriend who then dumps you to date the guy who keyed your car.
I understand why this happened on a logical level, and on that level I'm happy with it, or at least as happy as I could be about Arsenal selling our best player. As I said yesterday, getting your rival to spend £24million or so on a player who publicly wanted to leave, and who plays a position where they don't need help, is a good bit of business for Arsenal. I respectfully disagree somewhat with what Graham MacAree said: I don't necessarily think that Arsenal "won" this deal*, because we're losing our best player to a team we're competing with. But considering the position Arsenal were put in by Robin van Persie's Statement, this is a decent end to the nightmare. It's not totally a loss either.
*I also think it's hard to say who "wins" or "loses" a deal the day it's made. If Robin trips over one of Shaqueel's toys today and suffers a compound fracture in his leg, it looks a lot better for Arsenal. If he scores 40 goals next season, it looks decent for Manchester United. It's too soon to tell.
But as much as I wish it was, sport is not about logic, or rationality. I liked Robin van Persie a lot. Maybe it was dumb, but I thought he honestly cared about Arsenal, with all of that "Number 1 Fan" stuff and the picture of him in Arsenal kit as a kid. Not rational, but emotional. After we qualified for the Champions League (again) last year, I thought he'd sign with Arsenal long-term, because what else could you want? An offered pay raise, Champions League football, new good players coming in - what else was there? Evidently the answer to that is "£225,000-a-week." Not rational, but emotional. I hoped we'd send him to the continent, even for a bit less money, so that I wouldn't have to see or hear about him as much. Not rational, but emotional.
This is a bad situation all-around, and it was dealt with in what appears to be the best way possible. I can see that logically. But I'm not going to be happy with it, not for a while. This is a player I loved, and while that may be silly, and while I know there wasn't really a way out of this, it's upsetting.
Related: BBC: Robin van Persie was "open to staying," Wenger said no | Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!