This is going to sound strange, but I only honestly thought Arsenal wasn't going to win the FA Cup for about two moments yesterday. One was immediately after Curtis Davies scored. (The other was around the 65th minute, and I'm not really sure why it happened.) I had a flashback to the Carling Cup final from a few years ago and almost expected Davies to run by Laurent Koscielny and slap the back of his head, or something.
But that passed quickly. What I actually said - to some guy wearing an Aaron Ramsey shirt who I'd never met, and to myself as well - was "well, we've got plenty of time to come back."
We've talked a lot this past year or so about new beginnings. Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have navigated a dry period in terms of money and come out the other side, with a spectacular stadium, a strong financial foundation, and a great young core. Then we bookended the year doing two things some thought Wenger might never do again. First, he dropped fat stacks on a bonafide world superstar (and elven king) in Mesut Ozil. Then to close the year, he won us a trophy.
All year I've felt like this is the first year of a new age in Arsenal history - I know I'm not exactly the only one to say that, but I feel it's true. And I found myself thinking, while we were two-nil down and fighting our way back into the game, that this game had to happen this way. It had to remind us of all the things we've had to go through to get to this point. We had to do it one more time before we could move on. The 2014 FA Cup final is, I hope, a kind of crucible in which the last remnants of the last age of Arsenal - the players leaving, the capitulations to crap teams, the failures to get the job done when it mattered most - can finally be burned away, leaving us with the pure new article. The one where the nine minutes of terror are outweighed by the 111 minutes that came after. The one where world-class players score world-class goals in crunch time to win shiny jugs. The one where Arsene Wenger gets carried aloft by his players, drenched in champagne.
I was talking to some other Arsenal fans on Twitter earlier this week - both, like me, from North America - and it occurred to us that we'd all started religiously following Arsenal in the same season, in 2008-2009. It occurred to us that this was the closest any of us had come to actually seeing Arsenal win something. A lot of international fans are the same way, I feel like. Just because of the timing of when it became easy to watch Arsenal in other countries, it seems like a lot of people came in at around the same time, and none of us had seen Arsenal win anything. Yesterday was big for all Arsenal fans, but really, for people like me, I think it meant something a little different. Not necessarily better, but different.
I'm hoping this is just the start. I'm hoping this really is the beginning of a new age, where champagne flows like water and we use trophies for paperweights. I hope tomorrow is like today.