I didn’t fall in love with Arsenal, the club fell in love with me.
A few years ago, I was drinking some kombucha and perusing around my new neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. I passed by a video game store, and saw they were selling the latest Madden NFL game. I went in to buy it, but they had sold out, so I asked for whatever the next best football game was.
It wasn’t until I made it home and popped the game into my Xbox, that I realized I’d actually been sold a soccer game. I was a massive NFL and Quidditch fan, but I knew nothing about soccer. Confused, but intrigued, I started it up and began to explore.
I made my way to the team selection screen, and then it happened. I was immediately hit by Cupid’s arrow, or actually I guess it was his cannonball. There it was, the most beautiful sports logo in the world: A cannon.
I had been a bit afraid that liking soccer would turn me into a speedo-wearing socialist, but what better way to hold onto my American values than by picking a team called The Gunners? As an Arsenal fan, no one would ever be able to make fun of me for anything ever again!
I didn’t even need to look at anymore clubs, it was fate that the first team alphabetically would be the one for me. I was head over heels in love with The Arsenal.
Later that season, I went to my first game. It was February 16th, 2011; Arsenal against Barcelona at the Emirates.
It’s tough to put into words how life-changing it was to walk into the Emirates for the first time. The stadium was so big, and so red. I sat in my seat and started crying, because it was padded and so damn comfortable. Luckily, I had purchased a half-and-half scarf which I used to dry my tears.
Then the match started, and it didn’t start well. Some Spanish guy with a beard scored for Barcelona, and I wondered if I’d made a horrible mistake. Here I was, a die-hard Arsenal fan of 3 months, and my team was losing to Barcelona in the Last 16 of the Champions League. I knew I deserved better than this. I had momentarily forgotten the manager’s name, but I started having thoughts about possible replacements. Maybe Phil Jackson or Bill Belichick could make the transition to soccer?
But Arsenal came out a lot stronger in the second half. And the crowd responded like I’d never seen at an American sporting event. They started singing. At first I thought it was thousands of people simultaneously making whale noises, but then I made out the words reverberating around that sacred ground.
“And it’s Aaaaaaarsenal FC. We’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen!”
It was an amazing chorus, sung by aging men wearing red scarfs and those hats everyone has in Peaky Blinders. But then it started hurting my ears and I hoped that the library-like quiet of the first half would return.
Eventually, Arsenal came from behind and won. It was a thrilling ending, with two goals in the final minutes. I actually missed both goals as I was Facetiming a friend, but still, what an experience!
He hadn’t gotten on the scoresheet, but Jack Wilshere stole my heart that day. Jack was my pick for game MVP. He was just too classy for the Barcelona players, he was literally running circles around them. I was even more impressed when a nice man, who oddly kept referring to me as a member of his family, told me that “He’s only 19 blud.”
19-years-old and he was already better at soccer than a group of short, bearded Spanish men? Clearly Jack Wilshere was on pace to become the greatest athlete to ever live. Nothing could hold him back.
And nothing could hold me back either! I walked out of that stadium and declared myself a fan for life.
Years later, I still bleed red for Arsenal Football Club. We’re bad, and Wilshere got traded to Bournemouth, so I don’t watch the games anymore. But I still love to discuss them on Twitter and Reddit. And I always play as the mighty Arsenal in FIFA. If you see “The Fighting Ozils” on Ultimate Team, that’s me. Check out all those in-forms!
Next year I’m planning to make another trip to London and to the Emirates. I’m against modern football so I won’t go to the match, but I’m needed there for an urgent medical operation.
I plan to donate my ankles to Jack Wilshere, because I want him to be free to run around like he once did against Barcelona. I want him to be free to share cigarettes in the dressing room with Wojciech Szczesny. And most of all, I want him to be free to headbutt as many Marouane Fellaini’s as he’d like.
I’ll happily spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, if it means that one day the fans at the Emirates will sing my name as they take their selfies and eat their prawn sandwiches.
The Short Fuse has been taken over today by Cartilage Free Captain, SB Nation's Tottenham Hotspur blog! For the humor-impaired, articles posted today are intended to be parody and do not reflect the views (or even the writing!) of The Short Fuse writing staff.