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Why are you still watching Arsenal?

In which we probe our collective psyche.

FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-LEICESTER Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images

Sports fandom, as we all know, can be...irrational at times. People have all sorts of rituals and traditions that relate to their sports teams. Lucky shirts, hats, or other game-day clothing; always taking the same route and/or going to the same bar before going to a game; when something you do causes the team to score, you feel like you should always do it, etc. We all do it, to an extent, and it’s part of what binds us to the sports and teams we love.

That irrationality - and I possess it just as much as anybody - is stretched almost to the breaking point when your favorite team is playing badly. I don’t mean just having one bad game - all teams do that. I mean stretches like Arsenal are in now, where nothing is seemingly going right, games aren’t going the team’s way, and they’re not even particularly fun to watch for the most part.

And watching is what I’m here to talk about today. Specifically, the question I posed in the headline - why are you still watching this team right now? They’re sort of a hot mess, they’re not set up to succeed, and watching the fans at the Emirates tear Xhaka apart yesterday was no fun at all, even for me who is not the biggest Xhaka fan in the world.

I mean, there’s lots of reasons to watch, I guess. You may be watching the team, in hopes that they’ll turn it around. You may be watching to see the progression of individual players. You may be watching because you are curious about the opposition, and want to see them in action. You may also be hate-watching! You may be watching precisely because Arsenal are terrible, and for whatever reason, watching this team circle the drain hits some of your pleasure centers.

The great thing about sports is, none of these answers are wrong! Nor is “I’m not”. If you’ve mostly checked out, that makes sense; there’s lots of other entertainment options in the world, and choosing one that makes you happy is probably a healthier choice for you. But if you’re still watching, I’d be interested in hearing why - not that you have to defend your choice, I’m just genuinely curious, for those of us that are still watching, what draws us in.

For me, it’s the endless cycle of new, for lack of a better way to put it. I want to see how Kieran Tierney integrates. I want to see how much better Lucas Torreira can get. I want to see how dominant Nicolas Pepe can be. There’s always someone new to check out, and that‘s fun for me, even when the team as a whole isn’t.

I still want Arsenal to win games, don’t get me wrong, and I’m sad when they don’t, but that sadness is somewhat fleeting, because part of my brain knows that the results don’t matter; Arsenal aren’t winning the title and will be about the same club they were last season. I know this song, I’ve heard it before, it’s familiar. At this point, I’m less concerned with Arsenal results than I am curious to see individual Arsenal performances, big-picture wise.

So I watch every week, looking at individual performances, and taking happiness from those where I can.

What’s your reason for watching these days? What about Arsenal brings you happiness or pleasure?