Sunday, August 15, 2010
My First Date With Arsenal
This weekend was all about EPL in our household. "Eat, Pray, Love" starring Julia Roberts for my wife, and the opening weekend of the English Premier League for me. I think I had more fun.
I was pretty excited about seeing my newly adopted Arsenal Gunners play a match that mattered. I had watched a couple of the preseason "friendlies" as they are called, but that's like watching preseason NFL football--you know it doesn't matter, so you are quickly bored. By the way, there are WAY too many "friendlies" in soccer--just like we have too many NFL preseason games, too many college football bowl games, and too many Globetrotters games each year. Give us a break. Let us enjoy the stuff that really matters, and quit the sham that is exhibition sports. And in the case of the Globetrotters, at least give them someone else to play besides the Generals so that buying into it isn't so difficult.
This weekend's action had the same feel to it that the opening weekend of the NFL has--except that it's only been a two month off-season for the EPL, and the NFL makes us wait seven months (have I really just made a 10 month commitment to a sport that I might not like?). I watched the EPL preview show on the Fox Soccer Channel (which is now in HD--thank God), and I've read up as much as I could on my new team. Arsenal hasn't won anything in the last four seasons (except that glorious weekend last month when they retained the prestigious Emirates Cup), but they are highly thought of which makes it fun to watch a team that may be on the cusp of something big. I was ready to go.
The Gunners were taking on Bob Sturm's Liverpool club. A classic Musers vs BAD Radio clash, and a classic season opening matchup of two sides who are almost always among the best in the league. The game was 0-0 at the start, and 0-0 at the half (what have I gotten into, again?). Liverpool scored quickly to open the second half, and in the last minute of action, Arsenal got a cheap goal to tie the game at 1-1. I was thrilled with the cheap goal--there is nothing worse than losing your opener in any sport. Today, I learned to appreciate kissing my sister.
Other thoughts from my first regular season Arsenal watch:
Is there a sport where going a man down matters less than in soccer? A Liverpool chap was red-carded (kicked out) late in the first half, which meant the Reds played with 10 men to Arsenal's 11 the rest of the way. "We'll kill them!" I thought, thinking of my Gunners now on a hockey-like power play for the second half. In reality, you couldn't tell a difference. Instead of being a man down, Liverpool looked like they were three men up.
The flopping is outrageous!! Don't these guys know that we have instant replay and can clearly see that they were not touched?? They will writhe around in pain as though they've just been Joe Theismann'd. Floppers in the NBA are actors, but they are Oscar winners compared to soccer guys. The cheap playlet often ends with a stretcher being brought out--I've never seen that during an NBA game--I think even Rudy T. walked off under his own power.
The atmosphere at the stadium looks great. The fans are singing and chanting all game long. Is it because they are drunk, or bored, or simply because they're such great fans? I'm thinking all of the above.
Penalty kicks and free kicks are fun. Corner kicks, however, are incredibly overrated. How many times does a team convert a corner--once in 100 tries? There were a ton of corner kicks in the Arsenal game today. The announcers would build them up, and then every time the ball would be poked 600 feet into the air and nobody would ever come close to scoring a goal. Corner kicks are not what they are cracked up to be.
I love Arsenal's road uniforms. I love their home look, too, And I like Liverpool's red. In fact, soccer uniforms, in general, are really cool. Looking forward to watching games each week just to take in the uniforms, stadiums, etc.
I noticed one thing today that may be the key to enjoying soccer. It's the struggle. It can be so frustrating to watch a soccer match because so much goes on, but so few points are put on the board. When your team falls behind 1-0, it seems as though they have to climb Everest to get that equalizer. It's really, really hard to score a goal, and that's frustrating to watch. But maybe that's also the beauty of it all.
So far, so good. I think I'm going to like this. At the very least, I know I'll end up liking in more than a Julia Roberts movie.