Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's Hard to Be Switzerland

Or, how does that whole neutrality thing work, anyway?

The prospect of watching one of the first truly exciting live games televised by FSC in a while enabled two-thirds of a pretty move to haul our ordinarily-much-lazier asses out of bed at 8 am on a Sunday morning. Derek swore he was rooting for Man U because a win from them would further endanger Chelsea; I find it difficult to root against Arsenal myself, despite the fact that they often frustrate and disappoint me: there's the balletic grace of Thierry Henry (when he's on, which he hasn't been much this season), a roster rich with players from Africa and France (I dream of a channel that televises African football, and I've not yet recovered from the disappointment of losing La Ligue games on FSC this season), the lingering affection for the squad shared by many of us bookish football fans due simply to the infectious joy of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, and of course their acquisition of one of my favorite Czechs, Tomas Rosicky. Even the presence on Man U of former Barca forward, the great Henrik Larsson, can't mitigate the existence of the wildly talented, wildly petulant, wildly annoying Cristiano Ronaldo.

So as the game gets underway I announce I'm rooting for Arsenal. The first Man U goal leaves no doubt where both our hearts lie; after the shock of its power, we both make a "huh" sound and do not even manage to indulge in our usual glee at seeing the oh-so-flappable Jens Lehmann bested. When a bolt from van Persie levels the scoreline we're leaping and shouting (the neighbors must love us), but it's the 94th minute stunner from Henry, with his characteristic ease, that brings down the living room. In 90-minutes-and-then-some Arsenal has managed to frustrate us once again, falling back on ugly and uncreative play as they do all too often, despite their reputation for pretty moves and Continental flair. But the win is suddenly and dramatically theirs, all at once the Premiership looks to be holding the potential for a much more interesting four-way battle at the top, and van Persie has done his work for Derek's fantasy football squad. For a few moments, at least, football has done its occasional good work of making us feel like all's right with the world.

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