Friday, May 18, 2007

Thank You

We made it. For long stretches of time this past season, it seemed that the West Ham squad were hell-bent on self-destruction and ultimate descent into the Championship with not a hint of the bravery and eel-pie-fueled bravado that makes them so attractive when they're at their best. The squad, despite loads of talent, were apathetic. And worse, their supporters knew it.

But backstage politics, public embarrassments--e.g. Roy Carroll's drinking and gambling problems, Anton Ferdinand's punch-ups--and some questionable mid-season signings (that now don't seem too stupid) weren't enough to simmer the undying loyalty and raucous never-say-die attitudes by the Upton Park faithful. Half-way across the world, far away from the tumult of imminent relegation, I can't say that I always felt so fearless and brave as a West Ham fan. There were whole weeks, months, that my loyalty to the club felt frayed and a bit bruised. But deep down, I harbored secret thoughts that we could pull out of this debacle and stay in the league. I just refused to tell anyone of my perverse thoughts for fear of jinxing my wish, as if football were a form of sympathetic magic, and that if I triggered the wrong thought, desire, fantasy, I would single-handedly relegate the whole team down into oblivion with my misdirected optimism.

It was bullshit, of course. But somehow... West Ham managed to gather their senses and pull off a dramatic streak of late-season wins. Carlos Tevez had a little something to do with that. I think it's unfair, though, to say that he single-handedly kept the team up (no player is capable of such a feat for more than a game or two) but he surely pounded that anvil with all of the strength, passion, and stamina that many of us knew was in him and that ultimately fired up the rest of those underachieving Hammers. From his first goal for the team against Tottenham, a brilliant direct free kick that was even more memorable due to the Argentine's whirlwind goal celebration and hysterically joyous dive into the throng of Upton Park (which landed Tevez with a yellow card), to his tireless performance against Man Utd. last week, a win that kept the Hammer lads in the Prem for another season, Tevez no doubt earned his place amongst the legends of the club.

Tevez is back in Argentina for the summer, no doubt debating with his handlers where he'll end up next season. I would love for him to stay with West Ham, but if he leaves perhaps a club in Spain would be the finest fit for him. Regardless, I'll follow wherever he lands.


linda said...

Congratulations to the Hammers. This is going to sound trite, but when I saw him score that first goal and celebrate by leaping into the crowd, my eyes got watery. It was such a perfect moment...which ended in disgrace that one time.

But in the end, it all turned out all right, which is what counts. And I think Carlitos has earned the respect of a lot of people who were doubtful about him in the beginning.

Derek said...

Thank you, Linda! Oh, I don't think that sounds trite at all. Tevez's perseverance and ultimately his ability to shake up that floundering squad was quite moving, and more importantly how the supporters really took to him and stood by him in the worst of times. It was very powerful and a big reason why I love that team so and the sport as a whole.

I pretty much keeled over with emotion Sunday after months of frustration. I surely don't want to go through that again! I can't imagine what Hammers supporters who attended every game in the flesh, etc. must have felt like afterward.

Anyway... despite the still looming legal problems for the team, I hope the worst of the tumult is over.