Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pledging Allegiance

No, this isn't a post about Obama not putting his hand over his heart. Politics are thin on this blog. There are other blogs for that. This has to do with my finally picking a side in the English Premier League.

English fans are nuts. They are bonkers for their team. When they sing during a match, they become a part of the experience. But for the most part, they cheer for the team they're stuck with. You root for the hometown team. Where does that leave us Americans, then? None of them are my hometown team. I've wondered, how do I choose a team to root for? (If you're a football fan reading along, and I don't suspect there are any of you doing so except Mike, chime in with who you follow and why).

At this point you might be saying, "Why choose? Why not just enjoy them all?" I think that misses the whole idea of sport. Sport is drama. It's great literature. It is an unfolding story of triumph and loss. Victory against insurmountable odds, or the hope of it against an odds on favorite. Not caring who wins just misses the whole point!

Now, it would be easy to pick a team like Manchester United. Even Americans that don't like soccer have heard of them. Chelsea is another easy pick, being one of the most successful teams of the decade. These teams have going for them the likely win. They are the favorite in nearly every match unless they meet each other. It feels cheap to choose them. On the flip side, no one wants the odds on loser. Teams sure to be relegated will only leave me looking for another team next season. No, I need someone just outside the top. Someone who fights for every win. Someone that has the chance to win it all, but isn't favored to do so. This season that looks to be Liverpool, Manchester City, or Arsenal.

There's one more factor, though. It isn't just about the win. Otherwise I could follow along just watching the standings. It's about the football. Is it solid technical play? Is there creativity? Is it "the beautiful game"? Among our three remaining options, there can be no doubt, can there? Arsenal is the pick.

And so, proverbial rain or shine, this is my team. And as an added bonus, there is something appealing about their logo: The Cannon. They are the Gunners (or Gooners if you spell it as it sounds). As a Redleg (Artilleryman), I can't help but feel a kinship.

Now some out there will be rolling their eyes at this point. You couldn't help but notice I chose the team currently atop the standings. Seems a bit hypocritical at first glance, I know. But there is a lot of season left. A lot. And history teaches us that Arsenal will fade as the season progresses. So they aren't necessarily as sure a pick as they seem. That said, who knows how the season will end up? That's the whole point. And if the devastating pounding they laid on Bolton this weekend between about the 15th and the 30th minute is any indication, we're in for a season of great football.


Mike said...

Welcome to the Gooner family Matt! They are a great team but it is a love/hate relationship. We love Arsene for his teams beautiful style and his desire to win with young home grown talent (which is a reason for their fade at the end of seasons). But you have to hate his reluctance to buy a big name to complete the big buy in the transfer window and their maddening habit to making one too many passes looking for the perfect shot instead of just taking a shot and scoring a goal.

But with Cesc running the show in midfield, I get the feeling that this Gunners team is a lot like the one that started the longest winning streak in EPL history.

I personally think they have the sharpest kit and patch in all of football. I would never give up my Gunners red (not to mention their first kits were given to them by my third favorite football team).

You also have to love the fact that they were formed by workers at the Woolwrich arsenal, who worked hard at making the munitions that keep their country safe.

Welcome aboard Matt!

Oh, by the way, I have always wondered, why are artillerymen called redlegs?


Matthew Bradley said...

Thanks Mike! I'm looking forward to a great season!

Artillerymen got their redleg nickname because they wore red leggings to mark themselves as artillerymen in the civil war. At least this is the story they told us at the artillery school.

Mike said...

Thanks! You never did let me know your thoughts on the books I had read about many of problems of WWI being caused by the fact that many high ranking Generals were former artillery officers and slow to adapt to the realities of the changing battlefield. Mainly that they refused to give up their ideas that all offensives had to begin with an intense artillery bombardment, even though every time the Germans tried this tactic (with their stormtroopers going over the top with little or no preliminary artillery bombardment) it brought about a resounding (if always short term) victory.


Matthew Bradley said...

I'm not sure what to tell you. Most wars are lost by generals, and often it has to do with a failure to properly assess the nature of the current war. The fact that the generals were predominantly artillery officers probably only determined HOW they failed to properly assess their situation.

As for having more success without a barrage, I suspect this would be due to the element of surprise. Since most charges were preceded by hours or even days of artillery prep, to suddenly come over the top without hours of artillery prep would be sure to catch the enemy off guard. The victories were short lived because once the surprise wore off, the enemy responded with sufficient force. Charges following artillery prep didn't do well because the prep was often ineffective. Of course, I'm not an expert in WWI or Germany, so I could be wrong.