The best of times, the worst of times

I’m an Arsenal fan. I have been for 27 years, since 1980. To this day I cannot tell you why I picked Arsenal. My brother and I got into soccer at the same time, and both decided to support an English soccer team. I don’t know where we got the list of names, or how we picked them, but I picked Arsenal and he picked Tottenham, two deadly local rivals in North London. Arsenal is one of the finest teams, definitely top three all-time in England, with many league titles and FA Cups won. Tottenham have won a lot of FA Cups, but only won the title twice, the last time in 1961.

We started following our teams in 1980, and in both 81 and 82 Tottenham won the FA Cup, giving great gloating power to my brother. Arsenal were stumbling along in the early 80’s, until they got a new manager who revved them up and in somewhat of a surprise they won the league in 1989 (to anyone who asks, the greatest moment of my life was May 26, 1989). If you’ve read the book Fever Pitch (not the crappy American movie based on it), that’s just about the story of my life.  Arsenal won again in 1991, and in the late 90’s and early 2000’s were highly successful, winning three titles, four FA Cups, and last year lost the final of the European Cup, the biggest club prize in world soccer.

Okay, since half of you have already switched off, I’ll get to the point.  Those years, from 1980 to about 1988, were dreadful years for Arsenal.  Looking back, although I loved them all at the time, there were some truly bad players, people who I don’t think would have made it onto my amateur soccer team, let alone into a world famous professional club.  Times were dire, things were grim, it was truly an all-round bad time.  I think that was when I learned the true pain of being a fan, when I realized that they could lose at any time to anyone.  Here was mighty Arsenal, just about the biggest club around, going and losing to teams like York and Cardiff in various Cup competitions, teams they should have walked over any day.  Imagine the Yankees playing, oh, some third rate college team, and losing.  To this day, when I wake up and check the Arsenal score I always expect them to have lost – even a couple of years ago when they set a record by not losing in 49 straight games.  When I watch their games live I constantly swear at the tv, I am always expecting the opposition to score, and I am a nervous wreck by the end.  And this is for a team which has over the last decade been about as good as any team in the world.

So now I’m going through the losing times with the Rangers.  I don’t have nearly the history with them, I’ve really only been a fan since 1998, when I moved to Texas.  Prior to that I thought I was a Braves fan, although it turns out I was a David Justice fan, as I became an Indians fan when he went there.  By the time he went to the Yankees and Oakland, I was fortunately a Rangers fan, because I couldn’t bring myself to like the Yankees.

The difference between my Arsenal fandom and the Rangers is that with the Rangers, for some stupid reason I still expect them to win.  I actually find myself getting angry when they don’t, and I am never pessimistic about their chances, just upset with the way they play.  It’s odd, I didn’t really feel involved with them when they won the division three times in four years in the late 90s (and I was here for 98 and 99), I just didn’t have the hook in me the way I do now.  But I’m not afraid that they won’t lose, I’m afraid they won’t win.  My day is made when the Rangers win, and ruined when they lose, no matter what else happens.  It’s almost fortunate that Arsenal’s off-season is from mid-May to mid-August, because those weekends when both Arsenal and the Rangers lose I am not a good person to be around.  Although vice versa when they both win, of course.

Well, that was all a little rant about nothing, wasn’t it?  Just wanted to put a little perspective on things.  Remember, even if you’re in the depths of despair, when you can’t win a game for trying, eventually you will emerge victorious.  It may take some time, it may take a lot of time, but I am very confident that in my lifetime the Rangers will win the World Series.  Of course, I’m 38, so my life expectancy is about another 38 years…

On to the interesting stuff.  How about that Kameron Loe?  8 innings of shutout ball, and he got a hit, too!  Whatever he did while he was in the minors, they should try it with the rest of them.   Actually, since he never played while he was down, maybe it was all just thinking about being in AAA again, and not wanting to be there.  From the AP story: “he was given specific instructions to work on his breaking ball and changeup”.  Interesting, since he should have been doing some work on it with the major league pitching coach, shouldn’t he?  And a quote from Loe:  “But maybe something subconsciously clicked and, honestly, I think it was just raising my arm angle a little bit.”  Given my article yesterday, it is very unfortunate that the Pirates’ ballpark is not one that has the Gameday setup, so I can’t even look at the data and see if that’s true.  But if it is, assuming he stays up with the Rangers, we ought to see something change in the next few starts.  I’ll keep an eye out for that.

Loe got the start because Brandon McCarthy’s blister burst again, and he went on the DL.  I need to try that at the office next time I get a blister, see if they’ll let me stop programming for a couple weeks to stay home and recover from such a serious injury.  At least he was at the game tonight, reports are that both Tex and Blalock haven’t been travelling with the team and haven’t even shown up for some home games.

“We did not anticipate Brandon’s callous opening up again,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “When it did and we starting looking for guys to call up, [Loe was] the one we had the highest comfort level with.”  You know, prior to today’s game, if you’d said that you had the highest comfort level with Loe, you’d realize that the Rangers’ farm system is pretty much empty of prospects right now.

All right, that’s it.  More stats stuff coming over the weekend if you’re interested in that.  The Rangers go to Cincinnati for a weekend series.  The Reds are only a game and a half better than the Rangers, so it’s two evenly matched teams.  Shame they’re not evenly matched at the top end, instead of the bottom.

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