That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

ENGLAND PREVAILS: Something just broke.

Posted by kozemp on August 16, 2010

I realize we have only now finished – or are, at least, one game from finishing – the first weekend of the EPL season, and oh what wondrous and strange things happened in that opening weekend, but before we get into that let me spend a quick moment talking about international football, more specifically the England National Team.

I no longer give a shit about it.

For most of my soccer-watching career I’ve been an ardent supporter of England alongside the US, but somewhere along the line…

Actually, scratch that. It’s not some nebulous thing I can’t pin down. I can pin it down exactly: I stopped caring about England at 2:30PM on June 12, 2010. It’s as though before that game my brain was a single-pole-double-throw switch that traveled between England and the USA, but once the ball got kicked off it got permanently stuck on the USA side. And it wasn’t even the result: almost the second the game started I knew, just KNEW, that I wasn’t an England fan anymore. If they hadn’t been drawn together in the World Cup, I dunno, I might still be splitting my support across the Atlantic. It’s distinctly possible. But from here on out, England is just another side as far as I’m concerned.

Now, admittedly, there was a lot of buildup to this moment. Being an England fan is a lot like being a religious fundamentalist*: you have to very pointedly and forcefully ignore the fact that your beliefs cannot be reconciled with any sort of empirically verifiable reality. England fans tend to cling to a belief in some sort of sporting “destiny” when it comes to international football, as though their status as the “birthplace of the game” (which, in actual fact, England is not) grants them special powers placing them above and beyond all the game’s other practitioners.

The obsession with “history” as it relates to the sport may be English football’s most maddening aspect. Here, we treat sports history as remembrance (“I was at Game 6 of the 93 World Series when Mitch Williams gave up that home run to Joe Carter”) or foundation (“Wilt Chamberlain changed the way basketball was played”) or trivia (“Jerry Rice is the all-time leading scorer in the NFL who wasn’t a kicker”). Among English football fans history is like the Force, an actual thing that presses up against and exerts actual physical influence on current events. It affects the outcome of games – you will often hear things like “well, [Team X] had never won at [Ground Y] before today, so it’s no surprise they lost this one, history was against them” and it’s not meant poetically or metaphorically. Statements like that are taken as perfectly literal. Ian Fleming once wrote “the cards have no memory,” but he appears to be the only Englishman ever born to grasp that fundamentally simple idea.

(It is worth nothing, though, that Fleming spent large portions of his life in the Caribbean, where the tropical sun probably cooked his brain well past the medium-rare of the average English person. It is also worth noting that he was such a disgusting pervert that his very name is synonymous with horrifying debauchery, i.e. “that guy is an Ian Fleming-level sicko.” So maybe we should take what he says with a grain of salt or two.)

So, in the first place, you have the wider sporting culture’s belief that games and leagues and championships are, for all intents and purposes, decided by midi-chlorians. Then you add to that the fact that the English press in general, and the sporting press many many many times moreso, seems to be not so much an enterprise designed to collect and organize facts so that the general populace can be kept informed, but is more a gigantic nationwide contest to see who can make up the most nonsensical and outrageous horseshit and get the most people to ACTUALLY BELIEVE IT. Combine those two bizarritudes with the yet-lingering socio-psychological aftereffects of the loss of empire and weather that averages almost 150 rainy days per year** and you have a recipe for a sports culture that does not, for lack of a better term, exist on the same plane of reality as the rest of us.

Okay. Now that we have established that thanks to English insanity and the Hand of Gaul my international football fandom has finally been limited strictly to the good old US of A, let’s get on with a look at the weekend results in, er, the English Premier League.

(Partially because talking about this week’s MLS results, given what happened at PPL Park on Saturday, will only push my blood pressure past the redline.)

There actually isn’t a whole lot to say on the Chelsea front, really. We’ve gotten to a point anymore where beating somebody 6-0 isn’t too terribly far from routine. Chelsea set a Premiership record for goals last season and scored 5 or more a whopping 8 times, and aside from the Benayoun “upgrade” – God it makes me want to puke just typing that – this year’s side looks leaner and meaner that last year’s.

I suppose the big news from Saturday is that we actually HAD to score 6 goals to move into first-day-first-place. I was at the pub early to watch the Villa-West Ham match with Tom and Keith, and at halftime when I checked the scores on my phone I said, “holy fuck, Blackpool is up 3-0 at the JJB.”

I believe Tom’s reaction to that was, “shut the hell up.”

Blackpool would, of course, finish 4-0, leading me in the space between games to lament that we’d have to score 4 just to get into a tie for first. When we hit 4-0 I shouted, “woohoo! First place!” After we scored the fifth I looked up the odds and found that a 6-0 Chelsea final was only 9/2. After our sixth in the 91st minute Tom and Keith started getting up to go and I said, “where the fuck are you going? This could still finish 8-0.”

They seemed persuaded by that to stay the last 2 minutes.

On our way out, a quick jaunt around the headlines from the Premiership from the rest of the weekend:

HOLLOWAY DOESN’T QUITE GET WHY HE’S HERE, WEARS CUFFLINKS. Dateline: the bowels of the JJB. Okay, seriously, what the fuck. Ian Holloway – IAN FUCKING HOLLOWAY! – coaches Blackpool – BLACKPOOL! – to an opening day 4-0 away win, and Ollie’s response is “we’re not going to get carried away.”  You’re a decent manager, Ian. Yes. We know that. But you’re also supposed to be a reliable quote machine. Get on the fucking stick.

SO, BASICALLY, YOU’RE FUCKED. Dateline: the blue end of Manchester. Citeh manager Roberto Mancini has left Welsh striker-slash-psychopath Craig Bellamy off of both his 25-man Premier League roster and his 23-man Europa League roster, but has indicated that he will not sell Bellamy to another EPL club. In other news, Roberto Mancini is kind of a dick.

THOSE WHO ARE IGNORANT OF HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO PLAY FOR CITEH. Dateline: still Manc/Blue. Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany has claimed that his club’s absurd-by-even-Roman’s-standards spending this summer is “good for English football,” that “everybody is enjoying it,” and that “nobody was complaining about having a top four.” In other news, Vincent Kompany is blind and deaf, and lives in a cave, and is fucking stupid.

MAYBE HE WAS DISTRACTED BY THE SHIRT. Dateline: Blackburn (eeewww). Everton loses to Rovers 1-0 when USMNT keeper Tim “Timmy Two-Times” Howard, in a move that almost exactly replicated Petr Cech’s blunder against Turkey at Euro 2008, catches a perfectly innocent ball and then while coming down drops it at an opposing player’s feet, who goes on to score. Asked for comment, Howard remarked after the game, “Jesus H. Christ that kit is ugly.”

AND HILARITY ENSUED. Dateline: the Merseyside dole queue. Pepe puts it in his own net. The match finishes 10-on-10. Joe Cole’s contribution to Liverpool’s first 4 games will last a total of 45 minutes. The guy Joey tried to kill gets himself sent off in the end. Nobody wins. Both of these teams still think they’re good enough to win something, anything. Everyone everywhere laughs their asses off.

MARTIN WHO? Dateline: Villa Park. Aston Villa puts on a delightful display and dismantles a woeful West Ham 3-0. Avram Grant, Mick McCarthy and Alex McLeish console their teams by showing Jon Stewart’s “what’s happening right now is the only thing that’s happening” clip on the locker room TVs.

That’s all the good stuff, for now. See you this time next week. (One hopes.)


* I’m not talking about all religious belief here, just “God created the earth in 6 24-hour days 4000 years ago” kind of stuff.

** Philadelphia, by comparison, averages around 90.


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