Thursday, June 23, 2011

BLOG: Rivalries Revised

by George Sedgwick of the Philly Gooners

As any Gooner knows, our arch rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, live right next door. Furthermore, as Arsenal fans who despise Tottenham, we often sing about their awkward visit to the Pope.  We make fun of their twitchy manager.  And best of all, we celebrate Saint Totteringham’s day on a lovely annual basis.  Next year, I predict the day will arrive in early March. 

But for many American Gooners, Manchester United feels like more of a rival than Tottenham.  I say that knowing full well that an American Arsenal fan’s perspective may differ from an English fan’s perspective.  We don’t all feel the history of the Gunners vs Spurs rivalry—we can learn it, of course, but we don’t have the same sense of decades-old anger.  To be both personal and honest, when I rage against the Spurs, I feel as though I’m appropriating someone else’s anger.  Instead, I prefer to detest Manchester United while reserving the right to berate Tottenham on any given match day.  I know I’m not alone in this.

So, let’s take some time to figure out why many American supports loathe Manchester United but merely mock the Tottenham Hotspur.  However, if you happen to be an American Gooner who follows the traditional rivalry with great success, I mean you no harm!  Some of my good friends have been to White Hard Lame and come back with tales of true disgust—and to those fellows, “I feel your pain.”  Also, those who live in or are from the U.K., I get your angle, too.  But here’s how I feel.

First—why do we hate Spurs?

When I researched the Arsenal vs. Spurs rivalry, I found many more relevant Tottenham websites than Arsenal ones.  This result suggests that Spurs are far more upset about Arsenal than the other way around.  Considering that the Spurs release a new DVD every time one of their players brings the ball past our midfield, we shouldn’t be surprised at how often Spurs fans love to whine about the superior Arsenal.  This alone is one heck of a good reason to dislike anyone who has ever championed our rivals. 

Also, there’s history.  Lots of it.  A glance at Jon Spurling’s excellent Rebels for the Cause tells of the many lengths Sir Henry Norris went through to move Arsenal to Highbury (1913), and how he later got Arsenal into the first division (1919).  Tottenham supporters dislike him for both actions and have alleged numerous wrongdoings, none of which have been accurately proven.  Still, they moan that our history in the top division is illegitimate.  We happen to have a few trophies that say otherwise.

Norris is also known for telling Arsenal, in 1928, to take it easy on relegation-fighting Portsmouth and Manchester United because doing so would make Tottenham, also low in the standings, more likely to get relegated.  I see this as worthy of praise, while the average Spurs fan finds it reason to moan.  So be it. 

There have been other historical bumps along the way, all of which have caused animosity, like interest, to compound.  So, from a historical perspective, which I have clearly glossed over, reasons to detest Spurs abound.  They are nasty to us, always have been, and we respond in kind.  And all of that ignores proximity, a reason unto itself.  After all, their closeness, “the stench,” some would say, makes it so easy to get riled up. 

But from this American’s perspective…

Manchester United is so much more annoying!  Here’s why.

1.  We tend to be closer to them in the standings.  In the last ten years, at least, we’ve battled Manchester United while leaving Spurs far enough behind to ignore them.  And in the Champions League, the FA Cup, and the Carling Cup, we worry about Man U much more than we worry about Tottenham, surely. 

2.  Nani.  He whines.  He dives.  And sometimes he’s effective, which makes him even more frustrating.  Also he looks like Greedo from Star Wars. 

3.  Somehow they seem to get all the breaks.  Example:  Clichy backpedals, then slips.  Nani kicks the ball at Clichy while he is still on the ground, and the ref calls it a hand ball.  Clichy was on the ground trying to get up, his forearm pinned to the Old Tafford pitch.  If that isn’t ball to hand, in a rather meaningless position, too, I don’t know what is.  Thankfully, Rooney missed the resulting penalty, but still—-really?  Really? 

Conversely, same season, Vidic spikes the ball in the box, and unless he’s a tall girl in the NCAA volleyball tournament, there should be a call—probably a red card and a penalty kick.  But you know what?  There wasn’t.  And it seems like this kind of thing happens to Man United all the freakin’ time.

4.  Have I mentioned Nani?

5.  Sir Alex Ferguson is successful, no doubt.  But he’s also arrogant, pushy, and sometimes petulant.  Example: his refusal to give press conferences whenever he doesn’t want to.  Oh, he’ll take BBC money, but he won’t talk to them the way every other manager does.  It’s childish at best.

6.  Things Evra says, ranging from “Arsenal are babies,” to his recent attempt to lure Nasri to their side.  “If you want to win trophies, little Prince,” said Evra, “you should play for Manchester United.”  He said this right before the champions league final.  By the way, how did that go, Patrice? 

7.  I could go on and on, but I’d have to say that my biggest gripe against Manchester United is just how many bandwagon fans support them.  We haven’t won a trophy in six years, I know, but I still support the Arsenal!  I wonder how many Red Devils fans would jump ship if they went so much as half a season without being favorites. 

So, as an American Gooner, I understand the Tottenham rivalry, but I’m a bit happier when we beat Manchester United.   At the end of the day, as far as animosity goes, it is better to spend your time supporting Arsenal than whining about anyone else anyway. 

Come on you Gunners!

George Sedgwick is the branch manager of the Philly Gooners and a regular contributor to the Arsenal Review USA Podcast. Check back for more of his writing throughout the summer…