David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
I can't remember whether it was Gore Vidal or Big Daddy Drew who first uttered the line, "it's not enough to succeed, others must fail." I can't even remember who he was referring to, but I like to imagine it was my Spurs friend Relegation Zone Mikey. Suffice it to say, RZM texted me last night to say that he had never been "at a lower point, footywise." Words cannot adequately express you how good it felt to revel in a week that saw Arsenal drink from the nectar of the soccer gods while Tottenham lay bleeding to relegation death on the floor of the Prem.
Seriously, life doesn't get much better than this. OK, maybe it does if you throw in a night in the crack den with Amy Ryan of Gone, Baby, Gone and matching broken metatarsals for Rooney and Tevez. But other than that...
And it didn't end there. After watching Arsenal put seven past Slavia Prague and Liverpool being ass-raped by Bestikas in mid-week Champions League qualifying, you can understand why I was in such a magnanimous mood yesterday at Kinsale.
"A round on Deadspin for my Liverpool brothers, " I said to Pauline behind the bar. "And an I.V. of lithium for Relegation Zone Mikey."
Could there have been a more pathetic looking figure among the Kinsale mob than RZM? Even the shmuck at the end of the bar in a throwback Csonka jersey who tried to watch that other football game in London yesterday could at least delude himself that his 0-8 team once had a proud history. Poor RZM had nothing other than his pint of Guinness and the look of a man who had endured a double colonoscopy.
"Get your filthy Gooner hands off me, " he hissed when I tried to put a comforting arm around him and offer my condolences for the last second Blackburn goal that condemned Tottenham to second from bottom. I didn't have the heart to ask him how he felt about the graceful way Spurs handled the mercy killing of their manager Martin Jol, or whether the Dutchman had donated his line of nylon leisurewear to his successor Juande Ramos, who, if nothing else, should give Benitez a run for the first Spanish Prem manager sacked in the new year.
Not surprisingly, when the Arsenal-Liverpool match kicked off, RZM sought kinship amid the Scouser faithful who stood three-deep at the bar and annoyed the shit out of me with their singing and chanting, until the 80th minute when Fabregas shut them up with his sublime toe-poke to tie it at 1-1 and keep the Gunners undefeated and tied with ManU at the top of the league.
Up to that point, Arsenal had seemingly reverted to last year's exasperating shenanigans, putting on their signature one-touch passing show at the edge of the box while Liverpool was perfectly content to sit back and wait for them to try to walk the ball into the goal. Then Carragher or Hypia would rudely intervene — a couple of more judo throws like the one you executed on Fabregas should get you your black belt, Jamie — and hoof the ball long in the direction of one of their three strikers (Veronin, Kuyt, and a clearly unfit Torres), who would run into a cul de sac of Arsenal defenders and be dispossessed. Except, that is, in the 7th minute when Liverpool was awarded a free kick about twenty yards out and Gerrard showed why, for all the talk about his recent dip in form, he is still da man on Merseyside. With Kuyt cleverly disrupting Arsenal's jerryrigged defensive wall, Gerrard found the seam and lashed a screamer into the net. "Sorry to ruin next week's Match of the Century," chortled Liverpool James, aka Lingering Bursitis, kitted out in his ridiculous red Carlsberg jersey. He was referring to next Saturday's epic clash at the Emirates between Arsenal's Invincibles and Manchester United's defending champions, which, I'm happy to report, will be graced by my presence. Trust me, Patriots-Colts looks like a Pop Warner game next to this.
"Fuck off, you limey bastard," I cooly replied to Lingering Bursitis, "there's still 83 minutes to play." And what a memorable 83 minutes they were, pulsating with full-blooded challenges (Gallas' sliding, last ditch tackle on Gerrard in the 89th minute saved the Gunners' arse), goalmouth clearances, shots off the post, acrobatic saves (Alumunia had three gems to push Lehmann closer to bidding Auf Wiedersehn to Wenger), missed open goals and the quicksilver interchanges between Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas that is the closest thing to total football you'll ever see in England. "Ooh, what sexy football," mocked my Liverpool friend Gandhi (yes, that's his real name) after Arsenal sliced open the Reds' defense with five one-touch passes only for Adebayour, who had a woeful game, to fire directly into a diving Reina's arms. "Too bad you couldn't score in a brothel," he added, displaying that rapier Scouser wit.
Of course, he did have a point. For all the territorial dominance Arsenal had yesterday, for all the mesmerizing buildup and slick passing, the Gunners couldn't finish this senten...
Two of their misses were almost comical if you weren't an Arsenal supporter. In the 53rd minute, Eboue thundered a shot off the post that caromed directly to Fabregas alone in front, the goal gaping at his mercy. The Spanish maestro had enough time to sift through his love letters from Barcelona's owners before rolling the ball into the net but instead chose to hastily pull the trigger and shanked his shot wide left. Then in the 85th minute, it was Nicolas Bendtner's turn to transform himself from little-used sub to Arsenal legend when Fabregas' shot rebounded off the post to the young Dane's feet. Smashing the ball into Row H at Anfield, I'm afraid, won't qualify him for a bronze statue.
Fortunately, only minutes before, there had been that moment of genius from Hleb who with a Bergkampesque flick of the ankle released Fabregas for his cooly taken goal that meant Arsenal was going into its showdown with ManU with the swagger of a team that had overcome its first real challenge of the season even as it saw its 12 game winning streak come to an end. Of course, next Saturday figures to be the ultimate test now that Tevez and Rooney are evolving into a scary-ass strike partnership — witness their three goals against Man City including Rooney's sick backheel assist — and Ronaldo and Nani are wreaking havoc on the flanks. But the young Gunners know no fear.
"We're playing football from a different planet," says Robin Van Persie. As long as it isn't Planet Hollywood, that's good enough for me.