David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
Everyone celebrates their 25th birthday in their own special way. Britney went on a Hollywood bender with Paris and flashed her ass to the paparazzi. Gilbert Arenas had Busta Rhymes, Lil SWayne, TI and The Game perform at the party Diddy threw for Agent Zero and 7,500 of his closest friends. And Harold Rosengarten got to watch Arsenal play Burnley in the third round of the FA Cup yesterday with me at Kinsale Tavern.
I'd like to think that Harold will look back on his big Two - Five with the kind of warm glow that I'm sure Britney and Arenas do ,but I know I will never forget our two hours together. After all, I've been going to Kinsale most weekend mornings for two years now, and while Deadspinners have bought me the occasional pint (ok, 234 beers at last count), no act of drunken generosity will ever compare to the stylish gift Harold presented to me
— my very own Arsenal yarmulka .
This is just the skull cap I've been looking for to cover the testosterone-fueled bald spot on my dome for the days (both of them) that I actually attend temple, and I'm sure it will come in handy in the unlikely event, say before the ManU showdown on April 12, that I should ever need to say a prayer for the Gunners.
It all started a couple of weeks ago when I got an e-mail from a Deadspin reader named Ben Muschel saying he had a friend whose "dream" it was to watch an Arsenal match with me, and he thought it would make a nice 25th birthday present for his mate if I agreed. Talk about setting your goals low.
Wow, I thought, my own make-a-wish foundation, and as far as I knew Ben's friend wasn't even terminal. He was, however, Jewish.
"He owns an Arsenal yarmulka," Ben said. "Really."
Now, that's a commitment that not even Unsilent Majority in his love of Chelsea has ever displayed. I had to see for myself. Because he is Orthodox, Harold couldn't make any of the regular Prem matches on Saturday, so he had to settle for a game against a team that currently sits 31 league places below Arsenal in English football.
The beauty of the FA Cup is that it represents the one time all year that players from the small downtrodden clubs get to take a shot at the glamorous millionaires in the Premiership who spend more on hookers per hour ($600, according to Ronaldo's strumpets) than they earn for a month's sweat and blood on the pitch. That's why it makes my heart soar when you have a weekend like this past one where the big boys like Everton, Blackburn and Liverpool get their dicks caught in the buzzsaw of no-name clubs with nothing to lose. Of course, none of the Prem teams fielded their strongest lineup —Liverpool, for example, rested Gerrard, Torres and Reina, in their 1-1 draw with Lutonfuckin'Town — but really, is that any excuse? Would anyone be surprised if George Gillett and Tom Hicks, Liverpool's American yahoo owners, soon decided to rest Rafa Benitez after that horror show?
Harold, for his part, was concerned that his hero, Cesc Fabregas, whose jersey he wore to complement his Arsenal scarf and yarmulka, was nowhere to be seen at Burnley. And I thought his yarmulka might fly off when, six minutes into the game, Burnley crashed a header against Jens Lehmann's crossbar. "Why is he even playing?" he asked of the second string Kraut goalkeeper who has been rumored to be saying Auf Wiedersehn to Arsenal any day now.
I explained that the German is holding out because Borussia Dortmund has refused to pony up a Deutchemark more than $60,000 a week, which is $30,000 less than he earns at Arsenal. "And here he was almost beaten by a guy who probably makes 60 grand a YEAR," Harold said.
After getting over the initial shock of almost seeing Arsenal fall behind, both Harold and the Gunners settled down and the gulf in class between the two teams began to show as first Eduardo and then Bendtner breached the Burnley defense. The only question that remained was whether the Gunners' newest squad member might be given a runout. Alas, it turned out that David Beckham wasn't even on the bench, thereby ending all the surreal speculation that Wenger would sign Goldenballs on loan. After all, wasn't it a real mindfuck — Beckham in a Gunner kit? You'd get better odds seeing Lindsey Lohan photographed with underwear on than to see images last week of Becks in full Arsenal regalia training with the Gunners, looking for all the world as if were a member of the team. I mean, he even bleached his hair the same yellow color as Almunia's.
Wenger explained that Beckham, who you might remember had a few fitness problems last season with the Galaxy, was simply working out with the Gunners in order to get in shape for England's game against Switzerland next month, in which he hopes to earn his 100th cap under new England manager Fabio Capello. When not running drills with Arsenal, Beckham spent last week sucking up to his old Real boss, even going so far as to reveal that he wore ballet shoes as a kid, a clear sop to Capello who was famously photographed in a tutu back in his Rome days.
Becks said that it would be a "dream" to play under Capello again, but as someone who now knows a little something about dreams, it will take more than an Arsenal kit to get him that 100th cap for a quarter Jew like him. I might even loan him my yarmulka.