David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
What can I say? I drank the Haterade, going so far as to denounce a certain Israeli manager I call Average Grant as a disgrace to his religion for choosing Easter to rise from the dead. All I can say is: Would Sandy Koufax have played on such a holy day? Then I quaffed the bitter, screaming at a certain defender I call Cuntley Cole every time he touched the ball. "Even Eliot Spitzer didn't throw up on his whore, you whiny little bitch," I raged. I even made the ultimate sacrifice. I declined a free beer after Arsenal went up 1-0 so as not to jinx it.
But I am only one man— and a barely sober one, at that—-and nothing I did yesterday at Kinsale Tavern could alter the depressing reality: Arsenal are out of the title race. There, I said it. (Are you happy now, Unsilent? The case of He'Brew beer I owe you is on its way with nine other plagues to follow in a few weeks.)
I'm told by the Dalai Leitch that bitterness and regret are soul-destroying emotions, but how else am I supposed to feel after watching Arsenal's Bear Stearns-like collapse over the last three weeks? From five points clear at the top to six points behind United (engrave the fuckin trophy already, Fergie, but make sure there's room for Steve Bennett's name on it), and here's the truly painful part: Arsenal is now a point behind Chelsea, and I have to endure the endless taunts of the Gooner haters like Q calling me an "obscure jazz-loving, chef salad-eating, Montrachet-swilling metrosexual." This must be what's like to be a Duke fan.
Honestly, it was barely a few days ago when the British tabloids were calling for Uncle Avram to be re-circumsized after his lack of tactical acumen was cruelly exposed by Spurs in their 4-4 thriller. Hell, even as late as the second half of yesterday's game, Chelsea's classy fans were chanting "He doesn't have a clue" and serenading him with "Jose Mour—in—ho, Jose Mour-in-ho." It was precisely because of my abiding faith in Grant 's incompetence that I had wagered my Chelsea mates $100 that Arsenal would crucify the Blues on Sunday and stay within spitting distance of United.
So you can imagine my shock when Grant outcoached Arsene Wenger, of all people. There, I said it, even if Wenger wouldn't. "It was big setback for us," is as close to a mea culpa as we'll ever get from the imperious Frenchman. A big setback? How about the worst stretch in 10 years, Monsieur Merde-for-Brains? How about draw, draw, draw, draw, defeat? How about fielding a team that looked so spent and shorn of inspiration that it's a wonder we were ever in the game, let alone up 1-0 and on the brink of snapping Chelsea's 77-game, four-year undefeated streak at Stamford Bridge?
But then Didier Drogba, who had been missing almost as long as little Madeleine McCann, showed up on Easter Sunday with two pieces of wood and nailed us to the cross. Hammered us with two goals within nine minutes, and that was that. Of course, you could ask why Gallas and Toure gave Drogba so much room that he could take the ball down in the box, wave to his future Barcelona employers in the stands and lash the ball past Almunia.
I suppose you could forgive the Arsenal centerbacks for ignoring the Ivorian hit man, given that he hasn't been the ruthless scoring machine under Grant that he had been with Mourinho in charge. That is, until yesterday, when he went positively medieval on the Gunners.
Still, if I'm going to bow down before other teams' Gods, I must pay respect to the real Messiah. Christiano Ronaldo scored his 34th goal of the season with a thumping header to crush the life out of Liverpool, which had defended bravely with 10 men after Bennett had sent off Javier Mascherano in the 43rd minute for his Cuntley Cole impersonation. Hellbent on imposing his authority on what figured to be a fractious match between two teams that don't like each other, the whistle-happy ref had booked the Argentine hard man for a late tackle in the tenth minute that hardly looked deserving of a yellow card. When Bennett made yet another dubious call, booking Fernando Torres for dissent after the Spanish striker had been scythed down, Mascherano sprinted 20 yards to express his displeasure to Bennett.
A more forgiving man might have ignored the meltdown, but after Cole dissed a referee earlier in the week in Chelsea's game with Spurs, Bennett felt he had no choice but to send Mascherano off. He left the pitch about as gracefully as Bobby Knight would have.
This is not to say that the result would have been different had Mascherano stayed on the field for 90 minutes. The Reds were already down 1-0 on a gift-wrapped goal that saw their keeper Pepe Reina look even less sure of himself than Anderson Cooper did trying to stop a Beckham free kick on "60 Minutes." Sitting next to me at Kinsale, my friend Lingering Bursitis let out a mournful cry.
"I've had better Sundays," said the long-suffering Scouser. Then Dublin Dave, who led Kinsale's ManU contingent in bellowing "Champ-iones" throughout the game, came over to LB and offered his smug condolences. "It could be worse," he said, gleefully handing him his new I-phone which displayed a headline from the always reliable British tabloid News of the World.
"Prem manager caught in bondage porn video," it screamed. The Spitzeresque story turned out to be about Derby manager Paul Jewell and a woman who wasn't his wife. Based on the photos I saw, he was doing to her what Chelsea did to Arsenal.