David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
I'm the last to admit when I'm wrong. Like all the other Avram Grant cynics, I never believed for a minute right up until the 120th minute of yesterday's epic Champions League semifinal between Chelsea and Liverpool that Uncle Avram could lead the Blues to the Promised Land — better known as Moscow.
And I, especially, have no excuse. I may loathe everything that Chelsea stands for, but when it comes to members of my tribe, it's true, I usually vote with my circumcision. Even my father who raised me to be a good Arsenal snob was disappointed in me for being a self-hating Jew instead of a temporary-loving Blue yesterday.
"How could you not root for one of your own?" he scolded me after Chelsea outlasted Liverpool 3-2 to earn a May 21 showdown with Manchester United for European supremacy.
"Don't worry, Dad, I promise I will in the final, " I said, pointing out that Manchester United is owned by another tribemember, Malcolm Glazer.
But out of respect for my father, I will say in front of him and the whole Deadspin congregation: "Mazel Tov, Uncle Avram."
Yes, it took Average Grant to do something that even the Special One could not. For all his preening arrogance and tactical brilliance, Mourinho's Chelsea teams never got beyond the Champions League semifinals, losing twice to Liverpool. Who in their right mind would have predicted that Grant would succeed where Mourinho failed?
This is a man who has been a punchline since the day he arrived at Stamford Bridge. The conventional wisdom about the Israeli is that the only reason he got the job was because of his friendship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and that he couldn't manage his way out of a box of Matzo, let alone one of the prestige clubs in the world.
And indeed, his bungling substitutions and perpetual hangdog expression did little to disabuse that perception. Why just last week, Liverpool's manager Rafa Benitez bitch-slapped the Israeli when he called Chelsea "Abramovich's team" and then added that they play with "less spirit" than they did under Mourinho. Oh, how Benitez would love to have those words back. Probably almost as much as he must wish that he never poked Drogba with the equivalent of an electric cattle prod when he revealed before yesterday's match that he had compiled a four-year video dossier of dives by the Ivorian.
Let the record show that Drogba twice dove spectacularly yesterday.Unfortunately for Benitez, both times were to celebrate goals he had scored. After he powered in the first one, he slid on his knees right in front of the Liverpool bench as if to say "How's that for a fuckin' dive, Rafa? Would you rate it a 7 or an 8?"
Of course, Drogba was not the only one to ruin Rafa's night and put my office mate Lingering Bursitis on suicide watch. Chelsea was clearly buoyed by the emotional return of their midfield firebrand Frank Lampard, back from "compassionate leave" after the death of his mother.
It was Lampard who eight minutes into extra-time cooly buried the penalty kick that made it 2-1 and then kissed the black armband worn in honor of his mum.
Liverpool fought back gamely, and you could argue that the Reds deserved a penalty in the 18th minute of overtime when Drogba dragged down Hyppia in the box. But, as Lingering Bursitis perched on my ledge, the referee waved play on, and only the double lock on my window prevented LB from executing the kind of dive even Benitez had not compiled in his dossier.
As for Uncle Avram, when the final whistle blew and Stamford Bridge detonated in an explosion of joy and noise, he knelt down alone on the touchline in prayer.
"What a mensch," said my father.
Yeah, Dad. Now c'mon United!