Poets on Sports

And the Reds Go Marchin’ On, On, On!

By Amanda Deo

Things just aren’t going that great.  The awkward part of things not going that great is that I currently have or have had a lot of shrines. I’ve had pennants that hang on my car’s review mirror, plastic stickers on the windshield, and scarves singing proudly from the elevated ledge inside the trunk.  I have miniature boxing gloves, calendars, stuffed animals and computer wallpapers at the office.  I’ve had massive posters of David Beckham and George Best. I have over ten seasons worth of home, away and Champion’s League kits holding hands inside my closet. I have fridge magnets, official membership cards and a monthly subscription to watch every match in the Premiership, Capital One Cup, Champions League, Europa League, Community Shield, and the FA Cup. So, when my club is losing, everyone around me notices; everyone rubs it in.  Everyone asks me what’s going wrong and how I think we should fix it and what I think of the new gaffer (manager). And most of the time, like a boyfriend that isn’t paying me enough attention, I’m too sulky to want to talk about it.

Sir-Alex-Ferguson-2370285For the last 26 years of my life, Manchester United had one Manager. This was a Manager so successful that he was knighted by the Queen of England for his devotion to the game of soccer. Sir Alex Ferguson was soccer’s answer to Jay-Z. Sir Alex had that O.G. swank.  He built an empire of championships and trophies, turned young boys into great men, and made Manchester United the most promising brand in the history of organized professional sports.  In every corner of the world you will spot the red and white at the grocery store, walking the dog or eating a family meal. Sir Alex made Manchester United a global sports threat.  He made us someone to reckon with. He made us contenders in every competition. He made us believe.

I am not religious but I do recount a time in my life where I had a very spiritual experience.  It was 1999 and I was 15-years-old.  Sure, I was going through that awkward teenage girl phase where being a tom boy wasn’t as cool as smoking cigarettes, cutting class or wearing a low cut top, but my club was still one of the most important facets of my life. ’99 was the year of “The Treble”.  It was the seasotreblen where Manchester United won the Premiership Title, the Champion’s League Cup in Europe and the FA Cup. Only one other English team, and a small handful of other European clubs, had ever accomplished a treble. Lord, it was torture. Between geometry and Canadian history, I had my eyes on Ryan Giggs (Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, running down the wing, feared by the Blues, loved by the Reds…) to take us home to United Road, to a place where we belonged.  And with a few prayers to the football gods, he did. It was glorious and I shared it with millions of other fans around the world. With the internet not being that great in the 90s, I didn’t get to see the final win that sealed the treble.  I listened to it over really shitty, grainy internet radio.  When the fans sang, the sound was so muddled I couldn’t even make out the cheer. But no matter what happened after the treble, I knew life would always be worth living. No matter what we lost or what race we got knocked-out of going forward, we would always have that gorgeous season of ’99.

When Sir Alex announced his retirement last season, it was bitter.  It tasted like brushing your teeth and drinking orange juice.  I knew it was coming eventually as the man, now in his 70s, wanted to move on to other great things in his life.  But as a fan, I was utterly devastated and suffered from abandonment. How can you walk away from this feeling? From this kind of success? Gaffer, how can you leave me? Sir Alex was someone I had weekly disagreements with.  He inspired twitter-wars and text-induced conversations with friends in Manchester and my brothers. He was a conversation that led to young-adult romances. I respected the man without ever shaking his hand; I didn’t need to. I knew that his television and internet presence was enough to command my respect.  Every match going forward would have someone else standing on the touch line, but they wouldn’t be chewing gum ferociously (Sir Alex’s last bit of chewed gum was sold on Ebay for $640,000 US dollars); they wouldn’t look like they were going to kill a referee and drag their body in a golden chariot from goal post to goal post after a misgiven penalty or hang a player by their boots after a bad tackle. No one could get it sorted like Sir Alex. He is, afterall, a legend.

David Moyes, a proper Scotsman and friend of Sir Alex, was lined up for the job for the 2013-2014 season.  The former gaffer at Everton F.C. has experience, a good reputation and is well respected.  He has a reputation of being tough and commanding respect like a boss. He was crowned manager of the year for three seasons in the last 10 years.  Even while stewing in my disappointment over Fergie, I didn’t completely take Moyes for a second-rate predecessor or a complete muppet.  I didn’t think of him as someone who would mind the store while Sir Alex was out for the day shopping with his wife.  After 26 seasons with the same manager, maybe change was a good thing. Maybe this was the continuation of something great. But Moyes, pie-eyed like a college Freshman in September, allowed the awe of the situation he inherited to overwhelm him.

David Moyes

We are now over three months into the new Premiership season with calls for Moyes to be fired.   In footie, a few losses are really all it takes for a manager to get the axe.  The first Manchester Derby of the season, which is the most highly anticipated match series of the year where Manchester United takes on Manchester City, was a disaster with United conceding four goals and only striking once with a late Wayne Rooney free kick.  There have been other significant loses which, in days gone by, would have been won with confidence.  There was a time where if I missed a match against a bottom-feeder team like Sunderland F.C. or Stoke City, I wouldn’t have been bothered knowing that victory would have come easy.  These days, however, even those weaker teams can strong-arm a struggling United defense and an uncreative midfield.

But here’s the thing: bleeding red through and through is just a belief.  Bleeding red is built on a dream.  Being red until you die is just about faith and if Moyes can get the squad to believe again, believe that any match and any trophy is possible, maybe he will be the next legend I’m teary-eyed over in twenty years from now.

About Amanda Mcilveen

Taking Numbers, Breaking Hearts.

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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