There is no more beautiful sight in all of soccer. Nothing that makes the heart soar higher, the pulse race faster, the mustache go more a-quiver or the beer spray across the room with more joyous gusto. And on Sunday at the Football Factory in New York City, hundreds of Premier League fans got to witness this magical sight in all its priceless glory as the seconds ticked down on this crazy season while the camera panned to the stands at White Hart Lane. "We see you crying on TV," sang the army of magnificently insensitive Arsenal fans as the final whistle blew down Tottenham's Champions League hopes and its supporters hung their heads and blubbered into their fifth-place finish.
As someone who has been following English soccer since Vinnie Jones grabbed Paul Gascoigne in a place that is generally considered impolite, I can't help but admire Sir Alex Ferguson's staggering achievement as the manager of Manchester United: 26 years, 13 league titles, five FA Cups, four league cups, two Champions League trophies, and that one press conference when he didn't threaten to evict a reporter. It is a testimonial to his ruthless brilliance that since the Prem was formed in 1992, the lowest finish for Ferguson's side was third.
It's not fair. Every Christmas, I put money into the Salvation Army kettle in spite of that incredibly annoying bell they ring. Every Arbor Day I always plant a tree -- or at least sit under one sipping a beer. And every July 4, I donate my mustache trimmings to the nearest hospital for the hirsutely challenged. In fact, now that I think about it, the only ongoing blots on my ledger of goodness are my unapologetic delight at Spurs not winning a league title in the past 42 years and John Terry going from "Captain.
I had one of those vivid, hi-def dreams Saturday, the kind where you don't want to wake up, especially after a 12-hour bender celebrating Spurs being Spurs and dropping two points at Wigan. (Imagine the damage I would have done if the Latics had actually held on to their late lead.) And this wasn't one of those NC-17 dreams, by the way, it was far better. It was an RVP-rated dream, in which an ex-Gunner was so grateful for all the faith and love that Arsenal had showered on him that he decided to return the favor.
It's been a horrible, crazy week but on the bright side, it now looks as if there won't be a title-clinching honor guard for Sir Alex and the Dutch weasel at the Emirates next Sunday. That's because barring a miracle -- and after Spurs' mind-boggling hat trick in seven minutes against Man City, I suppose anything is possible -- United will reclaim the Premier League trophy at Old Trafford on Monday afternoon and spare Arsenal fans the indignity of having to witness its coronation firsthand. And if Fergie has already locked up his 13th league title by the time United visits Arsenal, might he be so inclined to give his starters the day off and play Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and maybe someone even older -- Sir Bobby Charlton's still in the lineup, right?
Not to get all misty-eyed, but it did seem like the FA Cup went from "Zombie Apocalypse" -- courtesy of some charming Millwall knuckle-draggers -- to English soccer heaven within 24 hours. Following Saturday's harrowing glimpse into the sport's dark past, Sunday's War of the Nouveau Riche couldn't come quickly enough for the sake of the game's future. Thankfully, Manchester City and Chelsea went instep-to-instep for 90 is-there-an-EMT-in-the-house minutes -- and somehow they managed to do it without anyone getting bloodied or stomped.
Sometime in May, Rafa Benitez will walk through the door at Stamford Bridge marked Vamonos while being careful not to bump into Jose Mourinho who, according to reports in the oh-so-reliable English press, will be swaggering through the door marked "Welcome, our once and future Savior." If you're Benitez, the best you can hope for is that "The Returning One" stops to admire the shiny FA Cup medal around your neck and mumbles gracias for teeing him up with a Champions League berth that he can use to win Roman Abramovich’s favorite tournament again, diminishing your Chelsea "legacy" even further.
Here's what we learned during Friday night's "Chilla in Vanilla": The U.S. men's national team can win during a blinding snowstorm. Here's what we still don't know: Can they win in normal soccer conditions? Because the chances that there'll be a foot of snow at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday are about the same as the chances of Mexico's Giovanni Dos Santos getting his hair permed (approximately 2.7%). Certainly, we got no clues from Friday's cosmic joke of a game as to how the U.S. will fare Tuesday in the oxygen-deprived altitude and will-sapping heat of Mexico City.
My heart bleeds for Sir Alex. First, that mean old Turkish referee failed to get the memo about how when you're officiating at Old Trafford you're not allowed to send off a United player -- especially when it's clearly not a red card offense anywhere in the world except maybe in the FIFA rule book. Then some mischievous tabloid hacks, desperately attempting to come up with a creative angle on why Wayne Rooney was benched for the Real Madrid game, cooked up a story about Sir Alex falling out of love with his prodigal son and like an angry usher, looking to boot him out of the Theater of Dreams at the end of the season.
They were waiting for me outside the bar: three Spurs fans kitted out in the odious colors of their satanic North London cult. Since they never properly introduced themselves, let's just call them Fat, Drunk and Stupid. "Guess you'll need a new jacket now," snarled Fat, pointing to my shiny maroon satin jacket with the words "Kings of London" emblazoned underneath the Arsenal crest. "I didn't know Spurs followers could read," I said, emboldened by the fact that my friend Jason was following close behind and had just reminded me, "I'm from Detroit and I like to punch people.
I'll give Roberto Mancini credit. The Manchester City scarf model is surrounded by math majors who look at the Premier League table and ask, "Why don't you quit while you're behind?" Yet he isn't about to back away from a fight. The defending champions started the day a Real Madrid-like 15 points behind their vengeful neighbors Manchester United, in a contest that is rapidly becoming more jest than joust. Those budding numerologists in baby blue could hardly blame Mancini if he were to take his Gucci-clad foot off the accelerator and cruise to a comfortable second place finish.
Dear Stan, I have written to Arsene twice in the last two years to little effect, so I have decided to move up the food chain. I know you don't like to get directly involved in the running of your sports teams but given your $450 million investment, I thought it behooved you to have an inkling of the unholy mess you're presiding over in North London. This is not like your Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche or St. Louis Rams enterprises, none of which has reached a major final in their sport since 2001.