Sunday, May 13, 2007
The Hammers of West Ham United have done it! With an incredible 7 wins in their last 9 games of the season (and 4 of the last 4), the Londoners have avoided relegation to England's second league and will remain to play in the Premiership another year. And who else would the gods of sports stories possibly allow to score the lone goal of the match against the hated Red Devils of Manchester United at Old Trafford, but West Ham's controversial catalyst, Carlos Tevez. What a bitter pill that must have been for Sheffield United, loser to Wigan and the last team to get relegated out of the Premiership, after weeks of complaining and threatening legal action over the Hammers' acquisition of Tevez. Hey, Sheff U, F U!! Ah, this is great. I don't really know what I'm talking about, of course, but that never stopped me before. I love it.
And this isn't me jumping on the bandwagon either. I'm not rooting for a legit powerhouse like Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, or Arsenal out of the blue. I started rooting for West Ham earlier this year during a crushing loss to Tottenham Spurs, their 6th loss in a row, when the Spurs scored once in the 90th minute then again in the last play of extra time on a full field breakaway to steal a 4-3 decision. The Hammers were almost assured of relegation after that loss and I cancelled my plan to shell out $80 for a West Ham Tevez jersey (Ok, ok, a real fan would have bought the shirt anyways, but cut me some slack - I'm a broke artist). I started rooting for them because of the scrappy Gaucho who rose from obscurity to become my favorite player in last year's World Cup, and after 95 minutes of rooting for them in that contentious match, they were my team. Those VTK sports fans who have known me for some time know that I am loyal to a fault with my teams and once I've picked a team, they're my team for life - a practice that has been much criticized, but will remain my practice nevertheless (Christ, I ruin my NCAA brackets every goddamn year by picking Gonzaga in the Elite Eight at a minimum solely on the basis of fond memories of getting kicked out of a bar in Florida for yelling Gonzaga at people). Anyways, I continued to follow them and cheer their results despite the dim outlook. They were several points back of safety and they still had to play Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Bolton, and Man Utd in their final 9 matches. After a 1 - nil win - why is it that we American sports fans tend to adopt soccer language when discussing/watching soccer matches and abandon it when we return to American sports? When else would I find myself yelling "Have it!" or "Good ball!"? - after a 1 - 0 win against Arsenal, the Hammer's third straight win since the Spurs match, I began to have hope. Then a 3 - 0 loss to the aforementioned lowly and hated Sheff U, and 4 - 1 loss to the Chelsea Juggernaut, things looked bleak again. They might be able to tie on points but losing 6 on goal differential surely was not good. But then they rebounded with wins against Everton, Wigan, and Bolton, to leave their fate to be determined on the pitch today against Premiership champion Manchester United. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the match on demand on my "telly" and the toll that New Orleans took on my wallet and my intestines prevented me from going down to the pub at 10 AM for 2 pints and an Irish breakfast, so I had to settle for the unsatisfying updates on ESPN Soccernet gamecast. Unsatisfying until the word "final" flashed and the Hammers officially catapulted ahead of Sheff U, Wigan, and Team America Fulham into a respectable 15th place. Fantastic.
Questions remain as to whether the losers in this relegation match will continue to pursue legal action to try to force the Premiership to increase their penalty against West Ham from the 5.5 million pound fine to a 3 point or more points deduction that would drop them behind the loathsome Sheff U Blades. But for now, they are the champions of not getting relegated. Which is a little like congratulating someone for not getting laid off, but because of the drama in this case, I'd say it's a worthy congratulations. There is also uncertainty as to whether Carlos Tevez will remain with the Hammers next year. He doesn't speak English, would undoubtedly be more comfortable in Spain, and will get plenty of offers after his Premiership performance this year. But West Ham supposedly will be able to afford him as far as the Premiership goes next year, he claims to enjoy playing in the league, and he is a veritable cult hero in Upton Park at this point, so let's hope he returns. Otherwise, I'm stuck rooting for West Ham for the rest of my life for no good reason. I mean - Go Hammers!