“Are you a Manchester United fan?”
This irritating question has been asked of me any number of times, either by those unfamiliar with any other EPL teams, much less the “other” Manchester, or friends looking to get a rise out of me. It works, of course. But it doesn’t fully explain why I ran through my house screaming like a lunatic when Sergio Aguero worked past four defenders, took a perfectly weighted return pass from a fallen Mario Balotelli, swung his right leg through the ball and ended 44 years of frustration for City.
I’ve talked at length why I started following City when I did – the resilient fans, the ones so long dealing with their obnoxious, world-famous neighbors. The sharp blue kits. The dynamic goal-scoring prowess of Greek legend Gerogios Samaras (okay, maybe not that). There was Richard Dunne! Steven Ireland! Sven Goren-Erikkson! I got sacked as City’s manager in FIFA 2006 for only managing to finish 5th with my Fowler/Cole strikeforce. Imagine that.
But this makes me a relative noob. I wasn’t around for a lot of heartache and triumph: the troubles of the 90’s, the third division, the epic play-off comeback vs. Gillingham in 1999. Most of the fans I’ve become acquainted with, either on twitter (an amazingly large proportion of my followers are fellow Blues) or at the local City pub, the Mad Hatter (where I’ve been twice – the Rooney overhead kick and Tevez’s refusal to play vs. Bayern – maybe I’m bad luck) have seen it all, and proved everything I believed about them correct.
The experiences of the past few years, waking up at odd hours on weekends when I should have been sleeping in, DVR’ing matches when that wasn’t possible, scouring the web for streams when that wasn’t possible, and feeling like I was a part of something pretty great, well that helped make me as emotionally invested in the club as I am today. My near-obsessiveness even made a couple of friends City supporters by osmosis. But I also know for a lot of my fellow fans City is the only team, and you could feel that, through the TV or through the internet Sunday. You knew how much it meant.
And that knowledge amplified the swing in emotions, at 2-1 down to relegation-threatened 10-man QPR, at home, with those guys winning their game, and with it the title, the despair. I wrote at one point it felt like a bad dream. The ups and downs of the long season couldn’t have all happened so that it ended like this, could they? To let it all get away now? No. But there was a point, at 90 minutes, you weren’t sure. My head was in my hands. I’d watch to the end, win or brutal loss. Rooting for any one of my favorite teams has, at times, been an exercise in brutality. This would be another such exercise, but I’d bear it, and I’d be back next season for more, damn it. They would all be back, too.
Then there was Edin Dzeko scoring with a header. A chance, maybe, a flickering one. “Just one good attack, that’s all” I was saying to myself. It happened, somehow. There was Sergio Aguero. And then there was joy, and one guy on Long Island running outside and screaming at the top of his lungs, and a whole lot more around the world who had seen everything doing the same. The replay will always bring it back – starting with the roar of the crowd when Nigel De Jong made that final thrust into QPR’s half, knowing what was about to unfold like a great movie you can watch again and again.
There are, of course, other sports moments I will never forget – the Tyree catch, the Manningham catch, LJ’s three, any number of Mets near-misses and the faint memories of 1994. 2012 is probably the best sports year of my life, to date, and the Rangers are still playing for a Stanley Cup. There will be more memories ahead – for all I know, there might be a triple-overtime game seven victory in the near future. There might be a Mets revival. There will probably be more City titles and Champions League runs. Every one will have it’s own special place. And as far as City goes, it’s hard to imagine Sunday not being at the head of the list forever. But that’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? To find out what might happen next.
“No. I am a Manchester City fan.”