How do you tell a Gooner from a masochist?

This Saturday, you may have a little trouble with the above distinction, as yours truly will be in a North Beach pub at 4:45AM PST to watch Arsenal travel to Old Crapford to take on ManUre. Under normal circumstances, this would simply be an ardent show of support by a dedicated supporter.

However, when you factor in that the Gunners will be facing the club that trounced them in the recent Champions League Semi-Final match, which was sandwiched in between crushing defeats by Chel$ki, one of which ended Arsenal’s FA Cup run, one could be forgiven for thinking I am a glutton for punishment.

But we’re supporters. This is what we do. We support. So, it is very nice when that support is behind a club when they’re on a record-setting 49 match unbeaten run, or winning the double, but one must take the good with the bad. In fact, while Arsenal supporters have now had almost 5 years with barely a sniff at a major trophy, things could be so much worse. Just ask Newcastle supporters, or Middlesbrough.

At some point in time, our support is no longer a rational, well thought out decision, but something more instinctual. The kicked-in-the-gut feeling arrives like clockwork with every loss, “us” usually means “me and the club I support” instead of “my family and I”, we can name more former players than former U.S. Presidents, and we often do things sane people might question. Such as show up at a pub in the wee hours of the morning to watch a match that no one (certainly not London bookmakers) is giving us a chance of winning.

My friend (and future brother-in-law!) Thomas, supports FC Nürnberg, who were unceremoniously relegated from the Bundesliga last season, this just barely a year after they had won the Deutscher Fußball-Bund-Pokal (German Football-Federation Cup). Now they look to be on the verge of promotion, so you can imagine the emotional rollercoaster Thomas has been riding.

Another friend, Alan Black, noted author of Kick the Balls, and gracious night manager at the Ediburgh Castle Pub, is a lifelong Clyde FC supporter, who has seen his club recently relegated to the Scottish 2nd Division, after years mired in the lower part of the Scottish 1st Division. I introduced him to another Scotsman the other night, who upon hearing of Alan’s support for Clyde, said, “So, you’re not a fan of football then”. Ah, the indignity of being a true fan.

So come Saturday, you could question my sanity for subjecting myself to a 4:45AM kick-off, but if you see me wandering home with a slight spring in my step, you’ll know it was well worth losing a little sleep.

Gooners on the verge of a nervous breakdown

Did you have trouble sleeping last night? Tossing and turning while muttering,…Wenger…must play 4-4-2…not Silvestre…we’ve got Cesc Fabregas, we’ve got Cesc Fabregas. Somewhere in London, each of us stateside Gooners has a English counterpart, chewing their nails to the bone.

They have a distinct advantage over us, what with footie being so ingrained in the public consciousness – their bosses, spouses, the guy at the corner shop, even if they’re not Arsenal supporters, know that this is a very big day indeed.

Our lot is not quite as simple, and often, twice as nerve wracking. Pity the poor American Gooner who cannot get to the pub mid-day today, must try and diligently maintain a media blackout, avoiding email, texts, the Internets, in order to get home to watch a tape of the match.

Or those who risk disciplinary action by streaming the match online when they’re supposed to be knee deep in a spreadsheet making budgetary decisions. I’ve been there and I would not wish it on anyone. I finally decided to take partial vacation days for the remaining weekday matches in Arsenal’s season, much to the bemusement of some of my coworkers. The 2nd leg of the Champions League Semi-Final against Manchester United means little or nothing to them.

But I don’t really care that most people I will pass on the street today, have no clue about the MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT IS HAPPENING TODAY, I’ll be at Maggie McGarry’s Irish Pub in North Beach today in time for kick-off, to commence drinking, shouting, singing, with a group of people, just as nervous, tense, and as painfully aware of the task ahead of Arsenal today.

C’mon you Gunners!