Nick Hornby is a Bay Area Gooner!

bloggooner Nick Hornby was in town last week. For the uninitiated, he is the renown British author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good, and A Long Way Down, to name a just a few of his books.

In town promoting his latest book, Juliet, Naked, and a film he wrote he screenplay for, An Education (which is getting excellent reviews), Mr. Hornby appeared last Wednesday night at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in El Cerrito, and the following night at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

He is best known to Gooners for his memoir, Fever Pitch, which details his lifelong obsession with soccer and more specifically, Arsenal Football Club Considered by many to be the best book ever written about the sport, it is a book that every true Gooner should read. For many stateside supporters, it was their first introduction to the club.

Fever Pitch, was also made into a pretty decent British film, starring Colin Firth, and later remade into an absolutely wretched film, with the Boston Red Sox taking the place of the Gunners for American audiences.

Several Bay Area Gooners were in the audience Wednesday night, and yours truly presented Nick (I think he’ll excuse my familiarity), with a certificate proclaiming him an honorary member of the Bay Area Gooners and a BAG t-shirt.

GOONERS!

GOONERS!

This was the second time I’ve met him.  We chatted briefly about Arsenal last time he was in San Francisco promoting his previous book, Slam. At the time, he was tentatively schedule to watch an Arsenal match with our group, but ended up being a no-show.  I reminded him he is always welcome at Maggie McGarry’s for any match in the future.

He seem genuinely enthused about receiving the shirt, and was one of the more affable, accommodating, and funny as hell, people I’ve ever met.

You can read/hear more about his latest endeavors here and here.

Meet the Gooners! (No. 4 in a series)

bloggooner If you’ve been coming down to Maggie McGarry’s recently for the matches, you’ve noticed an incredibly cute addition to our little group of Gooners.  That would be Harriet the Bernese Mountain Dog, er puppy.  Jason is one of the humans lucky enough to live with Harriet, and has been coming to Maggie’s since they first began showing football.  He’s also been a Gooner a lot longer.

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JASON

When, how, why did you first start supporting Arsenal? I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was about 12 when I went to London. My brother and I were there over the years for various camps and trips including playing soccer. I’ll always remember watching my first game in a pub eating fish and chips and running out and blowing all my spending money on a kit. Especially became a fan in college when I could watch every game + EPL Review show. Not as good as Match of they Day in the UK but still best show on TV in the USA. Once you start watching a team week in, week out it’s hard not to be a fan.

Favorite all-time Arsenal player? Tough one. I love Viera and Freddy but I’ve seen Henry score some incredible goals so I’ll go with the classic.

If Arsenal were to nab one piece of silverware this season, which one would you hope it would be? Hmm, I’d like to see a domestic cup for the boys. Don’t get me wrong, Champions League or the league would be fantastic but the Carling Cup would probably be more special strangely for me. You got to love the way the young guns play when they are firing on all cylinders and I’ve watched every game the last 4 or 5 years into the semi’s twice and the final once. They deserve it!

Favorite current Arsenal player? Theeeeeeeeeoooooooooooooooooooo. My wife created a drink after him for god sakes! (splash of OJ and hefeweizen) I love his intensity, his touch and the way he can change a game. If he can make a run like he did against Liverpool in the champions league two years ago I’m really looking forward to what he can do this year when his back heals.

Player you wish Arsenal would sign? There’s been a lot of flack this season, as the past 3 years, about needing more players. The issue is really where are we light in a worst case scenario. I think Song and our defense has come a very long way and when healthy is great. But what happens if one, or god forbid two, or of our central defenders gets injured? We’re left with fish face (Silvestre) and Senderos? That being said, I strongly doubt Wenger will pick up anyone in January.

Best thing about being an Arsenal Supporter? Football has become a sort of religion in my life and I can’t think of a single thing related to Arsenal that is negative (although the 4:30am game times isn’t Arsenal’s fault, just where I live). Arsenal play in a beautiful city, play beautiful football and have great values and morals as a club and as people. Everyone I’ve ever met associated with the club understands they represent one of the best sports organizations in the world and respects that. I don’t think you can say that about many clubs in the world. Plus the fans are great too!

Ever been to see Arsenal in person Ya, a couple times but my favorite sporting moment of my entire life was being at the last game at Highbury against Wigan. I’ve been to some special games including a quarter final World Cup game but this was definitely one of the best days of my entire life. Beating Wigan 4-2 after being down 2-1 to beat out the Spurs for 4th, as well as all the shenanigans of the Spurs players getting food poisoning the night before, was great to be in London in the thick of it. Just electric.

I was very lucky to live a block away from Maggie’s when they started showing games, but even after moving, I found myself going back because of the community we’re creating there. This is an Arsenal bar (sorry Mick) and I’m really looking forward to it continuing to grow. As far as I know, no other club has even close to the following at a dedicated bar throughout the city. Speaking of which, when Arsenal play the Spurs we’re going to go to Danny Coyle’s (the alleged Spurs bar) and be as vocal as possible. Everyone should come out!

Anything else you’d like to share with the local Gooners? To finish up, it’s been great to meet everyone and I’m really looking forward to this season. This team is better than last year and will only get better. The future is bright for our club and I’m happy to be able to share these memories with all of you! Ooh to, ooh to be, ooh to be a Gooner!

Where Football is Religion

bloggooner The first time you walk through the door at Nevada Smiths in New York, you feel the difference. It’s not just standing room only, it’s standing and singing room only.

With multiple TV screens on every wall, in every corner, and one big screen at the “bog end”, they were able to show every Champions League match the second day we visited. I peered into the downstairs room only long enough to see this where the Chel$ki supporters had been banished to, and quickly left before the stink set into my clothing.

Outside Nevada Smiths

Outside Nevada Smiths

Every kind of supporters group has carved out their own little piece of the room. The Mancs, the Scousers, Barca, Hamburg, Juventus, you name the club, and some of their fans were probably in attendance. And they all coexist fairly big peacefully in this big football melting pot of a bar.

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Me and the missus!

Our first visit was on a Saturday morning to watch Fulham v Arsenal at the quite civilized hour of 12:30PM EST. Being used to the Bay Area where matches are usually on about 7:00AM, it was a treat for us not having to be up at the crack of dawn.

Nice shirt!

Nice shirt!

Squeezing past the fans closest to the door which seemed to be a coagulation of ManUre and Liverpool supporters, I came face to face with a very large man in a Tottenham shirt, hold his hand aloft, fingers spread wide, yelling “Five, five, five”.  Apparently the Scum had put 5 goals past their hapless opponent that day. I tapped him on the shoulder.  He turned, repeating, “Five, five goals”.  “It was bound to happen once in a lifetime”, I posited politely, and then continued towards the back of the bar, in search of Gooners.

And oh what Gooners I found.  You could not ask for a more spirited group than the NYC Arsenal Supporters.  Run by two genial blokes, Kurtis and Brett, these die-hard Gunners fans went above and beyond being just gracious hosts to three Bay Area Gooners.  I can only hope our group in San Francisco shows visiting Arsenal supporters the kind of welcome we received.

We met so many great people, including a Gooner wearing a wig he fashioned in Bacary Sagna’s honor.   We sang songs, shared stories, and

Dead ringer for Sagna!

Dead ringer for Sagna!

bonded in that way that only true Gooners can.  Not to discount in any way the great community we’ve built at Maggie McGarry’s Irish Pub in North Beach, but the matches we watched at Nevada Smiths had an electricity second only to watching the matches in person.

I was even interviewed for Kurtis’ blog while I was there!