February 28 – 2007
After an absolute drilling at Charlton, West Ham are now assured of going down. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.
Allow me to restate my position on relegation as a practice: it rules. It’s the single greatest invention in sports history. While other leagues hang there heads in shame as the Cleveland Browns take on the Arizona Cardinals, or the Boston Celtics lock horns with the Atlanta Hawks, Wigan vs. Sheffield United (on the final day of the season) will be one of the most anticipated games of the season. Relegation turns crap into gold.
That being said, watching West Ham go down for the second time in 4 years will be soul-crushing. The impending fire-sale, the eventual transfer requests, the recriminations…truly heart-wrenching stuff. And it’s even worse as an American fan. Following a team in the Championship, from a distance, is one of Dante’s lower circles of hell. It stinks. No televised games, 3-second highlights on Sky Sports, live-match reports on Tuesday afternoons…
Plus there’s no guarantee West Ham will be coming back up anytime soon. The Championship must be considered among the most difficult leagues on the planet, and regardless of the players you drag in there with you, getting back up can be an elusive charge. I’m sure Leeds fans were positive they’d bounce right back; last time I checked, they had a dwarf for a coach, a mole in the dressing room, and one foot in League One. In Leeds-like fashion, West Ham have spent a lot of cash on their way down, and it’s possible they’ll have a Leeds-like stay in the Coca-Cola.
So I must ask myself: Am I prepared to support a team playing outside the Premiership indefinitely?
I just don’t know. 4 years ago, I viewed following the Hammers down as a point of pride. In truth, it probably had a lot more to do with proving a point to my new wife: I stick, baby. When she made fun of me for supporting a team that was so bad “they got kicked out of the league,” I had an easy and romantically useful retort: “Because that’s the kind of man I am. When you someday get kicked out of the League of Hot 20-40 Year-Olds, I’ll still be there, singing your praises and buying both your home and away jersey.”
It is, however, a deeply flawed analogy. I like my wife a great deal more than I like West Ham. I would never call my wife “useless shit-for-brains,” yet I call Paul Konchesky that all the time. I would never beat my wife, yet I fantasize about laying into Matt Etherington with a tire-iron. I’d never cheat on my wife, yet I find myself daydreaming about Moritz Volz, Jimmy Bullard, and cottages. Clearly, my relationship with West Ham is unhealthy.
In the end, life is probably too short to follow teams in the Championship, and so I’m going to be giving my status as a West Ham fan some serious thought. I’m not from East London, the team have sold or benched all my favorite players, and they’re crap to watch. Next year, crappy or good, I won’t get to watch at all. What exactly are the positives here?
Right now I can’t find any. I won’t do anything rash, but still…I feel like I just broke up with a longtime girlfriend, and now I’m on the prowl to bang any slut of a club that comes my way. Fulham have been wearing a particularly short mini of late, and I might just have to hit that back at the Cottage. Portsmouth, maybe. Even Reading are starting to look good, for Chrissake.
I should probably sleep on it.