I may be overstating my case with that title, just a tad.
As you may recall, if you’re old enough, Sophie’s Choice was a 1979 novel that was made into a movie starring Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep won an Oscar for her role. The movie followed the relationship of Sophie, a holocaust survivor, and her lover, through the eyes of a journalist acquaintance. Sophie had many secrets that were unlocked in the movie through a series of flashbacks, but the big one, the one suggested by the title, was about the worst choice you can imagine someone having to make. I would feel guilty being a spoiler here, even though it seems that 30+ years should be long enough for you to have gotten out to see the movie or read the book.
I am on my way back to London at the end of next week, this time with my son. After he heard about the stadium tour we did last time, he concluded that we really must go there. To which I said, “Been there, done that, son.”
Kidding. I said, “Awesome, can’t wait to go back.” Not only do I love the tour, it starts and ends in the club shop. We’ll go on the weekend, not on match day. Unlike on match day, when the place is overrun with fans, on a normal day you can take your time and deliberate over your purchases.
Or so, I say. The reality is that so far I have deliberated, but never purchased.
It’s clear to me that next season, when I have no Arsenal tickets and no upcoming trips to London, and I’m watching every match from my lonely couch or a dive bar, what will comfort me and keep me warm is a Home jersey from this memorable (to me) season. (If it becomes memorable to anyone else, some kind of success will occur that has so far eluded us. Notwithstanding yesterday’s amazing Champions League win!) It needs to be a Home jersey for a few reasons: I have an Away jersey from a few seasons ago and Home is where I’m seeing this season’s matches.
If you’ve been following my quest, I’ve been in the club shop at least five times. I have yet to invest in this season’s jersey because whenever I get to the shop, I am beset with indecision. The big indecision from my last trip started when I saw some shirts in the shop with player names on them. That was the first time it crossed my mind that I could buy a shirt with a player’s name on the back.
But whose name?
Do you go with a marquee name? The handsomest guy? The young guy sure to make good? The player most likely to retire when this season retires? An obscure, unsung guy?
I remember when we had season tickets for the Chicago Fire. The guy sitting in front of us had a shirt with “Mapp” on the back. Justin Mapp was a young Fire player at that time, and raw. He never set the league on fire, but he’s had a decent MLS career. At that time, though, I considered him kind of pathetic. Maybe he’d had some moments, but I couldn’t think of what they were. Therefore, we concluded that the guy wearing the Mapp shirt must be one of Justin Mapp’s relatives. Now, this could not possibly have been true, because Justin Mapp was from Mississippi. It would be unlikely to the max for him to have a relative in Chicago for every match. But he seemed so raw, you couldn’t envision a rational reason for a fan to wear a jersey with his name on it, week in and week out.
I’ve seen people around wearing the Suarez Liverpool jersey. If I bought a jersey and my guy turned out to be a biter, I couldn’t deal with that. And although there may have been a time when I would have been happy to wear a van Persie jersey, that feeling has absolutely passed.
So, important guideline: do not select a player whose shirt you’d have a high likelihood of being embarrassed wearing, or that might cause you to be mistaken for his mom.
I love these Arsenal players, all of them. I would be proud to wear a jersey with any of their names on it at this moment. There are some that frustrate me regularly (Ramsey, Flamini, Walcott, Giroud, Chamberlain, looking at you, here), but every one of them has given me a many a great moment also.
There are several so popular, it’s a clichéd choice. Are you worthy of me only if you are the cream of the crop and not just some hardworking guy who makes things tick on the field? Monreal, for example. He is an amazing, amazing defender. Would I wear his name on my shirt?
I have to admit, I lean toward that popular shirt guy, just like everyone else. Someone who inspires and makes magic. And this makes me look toward the axis of amazingness: Ozil, Cazorla, Alexis.
Ozil: Ice and beauty. Alexis: Fire and effort. Santi: You could say he’s somewhere in the middle.
Ol’ Sophie had a big, horrible choice to make and only seconds to do it. It was movie-worthy, book-worthy. This jersey decision is clearly not worth a world of deliberation. Should be simple, quick.
But which one? Which name on my jersey?