So Phillips and I have told baseball to go fuck itself for the 2009 season, meaning I don’t care that pitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks, or that Manny Ramirez is sitting RIGHT FUCKING THERE for the Padres, but their currently-getting-divorced owner can’t spare a dime (or $65 million. Whatever). So no baseball. Which gave me nothing to do this Spring or Summer.
Baseball doesn’t make me happy, per se. Never has. Even when the Padres were good, I was always more nervous than happy except for a few great moments. Also, I always pile on some one related to the team (fuck you, Brian Giles!). Baseball is misery; just ask Cubs fan. And since baseball isn’t an option, I was looking at a Spring and Summer full of happiness and freedom. That just wouldn’t do.
Shit. I needed to get my yearly post-college/NFL football suffering from somewhere. Then it hit me: oh yeah, I’m a Newcastle United fan.
Or at least I used to be. The Magpies have been exceedingly mediocre for the last few years, so my interest waned. Besides, with my obsession with college football, the last thing I needed was a sport that got me up at 7am on a Sunday morning.
But you know what? I’m glad I’m back.
I’m not jumping to a football soccer team while they’re good. United is actually a point from being relegated out of the English Premier League for the first time in a hell of a long time, if ever.
The team has all the ingredients for disaster: dilettante owner who doesn’t know what he’s doing, a dick-ish front office that doesn’t care about the fans, insane players, and a rash of injuries that makes the Indianapolis Colts’ defense seem like pussies.
The Crap Owner
When he bought the team in 2007, Mike Ashley, the billionaire who owns or has large stakes in Kangol, Dunlop Slazenger, and Umbro, seemed like just another fan. He’d go drink at the local pubs in Newcastle, actually wore a team jersey to games, and even got in a bit of trouble for violating the “no drinking in sight of the pitch” rule. He even hired Tyne (the river in Newcastle) legend Kevin Keegan to run the team. All seemed well.
Then the board, dubbed “the Cockney mafia” by the fans and led mainly by Ashley’s friend Dennis Wise, ran Keegan out of town, failed to bring in any good players at all, and shut themselves off from the fans altogether. And the team got worse and worse and worse. By September of 2008, Ashley had stopped going to games and said he’d put the team up for sale due to his growing unpopularity amongst the fans. By December 2008, he hadn’t sold the team and took them off the market. Obviously the fans loved that.
His first game back at St. James Park (Newcastle’s home stadium) was this past Sunday, and he needed security guards with him just to get to his seat. He has no plans to sell the team at this point.
Insane Players/Player Exodus
First, excellent-if-petulant midfielder/defender Charles N’Zogbia stated he wanted out of Newcastle in December. Then current manager Joe Kinnear pronounced his name “Insomnia” in a post-match interview in January. N’Zogbia then said he was “on strike” and wouldn’t play another second for Newcastle while Kinnear was manager. N’Zogbia was dealt at the end of the transfer window to Wigan Athletic for some dude named Ryan Taylor (who I’m sure is a perfectly nice person) and around 6 million pounds. N’Zogbia was promptly called “boy” several times by Wigan’s manager.
Irishman Shay Given was the Magpies’ keeper for 11 years before February 2nd, and is still one of the most popular players in the club’s history. He got the hell out of Newcastle and headed for Manchester City because he believed the team simply wasn’t any good anymore. Gotta love it when teams run the popular vets out of town because of financial and shittiness issues, eh Padres?
Rash of Injuries
OK, I know Michael Owen being hurt isn’t exactly a new thing, but when a team is as shitty on defense as Newcastle has been, they need all the goals they can get. So losing Owen, Joey Barton, Shola Ameobi and Mark Viduka for extended periods of time kinda screws that up. Ameobi just came back in time to get Newcastle a draw against hated rival Sunderland, but that was after a long absence. Now if only they could stop teams from doing whatever the hell they want…
So I’ve replaced the Padres with Newcastle United. They’ve got the hated owner, lack of talent at key positions, a shit-ton of fan uproar, and the threat of demotion to a lower league (believe me if the Padres were an EPL team, they’d be relegated).
Unlike the Padres, the Magpies have something of a bright future ahead of them. Not to go all “Dave from Newcastle” on you, but Ameobi IS locked up until 2012, plus Nicky Butt (yes the Butt who used to play for Manchester United) just extended his deal. Michael Owen may actually be healthy one day, and a healthy United lineup actually is kind of loaded with Owen, Andy Carroll, Ameobi, Viduka, Barton, Butt, and Obafemi Martins. There’s absolutely no talent defensively, but it’s a start.
Apparently, I have impeccable timing and a need to suffer greatly with the teams I root for. Maybe that’s why I’m not missing baseball at all. The misery can continue, and I couldn’t be happier.
So if you need me, I’ll be rooting for the club with the rest of the Toon Army (including Tony Blair and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson) all Spring.
Cheers and don’t fucking lose to West Brom on Saturday, Mags!