It was a slower than usual afternoon at the Globe, a pub on Chicago’s North Side, and Gary and Anjola, with little else to do, got to talking.
“It’s quiet. A little too quiet, if you follow me.”
Anjola could only look at Gary quizzically. “‘fraid I don’t, unless you’re wanting to expound just
a bit more on your theory there?”
“Well, this is The Globe, innit?”
Again, Anjola eyed Gary, this time a bit bemused by the corpulent man who now turned in his bar-seat. “Thanks, Gary. I thought I had wandered in to church to give confession. Good thing you mentioned that we’re in a pub and not in a house of worship, what with all of these scarves, jerseys, and flatscreens around. Forgive me for my blindness, for I—”
“Oh, hush, you Nigerian knob! This is in face a house of worship, ‘what with all of these scarves, jerseys, and flatscreens around’, as you put it. My point is, where is the congregation? The flock? The followers?”
“Well, I’m here. You’re here. Monica’s here (but I think she’s a scouser). There’s a few lads in the back. Whaddaya want, Gary? It’s a Tuesday afternoon. No match, no ‘congregation’, as you put it.”
“Right, right, but you miss my point.”
“Which is what, exactly? You haven’t quite said anything that we could call a proper ‘point’ just yet.”
“Patience, Anjola, patience.” Gary took a long, slow sup from his pint.
“If patience is a virtue, Gary, I’m ready to be sainted. Will you get to it already?”
Gary eyed him over the edge of his glass, a glimmer in his eye, but not a word from his lips.
Anjola sighed. “Get on with it, man. I’m losing interest.”
“Fine, fine. Look around. What do you see?”
“Again with this crap? I tol’ ya. You. Me. Monica behind the bar. Scarves and jerseys all over the place. Flatscreens with nuttin’ on because it’s Tuesday. So what?”
“So you agree that we’re here?”
“Are ya blinkin’ mad, mate? Where else would we be? Monica, cut this man off, spewin’ nonsense!”
“Easy, Anj, he’s just messin’ with ya.”
“I know that, Monica, and I’m wantin’ him to stop or say what he’s so fired up to say. Or not say. I don’t know. I don’t care.”
“Anjola, you’re a Gooner.”
“‘Til I die.”
“Okay, okay. Easy now. I’m a Gooner.”
“Arsenal lost on Saturday.”
“Pfft. Don’t remind me.”
“However, we’re still here. You and I.”
“Again with this? We’ve been over this already. Get to it, man, or I’ll get to you!”
“You’re missing my point.”
“What IS the bleeding point, man?” Anjola, clearly agitated, picked up his pint, poured it down his throat in one go, and slammed the glass on the bar.
“Easy, luv, those glasses are glass.” Monica eyed him with a mix of amusement and concern.
“What? Oh, sorry, Mon.”
“Anjola, look around at what you don’t see.”
“What I don’t see? Elephants. Dinosaurs. The Taj Mahal. You want more? The Eiffel Tower. My wife. The Falklands. The—”
“If you’re going to insist on being obtuse, we can end this little discussion here and now.”
“Discussion? Me, obtuse? You’ve gone on and on, you little devil, you, and—”
With that, Anjola’s eyes widened. His hand grasped, fingers fluttering for the bar-stool to steady himself. “Devils. There are no devils.”
“There are no Red Devils. They’re usually here no matter what. Dozens of them. What happened?”
“I think you and both know the answer to that question. Do I have to spell it out for you?”
“No, no. I get it. They’re playing like shite. What are they? 6th?”
“7th.” Gary sat back and watched as Anjola connected the dots.
“Right. It’s as if all of their fans have simply stopped.”
“Well, ‘all’ is a strong word, but you’re on to it now.”
“It’s as if—it’s as if they’re all a bunch of front-running, fair-weather fans.”
“Exactly. Flat-track bullies, some might say. And what do you think will happen if we win on Wednesday?”
“Well, we may not be top of the table because Chelsea gets to play the Baggies and—”
“Set that aside. Think of the fans.”
Anjola paused, pondering the possibilities. “A lot of Man U fans…will…stop supporting Man U….they’ll switch…to Arsenal?”
“Good show.” Gary leaned back on his bar-stool and clasped his hands contentedly over his belly.
“But we don’t want that, do we? I mean, they’ll—”
“Anjola, fans like those follow success. Man U’s been the only club Americans really know about, no thanks to Beckham. Now that they’re fading, those fans are going to desert Man U like rats desert a sinking ship. Hell, some of the players are thinking of doing the same. We can’t control who roots for what club, so these fans who switch to Arsenal? There’s no need to be rude to them. If they know football, they’ll stick around for the long haul. Once they learn what Arsenal is and what it means to be a Gooner, they’ll know. If they don’t, well, they’ll switch to some other club soon enough. So it goes.”
“Are you sure? Shouldn’t we quiz them on—”
“Trust me, Anjola. These problems usually sort themselves out on their own.”
Note: I strongly doubt that Pete Seeger followed football very closely, but in the wake of his death the 27th of January, I hope he won’t mind this little homage.