Saturday 23rd August 2014 5:30 PM
(All Ticket Sell Out - Live On TV)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance: 39490
Goal Scorers: Coleman(19m), Naismith(45m)
Everton Team: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas (Atsu), Naismith, Pienaar (Osman), Lukaku (McGeady)
Subs: Alcaraz, Besic, Osman(10m), McGeady(75m), Atsu(85m)
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Dad and Me
Dad and Me

Week Two - Familiar Territory

If my first game as an Evertonian was like getting to know the in-laws at a wedding reception, then the second game felt like that big holiday dinner a couple years later. Some of the shine has worn off, and you realize all of these people are messed up, and you're probably just as messed up as they are. There's that tense moment after your wife's aunt and uncle have another big fight about that thing they're always fighting about when you recognize that family's not just happy times and parties; it's also shared frustration and common misery. And the flickering hope that you'll all get through it together someday.

Watching Together

Being Evertonian in a small Oklahoma town has its challenges. I haven't found any others where I live, so I planned to make the 70 minute drive again this week to Skinny Slim's to watch with the Everton OKC group. It's a great pub and a great group, but for the 11:30 am kickoff, I have to leave the house just after 10 am and won't be back until almost 3 pm. Not too big a deal, unless you ask my wife who's home with four kids that whole time.

This week I benefited from some rather extraordinary circumstances that allowed me to make it to the match. My brother's wife had their baby a bit earlier than expected, and in perfect time to necessitate a family trip to the OKC area. My parents also came in from out of state, and the schedules worked out perfectly for my Dad and I to make the match before meeting the baby.*

My Dad's not much of a sports fan. (I picked up all my pro sports allegiances from my New Hampshire-born mom and her side of the family.) Dad's last soccer viewing experience was most likely the final game of my high school career. But I got him my new Everton practice shirt and we headed out.

Meeting the Enemy

I don't suppose there are a lot of great soccer bars in Oklahoma City, so it's unsurprising that the local Arsenal group (the "Sooner Gooners") also met up at Skinny Slim's for the game. We had maybe ten Toffees there--a few less than last week--and I'd say there were 15-20 Gooners. I checked with one of our regulars to see if I needed to prepare for potential brawling, but he assured me violence would be unlikely. (I'm not sure what stage of Everton initiation "defending the shirt in a bar fight" is, but I assume it's on the list somewhere.) 

Now...I want to stress that I did not meet or interact personally with any of the Sooner Gooners, and I don't like to generalize disparagingly about a group of people.  But I have to assume that the majority of Arsenal fans in Oklahoma City would be what I'd kindly call Frontrunners. Bandwagon fans. Fair-weather fans. As I've noted previously, this is a character flaw in the vein of cowardice and adultery. So I approached these people with a certain amount of prejudice and disdain. And I cannot say that they proved me wrong. I heard too much whining and cursing of players/managers/referees when they were losing, and too much gloating over the final whistle.  I'd have been embarrassed to be on that side of the bar.**

Deja Vu

Then there was the football. Oy. I had more nerves coming into this game with an established power and rival for top-four position, and it only got worse as the game went along. There was a brief respite from the tension after the early goal from Coleman off Barry's pinpoint cross, but soon at was worse than a 0-0 match. My immediate concern was last week's 90-second equalizer, but as the game wore on at 1-0, it began to feel like aerobic exercise. 

The great thing about soccer as a sport is the sense that anything can happen at anytime. Neither players nor fans have much time to relax. Then Lukaku went on a rampage down the right side and slotted a perfect pass to Naismith, who went five-hole (is that just a hockey term?) on the Arsenal keeper for a 2-0 lead. I admit I felt pretty good at that point. I let my guard down just a little over halftime and talked about how well the club was playing and how much better they looked than last week. Big mistake.

The second half started ok, but soon the defense was sagging and the ball was being given away lazily. Everton wasn't pressing as they had been in the first half and soon even a two-goal lead was agony. Aerobic exercise turned to an Ironman triathlon. Everyone knew Arsenal's first goal was coming. When it did, all I could do was watch the clock and and pray for it to move faster. Then, as we were speculating on how much added time would be given, Arsenal got the equalizer. I compared last week to USA-Portugal, but this was much closer to that debacle. A sure win against a top team was given away by conservative, hesitant play. 


My friends in blue at the pub took it like champs. I could tell this was not new for them. Unlike the Gooners cursing the TV at the mere prospect of losing, the Evertonians grumbled and commiserated and tried to compare this to prior disappointments. They killed beers and closed tabs and smiled pained smiles to the Arsenal supporters celebrating an undeserved point. 

I took the reactions in and warmed just a bit on the inside, clearly recognizing the motions that I've stumbled through a hundred times in my life as a fan. Walking numbly out of a college football stadium last November. Joining the mass exodus of orange shirts out of the Alamo Dome ten years ago. Turning off the TV as soon as Boone's homer left the bat. The helmet catch. Parker's drop. Simmons stuffed at the 1.

My teams have won trophies and had great success at times, but I was raised on sports suffering. Being a fan means pain. It means standing by, smiling weakly as opportunities are squandered, and coming back the next week even though you expect the worst. It means holding back hope for years until success is so close you can almost touch it, and just as you take the chance to reach out, someone else grabs it. That's why I can't stand the frontrunners. You don't deserve the celebrations if you haven't paid the dues. 

I could see in those few minutes after the match Saturday and in scrolling through Twitter on the way home that Evertonians know suffering. They have invested in more than just the celebrations and highs of winning; they persevere through the low points with grim determination that the small kernel of hope deep down inside will someday be watered and allowed to bloom. These people show up to the dysfunctional Christmas dinner and still manage to have a good time.

* I promise that we were more excited about the beautiful, healthy niece than the trip to the pub...

** There's a decent chance most of this is sour grapes and those Gooners were all respectable and legitimate fans, but someone will have to prove it to me.
EDIT: Of course this is all sour grapes. I have no doubt many Sooner Gooners are dedicated, loyal fans. But this is the default way I see fans of more "dominant" teams. I grew up with the Red Sox, so I see every Yankees fan as a frontrunner. I know there are millions of true Yankees fans, but I prejudge them all. Same with OU fans (but even more so). I'm kind of a jerk that way.    


Adopted By Everton by William Joyce. Follow on twitter @AdoptedToffee

If any Everton fan wants to write an Everton match report or do a blog for Blue Kipper just e-mail fun@bluekipper.com


Comments about Fan's Match Report
Nice reading Bill I'm looking forward to your further postings . I hate the bandwagon jumpers myself they're usually bully boys who couldn't get picked at school because they had two left feet ,so choose a so called big team to bask in relative glory so they can mouth off at anyone they feel like and it stands to reason Man U ;The Shite; Chelski and The Arse have more than anyone .COYB
Ian , Prescot , 4:15 PM 27/08/2014
Bill, you're a blue lad, no doubt about it!!
Gary McCarthy, Wirral, 2:25 PM 27/08/2014
The paragraph beginning : 'My teams have won...' should be put on the front of T-shirts and sold in the Everton shop ... it sets out precisely, what it is to be an Evertonian!
njr1330, Liverpool, 8:40 PM 26/08/2014
Bill, It wasn't sour grapes. That's what Arsenal fans are like. See MBE's match report :o) Great piece by the way. I hope you keep it up.
Spectator, Crosby, 4:19 PM 26/08/2014
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