It's been a tough go of it over the past eight or so months for a number of reasons. But no matter what transpires, or how dark the hour, I've always taken solace in being able to look forward to the start of footy season. It's the signal that I can once again don one of the three jerseys in my closet, drastically increase my "wheat juice" intake, and maniacally urge my side on to victory over the sodding infidels that would otherwise have them on bended knee.
From late summer, through the miserable greyish hell of a west coast winter, and into the spring I sport the colours: the black and white stripes of Newcastle United, the Magpies; and then there's the orange - the away kit colour for FC Zurich in the 2008-2009 season. Of course, once March hits, out comes the blue and white of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
But so far this soccer season, those hues have failed to serve as a call to arms, as a beacon of hope, faith, determination, and undying tribal devotion. No, they've been more akin to magnets for abuse; well-sponsored equivalents of the 5th grade sign taped surreptitiously to someone's back that says "Kick me."
Last year, things looked oh so wonderful for the Geordie in me. In just two years, Newcastle had come back from relegation, and instead of contentedly wallowing in the mid-table mire along with the much-hated Sunderlands, somewhat disliked Stokes, and completely irrelevant Norwiches, NUFC made a decent run of things. The Magpies finished 5th in the Premier League, just behind Tottenham and the Gunners, but more pleasingly, ahead of Chelsea and The Reds (Andy who?).
This season, Newcastle started brightly by knocking off the Hotspurs. Inconsistent results followed for almost three months. Finally, in late November a 2-0 loss to a dreadful Southampton side signaled that something was seriously amiss with Alan Pardew's side. At the end of December the Magpies were thrashed 7-3 by Arsenal, and the collapse was on. The black-and-white now sit a sad 15th in the Premier League table, just four points above relegation territory.
Over in Switzerland, life in the Raiffeisen Super League has been equally unkind to FC Zurich. In the span of three seasons, Zurich has gone from Champions League participants to mid-table finishers, to bottom feeders. FCZ has 17 points out of 18 matches, a performance that has them in 9th place in a 10-team league. The only saving grace in their case is the fact that nobody here in Vancouver (aside from Juanjorge and Alain Rochat) recognize the jersey, and usually confuse Switzerland for Sweden anyways.
So far, my current soccer season has been reduced to the status enjoyed by a steaming pile of dung - regardless of the jersey I decide to go with. My only hope now is for the Whitecaps to rescue the situation, and to give me some final shred of dignity to cling to. Admittedly, I didn't think Vancouver would make the playoffs last year, and they proved me wrong.
This year, I'm convinced the club will continue to improve, and qualify once again for the playoffs. Here's to hoping they don't prove me wrong yet again - I'm almost out of jerseys.