Tempered Expectations

Wilshere-MertesackerBack in early May, I went in for surgery fully expecting to be out of hospital within a week to ten days, back home in time to watch Arsenal’s final match of the 2012-2013 Premier League season. Several complications following the operation meant I was still an inpatient on May 19, when that match away to Newcastle came around, and I couldn’t even watch it live since the TV in the patient lounge was broadcasting Tottenham v. Sunderland, and I didn’t have my laptop with me. I followed Arsenal’s progress that day via Twitter updates on my phone. Even in the midst of my bodily woes, I did appreciate how lucky I was to be an Arsenal fan, in fact just a sports fan period, in such a technologically advanced world; there’s usually some way or another to monitor the team(s) you love. Arsenal came away with a 1-0 win against Newcastle, meaning they finished 4th in the table, one point ahead of Tottenham for the final Champion’s League qualification place. It was a happy end to a mostly forgettable season, and a nice bit of news at the time considering all the horrors taking place within my malfunctioning body.

Before I went in for my operation, I was given a few general timelines to consider. The first was that my stay in hospital would be about 5 days. Lies. The second was that I would have my temporary ileostomy for about three months, meaning I would have my ostomy reversed sometime in August or September. More lies. Of course the timelines given were based on the assumption that the surgery would go as planned. It did not.

I believed in those timelines when I heard them. I had to. It gave me confidence when I stepped into the cold, bright operating room. I set high expectations to those timelines, and I’ve crashed from a considerable height as a result. Here we are more than halfway through August, and a reversal surgery is nowhere in sight for 2013. The more likely timeline at this point seems to be that I will require an operation in November that will be, for lack of a better term, a do-over. You’d like to believe surgeons don’t require Mulligans, but no one’s perfect. That means that my ostomy reversal could come sometime around March 2014. Half a year away. Crash.

Yesterday, Arsenal kicked off their 2013-14 Premier League campaign. I was happy enough that I could watch the match against Aston Villa on TV at home, but I didn’t greet the start of the new football season with the same excitement and energy that I have over the last several years. I held no expectations about challenging for the Premier League title or even securing another top-four finish. Instead of pacing in front of the screen and miming the actions of the players as I usually do, I slouched lopsided on a chair in front of the TV, putting most of my weight on the left side of my body. My homecare nurse changed the anchor on my drainage tube the day before the match, so my right buttock was in considerable pain.

Arsenal went up 1-0 early on thanks to the handsome Olivier Giroud. I shouted, “yes” as the ball hit the inside of the side netting. A muted response by my standards. I didn’t even rise from the chair because it hurt to move. Aston Villa tied the game later in the first half, and I let out a quiet obscenity. Again, a muted response. Villa took the lead in the second half after a sketchy penalty call, and sealed the victory late on with a third goal. Even with the dodgy refereeing, it was a poor performance from the men in red and white. A 3-1 loss at home in the first game of the season against a side that narrowly avoided relegation last season would normally send me into a rage. Not this time. I felt blasé. No anger, no surprise, no sadness, no crash. But that worried me more than Arsenal’s sluggish play, their mounting list of injured players, and the prospect of fielding a very weak squad next week when they travel to Istanbul to play Fenerbahçe in the first leg of their Champion’s League playoff.

Arsenal used to really make me feel – pride, joy, anger, frustration, anxiety, anticipation. Maybe all of those emotions are boiling beneath the surface, but I didn’t feel them yesterday. For you non-Arsenal fans, you should know the club’s management fucked up something fierce over the summer, releasing a number of players while signing only one. Rather than strengthening the squad, management actively weakened it. Maybe that’s why Saturday’s loss wasn’t a surprise, and why it wasn’t hard to take.

Much like Arsenal is in a weaker state coming into the season, so am I. That’s the other possible reason for my lackluster support for the club yesterday. I just didn’t feel physically or mentally well. I was tired and sore and angry and frustrated because I figured at this point in August, I’d be close to my ostomy reversal, or at least in much better shape than I am. The last few months have drained my tiny tank of optimism, possibly to the point where my psyche is running on fumes.

Maybe it’s a little from Column A, a little from Column B. I just hope that whatever made yesterday’s Arsenal match so unsatisfying is remedied, and quickly. I’d love to once again feel all the things I used to feel as an Arsenal supporter, and I’d love to once again set great, but realistic, goals for myself and my club.

Image via London Evening Standard

NOTE: If you’d like to read some of my past ramblings on Arsenal and its importance in my life, check out Just Fourteen More Minutes and Gooner Karma on The Arsenal Collective.

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About rasheedclarke

Award-winning author. Marathon runner. Exceptional dresser. I'd like to be all those things.

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