Well it has been a full week since one of the best days of my life took place, well other than my wedding day and the birth of my child mind you. You have to go back 25 years ago back in 1989 that Arsenal last came to North America when they took on Independiente in Miami with another breed of players and fans who were excited to see them play. Well that was then and this is now, a new breed of players and fans all with the same excitement. It was finally announced in March that Arsenal would be coming to NYC to take on The King and the New York Red Bulls, about bloody time! Immediately I started looking at ways to purchase tickets, I went as far as going on Stubhub and willing to pay up to $700 bucks for two tickets!! A little bit crazy.
Luckily for me, my wife offered to buy me the tickets for my birthday. After much research I found out that the only way to get tickets was to be a NYRB season ticket holder or to be part of an officially recognized supporter group. Well I wasn’t going to buy NYRB season tickets, so the next best thing was to find an official support group.
I found out that Arsenal Canada was one of those supporter groups, so obviously I become a member and BAM tickets were bought #bestwifeever! For the next few months I would constantly bug and annoy my wife with constant reminders of how many days till the game and I even created a countdown at work on an excel sheet. Finally, only a couple more weeks to go and news of what events would be happening that weekend started popping out including the Fan party at the IZOD and Grand Central Station events. I knew we had to do it all so of course we booked our stay at a hotel that was recommended by Arsenal Canada and were even giving a group rate for members interested in staying there, thanks AC.
The day finally arrived, July 24, 2014, bags were packed, car was packed and off we went. Took us almost 10 hours (with stops) to get to our hotel but I did not care at all it felt like I had 10 Redbulls with all the energy I had. We unpacked real fast and managed to met up with some fellow Canucks who made the trip down as well and off we went. First stop was the Fan Party at the IZOD Center. There was a lot of Arsenal supporters it was an awesome sight, it was about time my wife saw that I was not the only one that screamed and cheered on weekends when I would take over the living room and watch the mighty Arsenal. Although the fan party was not quite what I thought it was going to be, I thought that we would get a chance to do a “meet and greet” with some of the players and The King, maybe get a few pics, some autographs; but that was not the case. Now, I am in no way complaining about it at all I just probably misunderstood. I still had an awesome time and had great seats, even got some awesome pics of the event. I got to see The King and a few Arsenal players up close and that was well worth it. I even managed to score some Arsenal swag.
Day 2 of the trip was more sight seeing focused although there was still events happening on the Friday which we did plan on attending, we decided to go into NYC and take in some of the sights. There was lots to see and of course tons and tons of walking, this city is crazy busy and the traffic wow, there is no way I could ever imagine driving in Manhattan and Time Square? Forget it just way to crazy! After going out on the town and LOTS of walking, we made our way down to 14th Street where it was painted in red. Literally hundreds of Arsenal fans crammed into three little pubs, the Blind Pig was way to crowded for me though, the next pub; the Winslow was decent and we even managed to snatch a table. We had dinner there which was quite good and tasty, the art work that was being auctioned off was very awesome but just way to expensive for my liking. After a long and exhausted day we decided not to go O’ Halons which was the third pub, so we headed back to the hotel and get some much needed R and R. On a side note I was very surprised, I had heard a lot about how nasty and mean New Yorkers are but that is far from the truth. I found that every New Yorker I asked for help for either a train question or how far a certain places was, they were really helpful and very nice they are among some of the friendliest people I have ever met. The cops on the other hand…Not so much.
Now for the big day, which had finally arrived…But before I talk about the best day ever, here is
my memorable story that could have ended in the worst day ever and I am sure no one who went to NYC experienced this because no one was as dumb as I was. Arsenal vs New York was upon me, I was so pumped and ready to go we headed on our way and stop by O’Donnell’s pub for some drinks with other Arsenal supporters. To my surprise I spot Bully who we all know is a big fan and also features on ArsenalFanTV from time to time and I even got to have a picture taken with him I was pumped for that. We ordered some drinks and we head back outside because it was too hot in the pub. I am putting away my change and I start to notice that I am not feeling my precious tickets anywhere in my short pockets!!!!! Panic starts to set in and those dreaded words that no one wants to say or hear come out of my mouth, as I turn to my wife I say “I don’t have the tickets!?” to which she replies “are you kidding me!?” I rushed back into the pub and ask everyone if they have seen a pair of tickets anywhere on the floor!? All my follow Gooners in the pub including Bully start helping me look for my tickets (It was awesome) but nothing, I could not find them! Tears are starting to form in my eyes, yes a grown man was about to cry. As I approach my wife with the saddest face, I look up and she is smiling as she holds up a pair of tickets in her hand. I asked her where she had found them, and her reply was simple; “as you rushed in I was looking around outside and I noticed these two pieces of paper down the sidewalk about two car lengths away. I did not want to leave the entrance though as I had drinks in my hands and didn’t want to chance getting a ticket if the cops showed up again (cops previously showed up making everyone outside go back in cause of having drinks outside). All of a sudden one piece of papers flipped over and it looked to me like it was them so I said f$@k it and run to see if those were the tickets, lo and behold it was our tickets!” True story, I owe my life to this women.
Back to the game, it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. To watch the team you support on tv is one thing but to watch them up close and live is a whole other story truly something special. We all know that Arsenal lost to NYRB but that was not the point, it was only a preseason match and Arsenal did not have their major players there. It was great to see a good mixture of the first team and the up and coming youngsters. I was really impressed with Olsson, Bellerin, and Martinez just to name a few. Regardless of Arsenal losing I didn’t really care that much, it was an amazing experience just to see them play. It was a great weekend away and I experienced it all with my wife which was awesome, we met a lot of Gooners from across the world and from home. T Dot Gooners are an amazing group of people and cannot wait to head over to the Fox in Toronto to watch some games this season and to hang out with some of them. But probably the best thing about this whole trip was converting my wife into an Arsenal Fan COYG!!!