The best way to manufacture controversy — Chris Carrel

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I have a confession to make: I’m a Gooner.

And you’re thinking, “Yes, Chris, we knew that.” No, not a goober. A Gooner. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s badge of honor. As in fan of the English football club, Arsenal (aka the Gunners).

What does this have to do with Federal Way? Well, not much really. But it does have something to do with this column. I noticed the lack of letters to the editor for this column. I really thought that by now I’d have offered enough of my opinions (ill-formed, half-baked and otherwise) to elicit some angry letters to the editor.

So far, nada. Zip. Goose eggs.

What do I have to do, write a column defending Michael Vick and dogfighting? Sounds great, Andy said. When can you have it ready? Editors. They’ll do anything to sell newspapers.

I couldn’t bring myself to defending Michael Vick, but, it occurred to me that sports may be the way to go to manufacture controversy.

Local sports are where you’re likely to get the most response. You obviously don’t pay much attention to sports, do you?

The Seahawks are a .500 team in the NFC West (A division so bad, a loosely organized team from the Peg Leg Society could go .500). The Mariners’ pennant fever is never more than a 24-hour virus. The Sonics — the team I grew up idolizing — are not just bad, they’ve already got their bags packed for Oklahoma. And then there are the Huskies. They’re so bad that if it weren’t for the fast-forward button on my DVR, I wouldn’t be able to watch a single game. I used to bleed purple. Now, it’s not even a faint lavender.

I can’t even get partisan over high school sports anymore. When I was a Decatur Gator, I used to hate Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson high schools. On game days, I could recite everything that was wrong with players on those teams, right down to their parents’ genetic defects. These days, I’m happy to cheer for local kids, no matter the school.

In fact, at the recent Federal Way Chamber auction, my tablemate and I were busily getting text message play by play from his daughter who was watching the Beamer girls’ soccer team play in the state championship soccer game while I should’ve been listening to the auctioneer (sorry, Tom — now you know why our table didn’t buy much).

So, that leaves me with my football club from London. Thanks to my kids, I got introduced to soccer a few years back. This led in turn to discovering televised English football matches and taking up the sport myself.

I quickly fell in love with Arsenal. It didn’t hurt that I discovered them at the beginning of what would become a historic run of 49 league games without defeat. I was hooked.

Thanks to the Internet and Fox Soccer Channel, it was easy for this Federal Way’er to adopt a North London Football club. If you see me on game day, I am usually wearing some sort of Arsenal swag. My office wall features a team calendar and my blog for work, the HyleBlog, features the Gunner of the Month at the beginning of each month.

The English Premier League has a surprising number of followers in the local area. In my soccer league, many of the players wear replica jerseys from English teams. Rumor even has it there’s an Arsenal-obsessed teacher at a local high school.

So, this is a better option for controversy than you may think. Fans of English football are a crazy and partisan lot. All manner of hatred gets invested in your team’s rival. When an English team plays its crosstown rival (which happens at least twice a year) in what’s known as a local derby (pronounced darby), the play is typically very rough, and the violence occasionally spills over to the fans.

For Arsenal, their main derby rival is Tottenham Hotspurs. I take no small pride in knowing that Arsenal has owned Tottenham in recent years.

I recently ran into one of my friends’ dads. He grew up in Liverpool and is a lifelong supporter of the Liverpool Football Club. While Liverpool and Arsenal are not exactly rivals, they are vying for the top spot in the English Premier League and recently had played to a thrilling 2-2 tie. As soon as he had said a cheery hello, he launched into a rather uncheery and detailed explanation on why Arsenal was lucky to be allowed on the same field as his beloved Reds. My ears are still ringing.

So, there is passion out there on this subject, and I hope to exploit it.

So, here it is, purely in the interest of generating controversy: Arsenal Football Club is the best football team in the world, with players whose collective skills and personal charisma, good looks and quality of character are unmatched by any other football team. Especially Tottenham.

Chris Carrel is a lifelong Federal Way resident and executive director of the Friends of the Hylebos, a nonprofit conservation organization. Chris can be contacted at chinook@hylebos.org or (253) 874-2005.

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