Some may think I’ve been hiding out after Villa’s 5-0 drubbing at Eastlands, but I can assure you that’s not the case. I have been drinking, it’s true, but in service of a greater cause. Namely, the girlfriend’s birthday. Or birthday weekend, aka Jennython™.

In keeping with some sort of cultural expectation completely unrelated to my actual culture, or hers, the birthday is a Big Deal. A multi-day sort of Big Deal, like a Biblical wedding. Goats, calves, water, wine, dust, sandals, parables, yadda. Me, I’m more of a “let’s just go have a nice dinner with friends” kind of person.

Obviously her birthdays are much more fun for everyone concerned.

So, while Aston Villa were shipping goals up north, and the iPhone was vibrating with ESPN updates (none of which were good, or even innocuous, beyond, “The game is underway”), we were taking in a special showing of a lovely exhibit exclusive to the Denver Art Museum that traces Van Gogh’s career from his humble but earnest initial efforts to his completely unforeseen and truly luminous maturation.

And no, I didn’t get that last bit from the back of an “I Love MILFs” compilation DVD.

Were I to draw parallels with Villa, all I can say is that you’d never in a million years have predicted Van Gogh’s masterpieces from his early, often crude efforts. You’d have told him to pack it in and just get on with being depressed. But the signs were also there.

(I’m not predicting anything, mind you, just trying to tie it back to football. Even if we’d all rather forget the football.)

I had no chance to cry, yell, or even reflect. I might as well have been in church. Or a bank. Upon being caught sneaking a look at my phone when the vibrations started registering, I blurted out in preemptive confession, “3-0. City”.

“Ooooh, I’m sorry, babe.” Which she meant, because she’s a lovely girl.

More buzzing in my pocket. And not a good buzzing.

“4-0…They’re going to be baying for blood,” which, “they” being you, again, was met with a concerned, knowing look. Tevez, was it? FFS. By now we’d gotten to the later work, the stuff that makes you shake your head in awe.

I put childish things aside, because the phone was buzzing urgently.

I pulled the damn thing out of my pocket hoping it was relating a late consolation, a defiant parting gesture—knowing all the while that it wasn’t. I shook my head in resignation all the same. Because, in spite of everything, I am an optimist.

“Uh oh…” She’s good.

“Yep. 5-0. Full meltdown underway in Villa World.”

Coincidentally having also reached the end of the exhibit, we subsequently bid our farewells to Vincent.

There was no time for sentiment, never mind self-pity. It was time to buck up. Because it was time for brunch with the girlfriend’s dear mother—and Mimosas, Screwdrivers, Bloody Marys, take your pick. (Which is why Matt was doing the post-match bit, and on an away day, no less. No game + alcohol-laced breakfast = what do I know?)

Even in the face of great personal dis-ease, I can usually rise to the occasion—evince a stiff upper lip, transcend with the best of them. Especially when mom is picking up the tab. Especially when mom is picking up the tab and drinking before noon is not only sanctioned, but expected. You get better at it the older you get. Both the drinking and the transcending.

I’ve got the game recorded…Haven’t watched it yet. I will, as a matter of due diligence and all that, but five goals are five goals, however dodgy or brilliant. Tottenham conceded five as well, I think, so make of it what you will.

But I don’t like Spurs, never have, and I don’t like them conceding five on the same day we did, because that deprives me of any joy in their concession of five.

It’s a cruel game, football. Never mind.

I’ve seen the slagging; I’ve read the “RL and PF out,” the PL out…all the predictable stuff. Ho hum. You know what I think of all that.

Me? I’m sticking with what I wrote a week ago, regardless of what happens with the Gunners: Lambert is building a good side; we’re staying up; we’re not going down.

Villa will learn from this. And if Lambert’s buying the kind of players I think he’s buying, they’ll not be “damaged” by getting their asses handed to them by a team of world superstars. I mean, c’mon. Citeh or Barca would win the World Cup at a jog.

So Villa will go back, work hard, and keep at it. They’ll get better. They’ll realize they’ve faced their worst footballing fears and found the sun also rises. They’re 1-1 on the season so far with the most soulless, meaningless team £1 billion can buy. I can live with that. If Lambert’s players can, then they’re more than half-way to getting their heads round it.

I’m not speaking jealously, by the way. Manchester City and Chelsea are truly the definition of clubs who meant nothing until someone with limitless wealth purchased them and started using them to pump themselves up. It’s not the supporters’ fault. Neither are what their representatives put on the pitch—perfunctorily brilliant and forgettable football, practiced and devoid of joy.

Yeah, I want Villa to win. But I’ll tell you the truth…If Villa were City, I’d soon lose interest. I’m not saying I’d turn my nose up at success. I’m simply say that buying titles…well, we all know morons and cretins who have a lot of money. And they usually build really big houses that are very, very tacky.

Knowing that Villa simply outbid other sides would only mean the owner had more money. Yes, it’d fun to start with. Then it would just turn into looking in the mirror and being the cancer.

And I’ll tell you something else, which I’ve told you before.

When the football’s got you down, and it’s getting depressing, just go out and do something else while repeating quietly to yourself, lest people think you’re ill: “It’s only a game.” Even if you know it’s not.

It’ll be alright. Kick the dog, yell at the kids, p*ss on a stranger’s car in a parking lot even if you could make it to a public toilet if you really wanted to. Take a deep breath then return to your misplaced, native optimism—however much it’s been abused, which is obviously a function describing how long you’ve been alive. Or, if you prefer, cling to false hopes and prolong your misery. Is there a difference? Who knows your pain better, eh?

While we’re at it, though, stay behind the players. If we want Villa to bring tears to our eyes—for all the right reasons—we’ve got to stand with them.

This isn’t a bad group. There’s a lot of character in the dressing room. It’s the beginning of a good group. We didn’t expect much from this run of games, and our fears have been confirmed. But that doesn’t mean the race is over. It just means we’re not naive.

It also means I’ve won some Canadian beer from Mr. Gibson. The sun also rises.

Cheers, old biker. You’re a scholar and a gentleman.

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