I haven't seen Aston Villa play in 19 days. In a lot of ways, that's been a really refreshing break. This hasn't been a fun club to watch, after all. They've dropped - by my count - 19 points from winning positions. So not only have they been bad, they've been good enough to give us all hope and then kick us in very sensitive parts of our anatomy. Had they held on to all of those matches, they'd be in 6th and we'd all be dreaming of Europe. Had they held onto even a few of those, relegation wouldn't be a worry.
Remember the Manchester United match and the second Everton match? Both of those were certain wins, with 2-goal leads (at least). Both turned into losses. The difference? If Villa had won both, they'd be in 12th place, seven points above the drop. And that's not even accounting for the domino effect those results changes would have on other clubs.
So yeah, this season has been miserable. And no, I wasn't particularly sad to miss the West Ham match. It did stink to miss a rare win, but whatever. But in the past couple of weeks, something odd has happened. I've started to miss watching Aston Villa play.
Let me step back a bit. This will sound like whining, but I swear it's not. In the past few weeks, I've been juggling applications for four grants/fellowships, been interviewed for another, had to teach more than I am supposed to, dealt with home issues, and done my side job of more teaching. Again, not whining. It's really not that bad, it's just been a ton all at once. But I've been desperate to have some sort of break from all of this.
As it is, I come home and play with my iPad a bit before going to read and falling asleep. But I find that I really want to be watching a sport of some kind. Football is over. I don't have cable, so most basketball coverage doesn't get to me (nor do I really want to watch it). Baseball is tantalizingly close but not quite here yet. So during this time, Aston Villa could've stepped up. They could've been my two hours of sporting salvation. Even when they're bad, I still sort of enjoy watching. Getting to run the twitter account during matches and being a part of a community is a lot of fun.
And that's what it comes down to. Maybe we're all taking this too seriously. Show of hands: how many of you have been legitimately pissed off by Aston Villa this season? Wait, terrible idea, I can't see your hands. I'll assume everyone has them up though. But why? Why are we taking this so seriously? It's a sport for heaven's sake. We're all watching to get a bit of a break from whatever our daily lives are. Except Mat Kendrick. Poor sucker has Aston Villa as his daily life.
Allow me one last rhetorical side-step. Two saturdays ago, I went to watch my alma mater play a college basketball game. They are the only basketball team I still even vaguely care about, and it was homecoming. Alums of the pep band got to go back and play our instruments. It was going to be fun, but I went in expecting a loss. The team was playing Butler, a really good squad. And, in the first half, GWU was getting crushed. They were playing like crap. But I was still having a blast. It was 2 hours of my life that I didn't have to think about, well, my life. It was relaxing.
And then, in the second half, GWU came tearing back. An absolutely breathless run brought them to within two points with under a minute left. I thought I might see the team beat a ranked opponent in Washington, DC for the first time since I had gotten to the school. Well, they didn't. They lost, and it was crushing. But boy, those 30 or so minutes there were incredible. 5,000 people roaring as loudly as I have ever heard in that building, and me sitting there with a giant dopey grin on my face. And in the end, the loss didn't really matter. I got that break, and I got the moment of fun.
This weekend, when I sit down to watch Aston Villa, I'm going to try and keep this in mind. Yes they're terrible. But they are providing me something really valuable: a pastime, in the most literal sense of the word. Will I get irrationally tied up in the outcome of a game that the club will likely lose? Yes! Of course! But that's part of the fun. Win, lose, or draw, Aston Villa will take our minds off of everything else for a couple of hours. No matter how bad they are, that's still pretty good.