Been watching the Carling Cup semis these past two evenings and one thing caught my attention: the crowds.
Even though one semifinal featured a League Two club and in the other it was all but known that one of the teams(Arsenal) will feature youngsters and reserves and in spite of all demeaning comments about the Carling cup such as "worthless cup" and "Mickey Mouse plastic trophy" the ties featured capacity crowds that made noise incomparable to any game in the Premiership. It has nothing to do with the fact that this was Wycombe's 15 minutes or that Gunners-Spurs is always a derby no matter who's playing. I remeber a League Cup semifinal from 3 years ago between Man United and Blackburn in front of a packed Old Trafford with both sets of fans singing their hearts out. The story with the FA cup is similar, just wait for Forest vs. Chelsea.
So what is it with the cups? Why do they generate such emotions? Call me sentimental, but I believe they are a link to football's seemingly lost essence: that it's a game for everyone. The league games are mostly occupied by season-ticket holders and since those cost a small fortune these days, it is likely that their holders are simply too stiff and snobby to join in a sing-along about the team or the players. And since the cup games are an all-ticket affair not only are they more affordable to an average fan but are also less likely to attract the season-ticket types, most of whom think it is beneath them to cue up like everybody else for that valuable piece of paper. Therefore, us plebeians were allowed to keep at least a piece of our ideals about the beautiful game intact, albiet unintentionally.