Monday, January 29, 2018

The Hardest Part of Being a Premier League Fan in America

I don't know if you've noticed this, but there are a shitload of different sports teams to root for in the United States. There's baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, arena football, professional lacrosse, American Gladiators, ultimate frisbee and the most American sport of all, competitive eating. Not to mention a college and minor league version of goddamn near every single one of those sports. The point being, there are hundreds of American sports teams that I could root for and follow, why the hell would I turn my attention to a soccer league in Europe? 

To put it the most succinctly — because it's awesome. I sincerely love the Premier League and Tottenham, even if it can be a pain in the ass to be a fan. There is the constant need to explain to people (like my father) why I like soccer in the first place. There is the annoying time difference that leads to way too little sleep on Saturday mornings and the awkward situation of explaining to your boss why you are screaming at a computer in the office during what seems like a typical Wednesday afternoon. There is the complete insanity of the transfer windows that I have yet to fully grasp. There are the insanely tight fitting jerseys that are not flattering for a portly man such as myself, to put it mildly. But all of these are simple annoyances, nothing to get too upset about. The thing that drives me nuts is the complete blind devotion that many fans have toward their club*. 

As I dive headfirst into my Tottenham fandom, which admittedly I chose haphazardly as a young man wanting to embrace something new and have doubled down on that fandom the last few years, I've been spending a lot of time on Reddit and Facebook interacting with other Spurs fans. And almost every single person that posts does so from the point of view that we need to support the team 100% at all times and with full trust in every decision made by the team. When someone questions a decision that Pochettino has made people jump on it and attack the person for not being a true supporter. When someone says that Llorente has been shit this year (because he has), they are met with multiple people telling them to take their support to some other team. To me it is all very... bizarre. 

It really is a completely different way of approaching the idea of being a sports fan. As a Chicago sports fan, I've always looked at my beloved teams with a bit of skepticism. Yes, I cheer for them full-heartedly every single game, but I still know in my heart that Dollar Bill Wirtz was a shitty owner that cared nothing about Blackhawks fans. Or that the McCaskey family has often been too cheap to sign the right players to turn the Bears into true title contenders. These are just opinions that you would argue about with other fans over a couple of Old Styles. 

Take the Mitchell Trubisky draft pick. My buddy Joe (the biggest Bear fan I know, in both height and passion) absolutely loved the pick and had no qualms about trading up for it. I liked Trubisky well enough, but thought they gave up way too many draft picks when the fall back option was Deshaun Watson. We talked about it, raised our voices a bit, someone may have been called a jagoff but then we moved on. But this was just a conversation that we have as Bears fans. Neither of us screamed that the other should be a Packer fan and they need to support the team 100% or get the fuck out of here. 

I guess in some ways this is why English fans identify themselves as "supporters" instead of "fans." It just feels strange to me. I like to critically think about my team. I like to dissect the stupid personnel decisions, tactical missteps and sloppy play. Part of being a Spurs fan, to me, is being able to talk with my friends (or on Reddit, Twitter, etc.) about how terrible Dele has looked in the final third this season and pondering if he'll ever get his finishing touch from last season back. I should be able to do this without some asshole named KaneIzAble10 telling me to root for the fuckin' gooners, dammit. 

I'm sure that over time I'll adapt to this different way of thinking, just like I've adapted to thinking that draws aren't the end of the world (except when they are against Swansea). Or, at the very least, it'll just annoy me a little bit less. But for now it makes my blood curdle every damn time I see that over optimistic refrain of "Trust the team! Be a real supporter for life!" When I really think it should be, "Put the goddamn ball in the net against fuckin' Southampton you shitheads!" 

All this complaining aside, the songs are badass. We need to bring songs into the fan repertoire over here. I mean, who doesn't love this?  

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