This is my first year of Spurs love, and I’ll pause a moment as those amongst you shake heads and mumble about bandwagon fandom. Done? Good; it’s a fair point but allow me to counter.
I’m an American and began this most recent Premier League season declaring that I was going to watch all 38 games, something I had never managed before. Catching games is especially convenient for me for a few reasons. First, living in America and having roughly 457 television channels, I get to watch lots of football (I’m doing my best not to slip into saying soccer). Second, I’m a married man with an 8 year old daughter which means that weekend afternoons and evenings are often taken up with sundry activities while mornings are free. That’s good because most European soccer is screened before lunchtime. Finally, there’s a full-on assault by the Premier League to attract American viewers such is the potential revenue to tapped here. So getting involved required little more than will, and a rather passive will at that.
I started as most of us do with adolescent love: a vague idea of what I wanted. Here then is what I didn’t want: Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea or Arsenal. Too easy. If someone emigrated to the US, decided to watch baseball and immediately declared himself a Yankee fan, I’d consider that person an a***hole.
I also couldn’t go too far down the table. While there is arguably more football on television in the US than in England, there’s still nobody clamouring to watch Wolves or QPR and so they rarely make it to TV. I couldn’t risk supporting a relegation target. Also out were Everton and Fulham. Too many Americans begin watching the EPL and going instantly for the teams with American representation (I hear you saying “Friedel!” but I’ll get to that). I have lots of love for Timmy Howard and Deuce, but I refused to be trite.
If I wanted to watch sports to associate myself with glory then I’ve been f**king it up for years.
What did I want? I didn’t know exactly but my notions were informed by my sports teams growing up – teams from Cleveland, where I’m from. They’ve traditionally enjoyed the fervent support of their biggest fans – fans who get almost defensive in their support of their teams. They’ve also been perennial also-rans. This should also help tamp down misgivings that I’m hoping to ride a hot ticket. No Cleveland team in a major American sport (basketball, baseball, American football) has won anything since 1964. As old as I am, that’s still before I was born. If I wanted to watch sports to associate myself with glory then I’ve been f**king it up for years.
I actually started the season thinking, ‘I’ll be a Liverpool fan’. Why? Mostly because they were on often and a friend was a Liverpool fan. This quickly became untenable. The Suarez debacle was too much to bear. There was Luis himself, followed closely by King Kenny going out of his way to paint Suarez as some sort of victim (of what I’m still not certain) and then an army of misguided scousers (perhaps the minority, but a vocal one) agreeing that somehow that buck-toothed racist had been jobbed by the whole affair. I lost my stomach for it and decided just to watch football and save a rooting interest for later.
And then I saw them…all of them: Bale, VDV, BAE, Modric, Ledley King, the kung-foo fighting Sandro, Scott Parker and his mid-1940’s haircut. Excitement! Adventure! And, let’s face it, a nagging feeling that it could implode at any moment. Oh, and what of Friedel? I grew up less than an hour away from Brad (and we’re roughly the same age). I live closer to that area of Cleveland than I did as a kid, and at this point Brad only seems some rough approximation of an American. He’s really a man without a country. I can tell you nobody else around here has that accent and since he doesn’t play for the national team he’s almost an afterthought as a representative of the states in the Premier League.
The clincher for me supporting Spurs was, paradoxically, the Champions League final. Had Chelsea lost and Tottenham made it into next year’s tournament, I’m not sure I would have a team. Now? I have a team with the street cred of the scrappy fighter. That’s right, winning isn’t easy! We will have to claw, and fight, and scrap our way through next season. The very players I loved this year may move on as a result. I could be stuck watching ‘Arry make ‘orrible decisions again (Bale plays on the LEFT!), but nobody’s mettle was ever tested in a parade. Now, I’m invested!
I’ve accepted now that what I root for, what I watch for, what I LOVE, is THE SHIRT.
[author name=”Chris Baird” avatar=”http://a0.twimg.com/profile_images/2219303073/Photo_on_12-17-11_at_8.44_PM.jpg” twitter=”90percentrayon” tag=”chrisbaird[/linequote]