MatchDay Memory–America’s Next Top Soccer Fan

Men in Blazers is currently running a competition to determine “America’s Next Top Fan”. Here is my submission:

Once I heard about the Savile Rogue competition, I immediately stopped checking Europa League scores and started scribbling down all the reasons why I am America’s Next Top Fan. Me I’m just a guy, struggling to balance work, family and the beautiful game.  Over the years it has slowly overtaken my life to the point I’ve had to enter couples’ therapy with my wife in an attempt to save my family rather than descend into a state reminiscent of Fever Pitch narrated by David Peace’s Brian Clough.  In the beginning I would just watch an occasional game, play once in a while, pick up a copy of Four Four Two and search the burgeoning internet for info and a crappy game feed.  That routine evolved into playing almost every night, coaching several teams, spending money on PPV games and going to MLS games in the formative years of the league.  

Then I got married and my wife and I had a child.  An equilibrium was maintained until a wedding anniversary weekend when I watched Arsenal v Manchester United on my computer while my wife waited for us to go to breakfast.  Or the time I missed my son’s floor hockey game to rush to the bar to drink in another match and a couple of pints.

The game has consumed my life.  Like any good American I eventually started a blog with the simplest of intentions—write a couple of thoughts on what happened over the weekend.  That lasted a couple of weeks until I started blogging three to four times a week, including writing for sites that found my work and asked me to contribute for them.  Watching a game or two on the weekend became a half dozen games, catching up on highlights of the games I missed, listening to dozens of podcasts, reading every single soccer article on the internet, and constantly writing to keep up with my commitments.  After my wife and I started counseling, I finally caved and gave up the blog and after like three days without my fingers hitting the keyboard, I started a podcast, which I now spend any free moment editing and planning.

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The pod is a change for me as I don’t talk that much in day to day life but nearly got punched out in a men’s room in a Florida bar because I told a stranger that Gareth Southgate was a twat for missing a penalty at Euro 96.  (Turns out the English stranger was a big Southgate fan.) And put a couple of beers in me and a dose of tension, and I become another person—screaming, pacing, even more anti-social.

Plus I help run a local supporters group: setting up watch parties, including the dreaded 7:45am Saturday kickoff or the 8:30 Sunday morning games; planning pick up games at crappy parks; talking trash on facebook and twitter with other supporters throughout the week; developing a new logo for the group; and working on possible road trips for the future.

As for work, HA!  I have a pirated ESPN3 feed and illegal internet windows going so that I can watch games while “working”.  Great plan except when FCB mounted a stirring comeback only to nearly throw it away in the last 10 minutes, with me pacing my office, willing the ball to stay out of Valdes’ net and screaming and slamming my desk when Alba ran the length of the field to score the fourth and send Milan packing.  And don’t tell my boss about the inordinate amount of time I spend on twitter and facebook interacting, reading, and learning.  I would say in a given week, I do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.  I bank all of my personal and vacation days. Why?  So I can go on a relaxing trip with the fam?  Hell no.  So I can watch Champions League all spring and take MLS trips.  Last summer I took a week off to go to the Pacific Northwest to see the amazing supporters in Portland and Seattle.  By myself.  No wife, no kid.  Best vacation ever.

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I have a drawer full of kits.  Even after several purgings, I could wear a different kit every day for a month without repeating.  And I wear them all the time.  If I am not constrained by work or socially accepted norms—weddings, funerals, or jacket required restaurants—it’s what I wear.

The game makes me nuts.  During United v Real Madrid, I turned red, not with devilish pride but with murderous rage when Nani got sent off.  In a surprising moment of self-control, I removed myself from the group at the bar and put myself in time out, finding a TV off in the corner so that I could die a slow, painful death without raging against friends, acquaintances and strangers or throwing my glass at the TV.

time out corner

And why?  Why risk everything on men I will never meet, on results I cannot control no matter how many kit variations I try or seats I switch or Jedi exercises I do.  Why?  Because of Iniesta’s moment of brilliance against Chelsea, Donovan’s goal against Algeria, Cantona against Liverpool in 1996, Zakuani’s return, the current generation of La Furia Roja, Del Piero against Madrid, and that glorious spring of 1999.

After going through an entire pen’s worth of ink and all the napkins at the coffee bar, I took a breath and realized that I am not even the biggest fan in my city—Lansing, MI.  Just over a year ago, I joined forces with Aaron Passman, who started Mid-Michigan United, the supporters group I mentioned.  We have John who has a mancave in his basement with flags and banners from around the world, complete with a mankini that makes an appearance from time to time; then there’s Cedrick who takes over the bar screaming obscenities at the TV in several languages while amassing a list of soccer players he wants to die in a bus crash.  I’Shawnna who supports several clubs based on a mix of charitable contributions, talent, and injustice in an equation that makes your head spin trying to unravel it.

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But back to me, a topic I’m very fond of, if I could take one thing from Manchester City, it wouldn’t be Ya Ya or Kompany or the petro dollars, it would be Mancini’s scarf style.  If the Italian manager put a video on YouTube about how to properly tie and wear a scarf I would study it like the Zapruder film.  But alas, I’m stuck with acrylic scarves in a culture that doesn’t quite get why a grown man has something tied around his neck while wearing a full strip during matches.  But if I had a Savile Rogue scarf, made of the finest cashmere, I think I could turn things around.

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  1. This makes me feel like a fair weathered fan.

    Although the family is trying to figure a trip to Portland (daughter is diving head first into the Timbers Army). If we don’t make it this summer, we will def make it next.

  2. Very enjoyable read. I think you need to add a “not” to the first sentence of the second to last paragraph: “I am not even the biggest fan.”

  3. thx for commenting.

    sam, done. thx for sharp eyes.
    john, timbers army was awesome. definitely make it out there if you have a chance.

  4. I’m going to have to start cursing more in Italian. Or maybe Dutch.

    • Mike
    • March 26th, 2013

    very nice Austin!

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