American Futbol: Combining the Love of the Gridiron & Pitch
I'm an American Football fan. The NFL, College Football, and even the occasional high school game intrigues me to no end.
Watching star senior high school students eventually morph into successful college stars than professionals is fairly interesting. Just think about it, there are hardly any sports you can watch an athlete progress that much.
Major League Baseball's high school arms usually go through the minor league ranks and while you can follow them via the Internet, rarely will you see them on television. The NBA prospects usually just last in college for a season. And the NHL's best young guns either go directly to the league or go into the junior leagues.
But as an NFL/NCAA FB fan it's a common fact that it's traditionally an American sport. Sure countries such as Canada (under SLIGHTLY different rules), Denmark, Japan amongst others are starting to come around to the idea of the gridiron—but it's still dominated by the USA. But while Commissioner Roger Goodell attempts to globalize the sport, the focus of the world continues to be futbol. Or soccer to the US.
I'll admit that I was an occasional viewer of the sport. I'd watch the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and Euro Championship when it would come on the airwaves, but that was about it.
I played the game from about age four to 14, so, at the very least, I understood the positions and rules. Beyond that though, I was clueless about the numerous leagues (other than the MLS, Serie A, and Barclays Premiership) and it showed in my conversations in middle school and high school.
The soccer contingency at my school isn't too large. Sure in our Spanish classes, we love watching the highlight videos of Ronaldinho and Robinho, but the game would tend to put people to sleep. Or it would be an awesome excuse to not learn and just watch TV.
But our school's soccer team are, predictably, quite the followers.
It was my freshman year. I loved (and still do) talking about anything in the sports world with people from NASCAR to the NFL but knew very little about futbol. Some of my friends on the team were discussing the sport—one of them is actually one of America's top prospects (played on the U-17 National Team I believe) but I played baseball with him back in the day.
Anyway, we were talking about who we thought would win the Super Bowl (as the season was just starting) when the conversation drifted toward the Premiership. I usually would tune out, but, with my ego, I would not be able to live with myself if I stayed quiet.
However, I kept quiet as I heard Manchester City's name being dropped and wondering to myself "They changed the name of Manchester United?!!?" Yes, I'm an idiot. I also nearly mentioned how I thought David Beckham was the best player in the world, but common sense kicked me in the rear. Not because I thought I was wrong but just thought, "Everyone knows Beckham, there has to be a reason why he wasn't mentioned." I was lost in translation.
Again as my ego about knowing a lot about sports was far too large to withhold that social beat-down, I did what anyone does. Go on the most trustworthy site (Wikipedia) on the web and see what was wrong. There I learned about the multiple leagues, players, history, etc...
I always knew about the hooligans and how intense they support their clubs. But I always thought the Yankees vs. Red Sox was an intense rivalry. Compared to the rivalries across the sea, the Yankees/Red Sox looks like the Diamondbacks/Padres. They're a rivalry?
As the days turned into months and months turned into years, I phased myself out of the sport with the exception of the 2006 World Cup. I knew of but a few players, but overall greatly enjoyed the tournament. But then as my summer vacation reached the beginning, I gave up.
Then Beckham came.
I feel like a fangirl. But I'm not a Beckham fan. Watching E$PN (not a typo) cover Beckham's move to America, intrigue me to no end. Not because I particularly liked him (had no real opinion) but their constant highlights of him made me appreciate the game.
The commercial with Son Volt's version of the Beatles hit "Hello, Goodbye" that was played to death, stuck with me. His first game was a friendly against Chelsea and while he had a bum knee, he came in towards the 80th minute (if memory serves correct) of the game.
The network had a "Beckham Cam"—should've called it the Beckcam, in my opinion—that followed him do everything from sitting to jogging in place. The stadium was actually rabid when Beckham trotted out. It's quite possible we'll never again see an MLS crowd that revved up again.
As a little side note, that was the most British I ever felt in a day. This is from someone who's 50 percent German amongst other nationalities but I was watching futbol and reading the last Harry Potter book. I might as well have been waving a crumpet in the air amongst other traditional stereotypes.
So my intrigue in the game intensified to the point where I followed most of the last season watching the MLS. But then, I found out we have the Fox Soccer Channel and GOL TV. However the season ended and I spent this spring and summer watching Fox Soccer Report. Then I figured out that the FSC showed many games from the Premier League.
But that alone couldn't have made me "choose" a team. Living in New Jersey, which is nowhere near any countries of note, it's hard to follow a team—obviously. So I decided that I would not be a front-runner and just choose a team like Arsenal, Chelsea FC, or Manchester United.
I'm a runner, actually a long distance one. My favorite runner is Australia's Craig "Buster" Mottram who specializes namely in the 5k. So while I thought it would be ridiculously challenging to reach his times, I just decided to inherit his favorite futbol club, Sunderland AFC.
But I wouldn't just stop at that point. Again, the sports ego of Joe D. struck again. I went online and played FIFA 2008 (yeah not a video game person but I bought it on my birthday) daily. I learned as much as I could about the club's history and current roster. Not to brag, but I even joined a Facebook group! Yup, my social life is indeed booming.
I wanted to do a Sunderland preview, but thought that I wasn't too enlightened on Roy Keane's roster to make a legitimate piece. It'd be to the point of embarrassment. Instead, I found light in the Bleacher Report's articles. Andrew McNair's articles and the comments by the fans continue to increase my knowledge of the game; so I thank all of you guys.
I would like to ask Americans to give "soccer" a chance. But not a half-assed one. A legitimate chance to see if they actually do like it. Try to learn about the rivalries and club history's before completely calling it boring. There's a sort-of majestic feeling about the game. But at the same time, it's not snobbish at all. The fans are intense and the commentators actually know about the game, which is something some NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL/NASCAR analysts should do.
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