Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The EPL and ESPN Effect: The Joys of Being a Casual Fan

I am fanatical in support of my teams, a fact that comes across plainly in almost every post I write on this site (and fanatical about Jersey Shore, which is also clear). I take losses personally and find it difficult to remember that my emotional well-being shouldn't hinge on a ball game. It is exhausting, and one of the reasons I have trouble writing blogs when my teams suck (Case in point: Rockies, and why this blog has been silent lately).

 I can't quit on my boy, even if he quit on my boys.

Which is why I have been so invested in soccer lately. I really have no vested connection to any team other than the US National team.

In fact, when it comes to soccer, especially in the English Premier League, I am the type of sports fan that I hate. I support a name team (Liverpool) almost solely because of my love for one player (Fernando Torres), who is no longer on the team (he left for Chelsea in a shocking last-minute, midseason transfer to rival Chelsea). Torres' move came during one of the most depressing stretches in Liverpool's history. Hypothetically, if his name was Fernando, I dunno, Cutler, and he left the Broncos under similar circumstances, I would use his jersey to clean my toilet and literally dream of punching him in his sulky face.

Instead, I still proudly wear my Liverpool Torres jersey kit, cheer for his success, while at the same time proclaiming myself a Liverpool fan. It really is mind-bottling, but there are a few reasons why:

-It is a task to follow the Premier League here in America: The games start at weird times, highlights are rarely shown, articles are never published and bars usually are confused when you ask to watch a soccer game on Fox Soccer Channel, even when you tell them the exact channel number ("You mean Fox Sports, yeah we got that.").

-Most importantly, the games often aren't on ESPN: Though the Worldwide Leader has stepped up it's soccer coverage dramatically, it is still usually a game a week. So, mercifully, the overblown coverage that has permeated every other sport ESPN covers ("LeBron is the greatest," "No, he's the worst." "We've discussed this every day for the last year and yet in no way is anyone sick of this...OMG BRETT FARVE PENIS!") has yet to come to the EPL.

What does that mean? It means I am allowed to follow the league, it's teams and stars without storylines being forced upon me. I'm sure the English press does this, but thankfully I only watch Sky Sports for the hot anchors with tart British accents (it's like porn except their talking about balls...footballs) and live blissfully unaware of that chatter.

So even if Wayne Rooney is being a hooligan, I can still like him for his play and not develop an irrational hatred of him because he leads every fucking Sportscenter ever. I can dislike Rooney simply for playing for Manchester United and being a twat with hair plugs, not because Stephen A. Smith and Collin Cowherd argued his worth. 

I have no connection to Liverpool, other than the fact that I loved scoring goals with Fernando in FIFA videogames so much that I jumped on the bandwagon. I've never been to a game, and didn't know until recently that Liverpool is not in London. But it doesn't feel right to abandon them now, as I have claimed to be a Liverpool fan for about 4 years, so it is too late to change.

Still, I love the fact that I'm not so Liverpool ingrained that I can't cheer for other teams, and mostly that I haven't found a reason to dislike almost every other team in the EPL. In the NFL, I can really only cheer for the Texans because they are CSU South. Basketball, I used to have a real soft spot for the Wizards, but they went boom so I just cheer for DeShawn (and hopefully a Gilbert reincarnation). In the MLB, can hardly even watch a World Series game if it is sans Rockies.

In the Premier League, I can use a pecking order to find enjoyment in almost every game. It goes:
1. Liverpool.
2. Team playing Mancherster United.
3. Fernando, which in turn means Chelsea.
4. Clint Dempsey & Fulham.
5. Tim Howard & Everton, which is ironic because they are Chelsea's biggest rival.
6. Stu Holden & Bolton.
7. Any other team with an American.
8. Against Manchester City, because Tevez is the ugliest human ever and Edy plays with them in FIFA constantly.

It really simplifies the league, and gives me a rooting interest in almost every game, allowing me to watch more and better follow the league as a whole. That means that I can enjoy the season even if Liverpool is shit and if Torres is shit (both happened this year).

Plus, the EPL Review Show does this ludicrous thing, where they show every goal and key moment from every match of the weekend, almost as if the teams are all important. It's an hour-long segment, and each game gets about 5 minutes of highlights. The Man U-Chelsea match doesn't get 2 minutes of highlights, 5 minutes of interviews and 17 minutes of discussion with the same highlights rehashed and debated, leaving just 30 seconds for a Bolton-West Ham match. Nope every game gets a solid highlights package, a quick quote from the manager, and little to no analysis.

It's almost like the EPL thinks I can watch and interpret for myself, and that every game matters (which it does, because of relegation, but that's a subject for another time). Ruddy brilliant.

When I get to think for myself I can actually enjoy the full product better. Being a casual fan definitely has it's advantages, but I think it will have to end as soon as I travel to Englandland, get all scoused up and see a game in Merceyside with the Kop (100% chance I fucked up everything in that sentence, and that I will be killed by Liverpool hooligans at this match for being a giant twat that knows nothing of the team's traditions). Then I will become a true Red fan and begin zealously hating everyone else in the Prem like I'm some sort of soccer Nazi.

Because fandom is like sex; even though the casual stuff is fun, it is ultimately hollow.  Eventually we enter committed relationships where we reach levels of passion and joy we never felt possible...

Followed shortly by all encompassing agony, anger and disappointment.

Or maybe that's just my abusive relationship with Broncos/Avs/Nuggets/Rockies/Rams.

Bonus: Just as life takes away, it gives: Luis Suarez is the new Liverpool goalscoring God:

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