John Nicholson: Wide Awake In America
Palm Springs, for a pallid white kid from the industrial wastelands of the north east of England is about as close to Eden as I’m likely to get. As I write its 90 degrees in the shade, the pool at the villas I’m staying at is blue and inviting and the beers are colder than a witch’s tit. I could get used to this way of life, especially with $2 to the £1 making me feel unreasonably rich.
However, I’ve got to say the only downside is the fact that despite the best efforts of FSC, the internet and all the other football media, it’s easy to lose touch with the whole culture of British football. I have FSC but not Setanta and I get to see all the games that are on but somehow the experience to me is one of being an observer rather than as a fan the day to day flow, the drip feed of football news and opinion is just harder to come by and so you end up not bothering. Or I do anyway.
I have to say though that when I meet or hear from American football fans, they are incredibly well informed, far more informed than a typical English fan. I suspect this is because you get an overview of all European football here and so are as likely to be exposed to German, Spanish or Italian football as the EPL. It also seems that because the sport itself is a minority interest, those who decide to take the plunge and get into football tend to be more committed per se. They also seem less parochial. All this seems to go together to make well educated fans with a broad and detailed grasp of teams, players and tactics. This is in direct contrast to the commonly held view of American football fans outside of the country which likes to be snooty about them.
It’s an interesting phenomenon to me because on this trip I’ve realised, as football gets more popular over here, that one of the reasons American fans tend to be well educated about the game is because so many fans in England are very focused on their club and find it difficult to take an objective look or even an interest in any other clubs or countries. Perhaps when your allegiances are less visceral or locally held it makes it easier to get a bigger, broader picture.
The other aspect of football life here that I’m enjoying is that every single cab driver supports a Premiership side and a side from their home country. It goes without saying that not a single cab driver I’ve had from San Francisco to Palm Springs was born here. In over 15 years of coming to American I have had just one American by birth taxi driver!
On this trip I’ve had an Armenian who supported Chelsea and Spartak Moscow, an Iranian who was a Liverpool fan, a Swedish guy who supported Gothenburg and Leeds, even a Mexican who followed Everton! It’s mad but very enjoyable. Proof once again that football is a universal community and language that unites the world like no other sport, contrary to popular European opinion, even in America.