Chuck Culpepper’s”Bloody Confused”: A Bad Read for an American Football (Soccer) Supporter
Chuck Culpepper’s “Bloody Confused” has gotten plenty of praise on both sides of the Atlantic. The book released in a slightly modified version as “Up Pompey” in the UK, is about an American sportswriter of some note who discovers English Football and falls in love with Portsmouth Football Club. Culpepper’s book has been hailed by Anglo pundits who believe Football is a strictly British sport and by American sportswriters who respect Culpepper and don’t cover the game of Football (soccer) in this country.
But for a supporter of the US National Team, MLS and USL like myself the book while amusing is also somewhat insulting. Culpepper consistently makes comparisons between English football and American sports without every acknowledging the existence of the very same game in his home country. The author from Virginia never once mentions DC United, the now defunct Hampton Roads Mariners or the Richmond Kickers in his work. He never acknowledges any knowledge of the sport short of seeing England play Brazil in the 2002 World Cup. (Which happened to be played right before the US-Germany match) He simply pretends Americans who want to play the game or watch the game live must come to England to do so.
While Culpepper’s self deprecating nature kept me reading this book (I’ve actually read it twice) his continued obsession with comparisons to American sports bother me throughout the book. For example, Culpepper discusses watching an England National Team game by comparing it to the Ryder Cup or Olympic Basketball. I’m sure the author is now an expert on Football he knows that England’s deepest run in the World Cup in the last 18 years matches the deepest run of the United States National Team: World Cup Quarter finalist. Or maybe the author is proving his worth to Anglo Football pundits who scarcely acknowledge indigenous forms of the game which are not British by pretending the US doesn’t play “soccer” at all. He does the same constantly comparing the Premier League or Championship to American sporting leagues and events. But he never mentions MLS or USL.
Football as has been discussed on this site previously is a foreign sport to the typical elite American sportswriter. But it is not a foreign game to Americans, millions of which watch the sport every weekend whether live or on TV. Pat Forde, the college sports writer for ESPN, and previously the Louisville Courier-Journal, says he loves the book on the front cover of the American edition. For me this should have been the first red flag as Forde for years has annoyed me with his coverage of Kentucky and Louisville basketball as well as his outright hatred for Miami Football. Forde is the typical self righteous sports writer who will criticize a program for discipline or law breaking if he dislikes the coach (like Miami Football) but will excuse NCAA rule breaking or discipline issues if he likes the coach or program (like Tennessee Football). But, I digress.
American sportswriters see Football even in America as the province of foreigners. They simply ignore the TV ratings for Mexican League matches because it’s all Latinos watching in prime time and assume only ex-pats watch the Premier League or Serie A. I happen to watch at least one FMF telecast a week, usually more and the same for the Premier League and I was born in the US to Indian parents.
Despite the success of markets like Salt Lake City and Columbus in MLS as well as Rochester and Charleston in USL, the average American sportswriter assumes Latinos and Europeans are the only people attending football matches in the United States. Yet you’d be hard pressed to find lots of foreigners in Salt Lake City or Charleston. Sure their are some but not a stadium full of them.
Perhaps, Culpepper did not hold these biases himself. One will never know, but the book reflects the continued lack of curiosity or interest the average American sportswriter has about the outside world, much of which is football mad. Calling himself a clueless sportswriter may have simply fit the self deprecating model of the book, but from my vantage point it provides a clear indication of how American sportswriters view the game even in this country.
A feature of the work that we all should appreciate is Culpepper’s consistent mention of Americans who play or previously played in England. He discusses Jay DeMerit at length, as well the Americans on Reading and Tim Howard. He even spends some time on John Kerr Jr. who was a pioneer for the American player looking to play in Europe. This is admirable and tells me that Culpepper perhaps was writing the book for affect with his other comparisons and by calling himself clueless about the sport. After all, you have to follow the sport to know who Jay DeMerit is and his story.
Culpepper’s book is excellent if you simply want a humorous zany read. I’ve read the book twice and probably will read it again. But as an actually book about soccer for someone in the US that already follows the sport in this country, it’s not exactly educational reading. I’d recommend the book if you enjoy general reading, but if you want a solid read about football, don’t bother.