Having forgone the prolific tendencies that earned me a shock interview on the world-renowned EPL Talk podcast by the ace Richard Farley for a sun-kissed, eastern seaboard Atlantic Ocean vacation, I now return like an anxiety ridden bat out of Daytona Beach, rested and tanned, but more hyper for this tournament to start than ever before. And maybe, just maybe a little smarter when it comes to how the average American sports fan views this tournament and the shocking idea of an American supporting another country, more specifically England (and I bet you didn’t even know I was gone). Allow me to explain.
During my trip, I was able to sneak the 90 or so miles down to my old hometown of Palm Bay, FLA to visit with some family and see some old friends. This was the hometown of my childhood, of youth soccer, little league and Saturday’s spent at the mall with my Brother, Mother and Grandmother. Nothing but found memories upon the weekend I spent re-discovering old grounds until I witnessed the shack of a house I grew up in, seeing as when I left nine years ago, it was a massive, beautiful structure that held the dreams of my youth.
Upon my return “back home”, I had the added benefit of seeing certain key figures that were important to my growth and development as an adolescent. Somehow, most likely through family, these old friends had gained significant information on the passionate, obsessive and addicting nature that world football has had on my life in the last decade.
A key moment in our recollecting always seemed to surface when soccer, more specifically the World Cup was mentioned. In a myriad of ways and like a guilty Catholic headed to confession, I had the burden of revealing the heart of my support and the root of my passionate soccer existence, the England National team.
The contorted looks of shock and disbelief that were angled my way after this revelation were eye opening and honest. Here sat an old friend, in-laws, or unknown acquaintances who couldn’t fathom how an American could support another country during this, the most important of upcoming matches. Bemused looks of disbelief and awkward silences filled pubs and restaurants throughout the entire weekend.
The tricky passage of my walk down memory lane always came when I was asked to explain this odd and foreign support of England. Most assumed I’d simply meant I would support England after the good old USA, or as a second team, which oddly enough, everyone seemed to have as they rightfully or wrongfully smelled the USA’s early demise. “I guess it’s kind of always been England“, I would apprehensively announce. I even stated key dates in my England supporting-life, “ever since Michael Owen scored that goal v Argentina, it’s been England“. Already at the ripe old age of 15 when that event changed things, I had a lot of catching up to do.
I guess it’s quite simple, yet still immensely difficult to place into meaningful and concise words why I’m drawn to England. It has in fact always been England with the good old USA coming in second. It’s a little bit about investment of time, energy and passion. It’s about English music, it’s about the culture and it’s about the different atmosphere and respect for this sport that England has as a country. It’s about England’s disturbing and dark past that I’ve always been drawn to studying and reading about in books. It’s about this romantic yet untrue image I had of England as world-beaters as a child on all those youth soccer fields. It’s about the Premier League and the lack of viable mainstream interest in this country. It’s about caring about world football when not many do and ultimately and most importantly, it’s about my choice.
At the end of the day, over cold pints of Guinness and Heineken, all those walks down memory lane and catching up on the times were fantastic moments that I’d hope I’d encounter on my trip. Whether or not I explained my interests adequately or truly didn’t concern me. People were talking about soccer, average soccer fans at best were asking and quizzing me about the World Cup. They were now looking forward to this tournament with a keen interest matched only in our little, already established community and were excited to watch that opening match between England and USA if only to stick it to me if the States make a good show of themselves.
This summer’s potential for soccer in the states has been talked about on this site time and time again yet remains an unprecedented and unbelievable hype machine of possibility as an underground yet almost mainstream group of writers, bloggers, podcasters, fans and tweeters watch with an excited eye and misses not a moment, regardless of who we support. This is our time, this is what we have been waiting for and this is what we live for.
Feel free to share any thoughts you may have on supporting a country other than your own or your decisions when picking a second or third team to follow.