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A New EPL Fan’s Search For A Team: Episode 2 – Paring Down

 A New EPL Fan’s Search For A Team: Episode 2 – Paring Down

Editor’s note: Three weeks ago, Earl began this series as a chronicle of his quest to find the Premier League team that connects with his spirit as a fledgling soccer fan from afar.

Between the Euro 2012 qualifying weekend (where I found myself happy for Wayne Rooney to overcome his personal distractions) and a weekend trip to see my favorite American football team, the Buffalo Bills, I didn’t catch much Premier League action the last two weeks. This provides the reason for my delay in this installment.

I mention the Bills because I think it provides a bit of a glimpse into my state of mind as a sports fan. I am a Buffalo sports fan at heart. The Bills (NFL) and Sabres (NHL) have long been my favorite teams. In 2000, I also became a fan of the then-pathetic Philadelphia Phillies. The common thread between these three teams: small market philosophy. The Phillies are known today for a larger salary figure than back in 2000. In my mind, something that draws me to a team is it’s commitment to build from within, to respect a budget and the fiscal facts of doing business in a tough situation.

I received some comments from the first installment about my ruling out the Big 3. I ruled them out because I don’t go for that. I watched Manchester United and Liverpool yesterday, it was a great game. Berbatov played brilliantly. But that tells the story right there: Berbatov was bought at a stiff price. I simply can’t come to root for a team that’s gone out and bought a championship. Add Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and even Liverpool (regardless of their recent decline) to that list. They play brilliant football, but rather it’s the way they build the team that turns me off.

That’s not to say that teams shouldn’t build through transfer. The teams I listed above seem to buy two or three teams worth of stars. I know that teams need depth to compete in multiple leagues, as evidenced by Manchester United losing Valencia to a nasty break during Champions League play. That being said, most of these teams run out a group of “all-stars” each match, and to me that seems like a shortcut to success. Could Manchester United win with Tom Cleverley or Danny Welbeck? We’ll never know because they are never given a chance to assert themselves with the Red Devils.

Additionally, I want to add a few other teams to the “no” list:

Wigan Athletic – There are many weeks I’ll be rooting for Wigan, but I can’t get behind a team that is destined for the Championship. They played well against Manchester City this weekend, but it will be tough for them to escape the bottom.

Blackpool – Very similar to Wigan, except I think their style is very attractive compared to the Latics. They are definitely making a go of it on a shoestring budget, but I see a run down the table as the season wears on. I hope I’m wrong.

West Ham United – The only thing that makes me like this team is their goalkeeper Robert Green. Call me strange, but I find myself empathetic to his plight. He cracked under pressure in the World Cup, and it will likely dog him the remainder of his career. Besides his unfortunate tale, this team is a carcass amongst rottweilers. Most of the players seem to be dogging it half the time. In watching their games, I find myself feeling even more sorry for poor Robert, and perhaps wish he was able to take a game or thirty off for Yom Kippur.

Add to that Everton from my first episode (who again showed against Newcastle United that they couldn’t hit the broader side of a barn from 10 feet), and that makes 9 that I’ve scratched off at this point.

I don’t plan on making this a long, drawn-out series, and that’s partly why I’ve gone back and decided to simply rule out as time goes on. I’d prefer to know who I’ll pledge my football allegiance by Thanksgiving. I do know that, the more I watch, the more the field is narrowing. And again, I do appreciate your suggestions and comments. That being said, I’m fairly certain that I’ll find the one in the remaining eleven teams.

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65 Responses to A New EPL Fan’s Search For A Team: Episode 2 – Paring Down

  1. Jose says:

    You’re limiting yourself if you don’t want a team that buys players. All teams have to do that especially once they get into the top tier of English football. You might as well just pick a team from one of the lower leagues where they are more likely to build a team through their academies, or loans, as they don’t have the money to spend on transfers.

    • UpTheBlues says:

      Exactly.

    • Guitarearl says:

      There is a caveat in my article that shows my understanding that teams need transfers to build. If a team relies 100% on its academy, it’s going to relegate at least once and perhaps twice. I think my issue comes from teams who have a starting XI, and then throw money towards depth instead of building. I understand that some of this develops from the necessity to have an extra half- or full squad to be competitive (and prevent fatigue and injury) in two high-quality leagues. But I struggle with this almost cannibalistic mentality, where you throw gobs of money at your competitors for their best players because you know they need money. Maybe it’s because the labor situation in the American sports leagues are so different.

      • Martin says:

        And for that reasoning, you should add Arsenal to your “Maybe” pile. I’m a new Arsenal fan this season and the way their team is run is what drew me to them. I like that they built their stadium up with their own financing. As an American sports fan I am so used to taxpayer money going to fund stadium building. Refreshing to see, even if it may be the norm in England for teams to finance their own stadiums. Arsenal is just a great example of how to do it. It’s forced them to rely on their youth system to develop players as they are not going to spend like Man UTD, Chelsea, Man City, etc. right now.

        Their tight spending is frustrating at times. I started following them this summer right after the World Cup and during the Transfer Window. Rumors upon rumors about Arsene Wenger going to sign such and such Center Back or Goalkeeper and it never happens. It would be similar to your Phillies being in the hunt for Halladay or Oswalt and then never getting them because the Blue Jays and Astros simply wanted too much for them.

        But, what it boils down to is what type of style of play do you like to watch. With Arsenal, they are built around building up the play with precise passing and then threading the perfect through ball or lob pass for the chance to score. Some teams simply like to bully you around the pitch like Blackburn. Nothing wrong with either style, whatever caters to your tastes.

      • Earl, you will quickly learn that you have to leave your American assumptions about sports at the door when following the Premier League. I’ve been following Arsenal for the last 12 years so I’ve mostly gotten used to it but I still get driven absolutely crazy by the English football media even after all these years.

  2. james says:

    Newcastle United is the only choice Earl, join the Toon Army ;-)

  3. Rod says:

    Earl, if you’ve ruled out the teams who’ve BOUGHT a championship and you want quality as well as sanity in finances, look no further than the Arsenal.

    • Spot on, Rod. Earl, Arsenal is the only big club that tries to grow their team without spending the ridiculous sums that clubs like Chelsea, Man City, and United have spent in the last 4-5 years. They are also fiscally responsible in an era when that has been thrown out the window. On top of that, you would be supporting a club that plays beautiful football in large part because it isn’t a team made up of new transfers every summer and January. Furthermore, it is a club with a long and rich history which every new Arsenal supporter should absolutely glory in.

      With Arsenal, you will get a club with a distinct footballing style, principles both on and off the pitch, tradition and history, the best manager in the world, and a chance to watch a PL side try to win the league without mortgaging their entire future for one trophy. However, one warning… if you do support Arsenal, be ready to be absolutely disgusted with the media’s treatment of the club and its manager on a daily basis. Good luck with your decision!

      P.S. – If I had to choose a non-Big 4 club now, I would probably go with Everton. Don’t let their showing at Newcastle fool you. Moyes is a fantastic manager, they have some quality players in Cahill, Arteta, and PIenaar, and they routinely overachieve. Not a bad bet, IMHO.

      • Perry says:

        As an American who started following the EPL 4 years ago, also without a “natural” team, I agree with this 100%. I love Arsenal, but if they disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow, I’d probably go with Everton.

  4. Crest Ridge says:

    Missguided clap trap, you’ll probably end up
    choosing non-spending(yeah right) Tottenham,
    as you did the last time. Trying to garner some
    hits ain’t ya….

  5. Jason Gatties says:

    I’m a firm believer that you don’t choose a club, a club chooses you. Doing it the way you’re doing it will only lead to an easy escape route should you’re new “chosen” club end up relegated. You have no real vested interest.

  6. Drew says:

    Add the Wolves to that list…unless dirty teams are what you fancy.

  7. Ringo says:

    I understand not wanting to root for a Big 4 team and not wanting to root for a team that will be a constant threat for relegation. However, I think the best way to choose a side is simply to watch them play, and it’s good that you seem to be doing this. If you’re going to exclude teams that build through buying, though, you have to add Spurs to that list. I’m a Spurs fan and even I can tell you that, while we do grow our fair share of players in the academy, we buy even more frequently than Arsenal does these days (not that I think it’s a bad thing, Wenger should probably splash the cash a bit more).

  8. Drew says:

    Well, I like these articles because, as I mentioned last time, I’m going through the same thing right now.

    I think it is probably weird for an English fan to see the pause and consideration that an American might put into picking a Premier team. Remember that this sport is largely alien to us. Most of us watch it on the upper reaches of our cable dials or online. If we don’t live in a large city, then the chances of finding anyone else even interested in EPL, let alone the same team, are pretty slim. and even if we do live in a city, watching a game with other fans means weird early morning hours down at one of the few bars that shows games. So we don’t have that sense of community and peer support English fans do.

    Even the setup of the EPL is weird to us. We’re brought up of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. We know that, barring a total disaster, each team we follow will be part of MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL for all time. Their fortunes may wax and wane, but they’ll still be here (this spoken as someone who growing up started watching baseball with the 1988 Orioles, a season that set the record in consecutive losses). The idea of relegation is completely foreign to us, and what’s more, if our chosen team gets relegated, we probably won’t be able to watch it at all.

    So we’re stuck. We don’t want to pick an obvious winner. Call it post-Yankees conditioning (The Yankees’ payroll is something like 200 million a year. The next closest is the Red Sox with 160 something) or whatever. We can’t pick the obvious underdogs, because we won’t be able to watch them at all next year.

    Thus all this navel-gazing consideration for new American fans. We have to slowly understand the nuances of a game whose, for most of us, popularity peaked when we were in middle school. We need to come to grips with the lack of fan community and the difficulty in viewing games. We have to balance the risk of picking relegation fodder vs the stigma of bandwagoning. We don’t have advantage of growing up with a team.

    So I guess what I’m saying is cut us a bit of slack. Thanks to all the supporters who have talked up their clubs. That sort of thing is a huge help to us. Remember that we’re pretty fickle* right now and that little things can make a huge difference (I doubt I’ll be a Wolves fan after the Zamora injury) and helpful guidance goes a long way towards bringing more fans to the game.

    * Seriously, little things matter. My wife decided she’s a Spurs fan based on the color of their kit. She also decided that our newborn son supports West Ham because his nickname is West. That may be silly, but it has yielded a set of claret nappies winging their way across the Atlantic, so more money in West Ham’s coffers.

    • Drew M. says:

      Whoops. There is another Drew, so I’ll add the initial.

    • Martin says:

      I think the relegation possibility is what makes the Premier League and entire season great. What I have done is pick a relegation team to pull for along with my Arsenal. I’ve chosen Blackpool since they are the Cinderella story. Watching teams fight for their survival/place in the league will be exciting come season’s end. That’s what somewhat flawed with the American game. We reward failure with draft picks that bring in higher quality players. Imagine a Royals/Orioles game in September and each team playing for the right to remain in the American League and continue to get that revenue sharing/licensing money. The loser goes to AAAA lol. That could make for exciting baseball when its really just a drag.

      • Drew M. says:

        Oh, I totally agree that relegation is exciting – it creates a great narrative and gives teams that might otherwise give up at the end of the season something to fight for. I’m really looking forward to the relegation dogfight next year – everything I’ve read says it’ll be some passionate football.

        Practically, though, if I want to keep watching a team on TV (without hooking the computer up and doing some sort of streaming), I need to hope my team stays in the top flight.

        • Martin says:

          Yeah, it’s tough finding your team on TV if they aren’t top flight. I’ve simply resorted to watching games on the PC, either by streaming or downloading them. I do catch the game that comes on ESPN2 Saturday mornings no matter who is playing. I won’t pay for Fox Soccer channel on Comcast until next season. Even though I think the EPL has become my new passion, I want to make sure its a lasting one before I really invest money into it.

          • Drew M. says:

            You might call up Comcast to ask about it. When I was looking into trying out FSC, I called them up to discuss options. Turns out as part of the whole Xfinity boondoggle, I ended up getting FSC, premium movie channels, and a faster cable modem for less per month than I was paying before.

            One rep I spoke with pointed out that they have a 30 satisfaction policy, so you could get the FSC package for a month and then cancel it if it’s not something you want.

          • CLS says:

            Martin,

            I am struck by how similar our approaches to “joining” the EPL have been, as well as our conclusions. Arsenal have won me over, and I like Blackpool’s game (though I prefer Sunderland, truth be told)

            I’m also holding off on FSC. I’ve been watching on atdhe.net for the most part. Where have you picked up quality streams?

          • Martin says:

            CLS,

            Nice to know I am not alone lol.

            I get my streams from adhte.net as well. I started at thegunninghawk.com and through them I participate in match day chats on their site arsenal-interactive.com. The Gunning Hawk is a great place to find streams on match day as well as great commentary.

          • I hope you guys realize how good we have it now. Back in the late 90s when I first started following Arsenal, I used to have to drive 2 hours to NYC and pay a $15 cover charge to watch Arsenal at Nevada Smith’s and even then they weren’t shown every week. Also, there was a 2-hour highlight show on MSG shown at like 2am if they showed it at all. To get match reports and stuff I would pay $7 for a 2-day old English newspaper in NYC. Nowadays, the streams, newspaper internet sites, blogs, forums, and especially television coverage is beyond anything I could have comprehended back then. Hell, you can pretty much see all 10 league fixtures every weekend in the US… that alone is an incredible development.

          • CLS says:

            Martin,

            Thanks for the links!

            ArsenalStation,

            I’m well aware of how fortunate we are! A week ago a friend was griping that he couldn’t get a particular match on his iPad while he traveled! I’m just thankful that I can find the matches online and feed my burgeoning addiction. Today, I got to watch the second half of the Derby at lunch. FANTASTIC!

      • Guitarearl says:

        Martin, I’d LOVE to see relegation in certain American sports. Baseball most assuredly. Hockey as well. The trouble is that our minor league system is stocked with reserves from Major League teams. The whole labor system is completely different. There would have to be modifications.

        I am a rooter for the underdog, so I’ll be pulling for Blackpool, West Ham, Wigan, West Brom, and other relegation candidates as they match up against powerhouses like Chelsea and ManUtd. Similarly I’d root for the MiamI Dolphins (who I HATE) against a team like the New England Patriots or Indy Colts, simply because they’re the underdog and thus I hate those teams more. Just the way it goes in my mind.

        • Drew M. says:

          Yeah, does “I support ________ and whoever beats the Yankees!” have an equivalent in EPL?

          • Of course it does, but it has a number of them… “I support Arsenal and whoever plays Spurs.” “I support Newcastle and whoever plays Sunderland.” “I support Man City and whoever plays United.” “I support United and whoever plays Liverpool.” “I support (anyone) and whoever plays Chelsea.” ;) All vice versa and probably a dozen more, as well.

            My advice to you, Earl, would be to do some reading on the game. You’re not going to learn anything by watching MOTD. Read some Brian Glanville, some of the Jonathan Wilson books, some club histories, etc….

          • CLS says:

            ABC … Anybody But Chelsea!

        • John R. says:

          I wish there could be relegation too, but its just not feasible, in my opinion. The only sport it could work is baseball, and that would take too much of a massive overhaul of the system. The farm clubs are all affiliated with a major league team, and these major league teams use the farm clubs as a place to grow their young talent. If there was relegation in baseball, the ties between major league teams and the minor league teams would cease to exist and the majors would have no real place to train youngsters. I just cant see it happening.

          • Martin says:

            Oh, I agree. It would not work over here. I’d really love to see it happen in the NBA. The positive that could come from the relegation idea is that some parts of the country that really don’t have any professional teams (unless you consider college football somewhat professional) would get that opportunity to see the pros. .

    • John R. says:

      Gotta support your “little things matter” point. I make no bones about it that one reason i got sucked into Newcastle is the alack and white stripe combo. I am a die-hard two-tone ska fan, so the black and white combo holds a special spot in my heart.

  9. Greg says:

    Have to agree again, can’t believe I’m saying that, with the fellow posters. A club chooses you. Instead of ruling out clubs, watch more games and search your feelings. Which club are you drawn to? Which one really gets you excited in the morning? Which club do you look forward to watching on Saturday morning? Less thought… more heart.

  10. NC says:

    What is the availability of the lower divisions for online viewing?

    If it is possible to watch a stream of a lower division club, then I don’t think you should rule out potential relegation candidates. There are 120 FBS Schools in the NCAA. The majority of these schools have no shot of winning the national championship, or their conference. But that doesn’t stop people in Starkville, MS or Manhattan, KS from turning out to support the team, or finding ways to tune in. If you can find a p2p site to watch The Football League then why not consider a West Brom or Stoke? Even if you settle on a Aston Villa or a Blackburn, you’ll likely find yourself streaming games on many Saturdays anyway. NCAA football is filled with imperfections, but the dynamics are such that even the small schools can experience highs along the course of the season, be it qualification for a small bowl, or beating a conference foe. Soccer in the UK affords similar circumstances for all the clubs in the country.

    • Guitarearl says:

      NC has a somewhat valid point. I began watching Hull City vs. Nottingham Forest last night, before being sucked into continuing my career as manager of Portstewart in the Northern Irish 2nd Division (currently in 7th place, bosses won’t give me any transfer budget!). So there are Championship games available on foxsoccer.tv, but there’s no audio commentary provided (and not even as much as a score icon throughout the game).

      I think part of what’s awesome about the Premier League compared to the lower divisions is the ability to interact with other fans on sites such as this. Once a team gets to the Championship, it would seem to me that you are then in purgatory, caught between being an ardent fan and the indifference of everyone who cares about top flight football.

    • John R. says:

      foxsoccer.tv shows some championship games, but its not consistent. when newcastle was down in the championship, espn3.com showed a bunch of their games. So, its possible to watch a good amount of your team’s games in the championship, but not every week.

  11. Brian says:

    I love the hypocrisy of people who pick their teams, which is ridiculous in the first place.

    You rule out rooting for any of the top title challengers because it would be too “easy” yet you can’t bear to fall in love with a club that might be going down.

    So, instead, you pick a middle of the road club that probably will never be relegated, at least not soon, and when people ask you whom you support, you’ll proudly say “yada yda FC” and thumb your noses at those who support one of the big four because you didn’t “sell out.”

    Pathetic.

    • Brian says:

      In addition, inevitably once you pick your middle of the table side, you the most important thing about your club will be picking up points and becoming a better side, which is most easily achieved by bringing in new players to compete for the Top Four. Since you have no real connection to the club, no real emotional bond that has been formed, results will matter greatly and after long you’ll be wishing your club spent money to get better.

      A club finds one, not the other way around.

  12. NC says:

    Good point on the fan experience (ie interactions). There is a huge difference between Blackpool and say.. a Bolton or a Fulham. Those clubs are on their 10th consecutive year in top flight, but relegation isn’t out of the question. In their case it would likely be a short trip down. IMO, based on what you say about yourself and underdogs I wouldn’t let that deter you from choosing a Bolton or Fulham. I don’t know about Bolton, but Fulham would afford a lot of online interfaces for the fan experience regardless of which level of football they reside.

  13. Malkudi says:

    Mr whoever you are, I don’t think you should have ever ruled out the top 4 clubs, I don’t support man utd because we have a 30 million pound striker or we sold the worlds most expensive player. I support united because of the ground, the fans, the football style, the manager and more importantly history. So based on what you’re looking for, i’d highly suggest bolton, fulham or tottenham. top 15, european football (sometimes), decent managers and teams, good club stature.

  14. Though I made the obligatory case for Arsenal, I have to agree that the club chooses you not the other way around. Going in saying, “I don’t want to support a Big 4 club” is highly limiting. Also, if you are this new to the game, I suspect you may lose interest relatively quickly watching a mid-table side play not so attractive football hoping for a draw most weeks.

    I, like many other American Arsenal supporters I know, came to the club through a fascination with Dennis Bergkamp in the mid-to-late 90s. We all then fell in love with the club for many other reasons. So watch as many matches/clubs as you can and maybe wait for even just a player to jump out at you. The kind you find yourself thinking of when just walking down the street or waiting for the bus or subway.

    Most importantly, don’t force it. There’s nothing worse than someone who changes clubs. Even give it an entire season (setting a deadline is antithetical to the process) if necessary. Perhaps by March or April you will find yourself highly anticipating watching one club over all others. But whatever way it happens, you will know when you’ve been “chosen” by “your” club.

  15. Earl Reed says:

    First off, hoping that Gaffer can change the authorship on this to my real name, Earl Reed. I gather there are a few who think that I’m some form of sockpuppet who has done this before. That’s not the case, and you can check out my Twitter linked above. I only chose “guitarearl” because it was my handle on Twitter, and also I am leery of using my real name when checking out a new blog. I’m feeling a part of “the family” now (complete with the cynics, which is cool because I am one myself!).

    I appreciate each and every comment, thank you for your interaction!

    • Adam says:

      I would offer one reply: I think you are going out about this the wrong way. As someone said above, you don’t pick your team- your team picks you. By automatically pre-screening teams based on where they are in the table (either top or bottom) you are cutting yourself short. What worked for me is take some time and watch the teams play, look into the players, team history, where they play (city- and the supporters), and after you get into all that your ‘team’ should just about pick itself. It did for me.

      • Drew M. says:

        I sort of agree. The best thing you can do is keep an open mind (heart?) and watch as many games as possible, but there are some other factors at play. For the relegation threatened teams, there’s the risk of not easily being able to watch them place next year. For the top seated Big 3/4/5 there’s the stigma of being called a bandwagoner (just look at the replies to the What Team Is Popular in America? post from previous).

        I don’t think these factors should rule any team out, but they may be knocks against them. Like I said upthread, the little things do matter and who knows which little thing will be the final deciding factor as to whether or not you’ll follow that team?

        I wonder what would happen if an American new fan came on here and said “I watched a Chelsea game and OMG they are awesome I pick them 100%!” How many responses of “Well, you’re American, of course you’d pick the undefeated league champion team!” would we see?

      • Perry says:

        Good point, that last. Part of what drew me to Arsenal, besides Thierry Henry, Arsene Wenger (the coolest guy in sport, in my opinion), and their style of play, is the cosmopolitanism and inclusiveness of both the players and the fan base. As far as I’ve been able to tell, they have no particular reputation for either racism or hooliganism, compared to many other clubs. Their fanbase seems very multicultural. And they play in a pretty groovy part of London that I’ve really liked when I’ve visited there.

  16. d rock says:

    learn your history !!!! Manchester United have never just bought success. they have one of the best youth systems in England.

    think Giggs, Scholes, Neville, Beckham (departed). even Ronaldo was bought for something like 12m euro when no one knew who he was, and Sir Alex molded him into the 80m euro player you know today.

    other one club players that have came up thru the ranks are Wes Brown, Fletcher, O’shea. you cited Berbatov’s hefty price tag which was United’s largest ever transfer fee. it was obviously a one-off if you look at our transfer history. please learn your facts before you label our success hollow.

    • Give us all a break with the United not buying titles crap. They had one good generation of youth players 20 years ago. Throughout the 2000s, they consistently spent way more than any other club until Chelsea and Man City came along. Do I really need to roll off the list of a dozen or more £20 or £30m players they’ve bought in the last ten years.

      Berbatov was a one-off!?!? They paid £27m for Rooney 5 years ago? Nowadays that would be the eqiuvalent of £40 or £50m!! Remember Veron? They also spent near £20m for Carrick, ffs!! One good generation of players 20 years ago does not give you the right to claim you grow your team especially when the players you name now are Wes Brown and John O’Shea. That’s actually funny.

      • Ishu says:

        Whats with the arsenal fans.
        Forgetting
        Arshavin (Zenit),
        Nasri(OM),
        Fabregas(Barca),
        Vermaelen(Ajax),
        Clichy(Cannes),
        Chamakh(Bordeaux),
        Bendtner(FC kobenhavn),
        Sagna(AJ Auxerre),
        Van Persie(Feyenoord),

        That most of your first team and I’m probably forgetting some.

  17. Mike Fahey says:

    Earl,
    It is very difficult, if not impossible to will oneself to support a particular sports team, although it does make for interesting article on a site such as this one.
    I, too, am new to watching and following soccer after many years playing and watching North American sports. I am a life-long Bostonian and thus support the local teams.
    When Landon Donovan briefly went to Everton, I found myself supporting the Toffees. However, when Donovan returned to the LA Galaxy, I found that my interest in Everton had waned.
    As I said, the subject of finding a team to adopt is a legitimate one, although I don’t think it can be done on a deadline. Also, I am somewhat puzzled by the criteria you used in selecting the US sports teams you support. I suspect that the two Buffalo teams had to do with geography. Are you an upstate New York resident by any chance?
    I’m not sure I get your claim that the Phillies had a small-market philosophy. Philadelphia is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the US. This is extremely significant because unlike the NFL, which shares TV money equally among its franchises, major league baseball teams make there own TV deals, with the large market teams having an enormous advantage. And since the Philly fans are arguably the most rabid in the US, there is no way they would stand for Phillies management not spending generously for top notch players.

    • Earl Reed says:

      Mike,

      First off, not upstate New York, but rather northcentral Pennsylvania. I grew up in an extremely small town, in what can be characterized as primarily a blue-collar, dairy farming region.

      To refute your point about the Phillies, according to Baseball-reference.com, in 2000 their team salary figure was approximately $47 MM. That was 11th out of 16 National League teams. In 2001 that dropped to $41 MM, and 13th out of 16. You are correct, the reason these salary #’s were low was because the fans could not stand for such a dismal team, and their attendance ranked very low during that period. They raised their salary structure as their new ballpark neared completion in 2004. After 2001, they went from $58 MM to $71 MM to $93 MM in 2004.

      So in essence, the Phillies became was I didn’t particularly like, but as many have noted, when you take to a team, it’s your team and it takes a catastrophe (i.e. disintegration or relocation typically) to cause that to rupture.

      • NC says:

        Actually I would refute your concession about the Phillies. The only decent players on that 2000 team you fell in love with were all homegrown. If anything the Phils showed patience with their organization. The team as it stands today is driven by players who came up through their system (Utley, Rollins, Howard, Victorino, Hamels…all products of their system). Certainly you have your Halladays and Ibanezs in the mix, but that is a necessity to compete for championships. The Phillies are fortunate to have the big market muscle to retain the aforementioned stars who make up their core. There is no shame in that.

        • Earl Reed says:

          Well thank you for that, I know that they have done a great job of stocking their farm system, but their salary is now at or above $150 MM a year, and a good bit of that is free agency.

  18. IanCransonsKnees says:

    What a lot of hand wringing over relatively meaningless question.

    I’ve come to appreciate and learn that through the sheer size of the country and the make up of American professional sports leagues and ‘franchises’ it is the norm of the majority of fans to pick a team based on their favourite player/s, coach, colour strip etc as much as it is proximity to their location. TV viewing appears to be the norm, and many of your fellow football followers will have experienced the same dilemma and will understand your choice, whatever it is.

    It’s a different kettle of fish over her, you’re born into it or bullied into it generally. You cannot escape it, it pervades the media on the front and back pages, sports and entertainment bulletins, good God even women attend and understand it now. I will not try and kid you that everyone supports their local team but those that don’t tend to follow the traditional big four rather than any other teams so you’d be behaving no differently to them. I think though that these local turncoats deserve the moniker ‘gloryhunter’ with which they are branded. Soulless, shallow footballing zombies such as the Oxford Reds etc that trek the motorways of country ignorant at their lack of character and cojones.

    To be honest if I were you I’d pick half a dozen players to try and follow for a season and make your choice based on that. They shouldn’t all be flair players, to understand the game fully you have to appreciate the abilities of a good defender or goalkeeper as well as those of an attacker. When you think you’re about to make you choice don’t make the mistake of looking at a clubs history because it is little more than that and it’ll garner you no more respect.

    In terms of gloryhunting you have no local clubs to turn from apart from those in your country who I hope that you’d make the effort to follow and build their own brands and history. I believe that foriegn fans only deserve the classification glory hunter when they fail to see that it takes all sorts and fail to understand why the EPL is as divided and uncompetitive as it is. Those at the top continually fill their pockets accordingly, it’s they way of the world. But their followers need to realise that they need those at the bottom to help them continue to do this. Those that don’t are generally bad losers that cannot grasp that they’ll have far more good days than bad, let the little guy bask in the sun for a while. I’ll guarantee they’ll get there own back in at least nine out of ten of their next encounters.

    I’d point you to Fulham, despite the numpties at Manchester United and Liverpool I believe that Americans should adopt them as their franchise and stick to it. The Americans who have and do play for them have been excellent in their own positions and in Clint Dempsey they have a player who provides skill, grit and determination and is a genuine talent.

  19. Tom Hingley says:

    “Before we declare that Wolverhampton Wanderers are invincible, let them go to Moscow and Budapest. And there are other internationally renowned clubs: A.C. Milan and Real Madrid to name but two. A club world championship, or at least a European one — larger, more meaningful and more prestigious than the Mitropa Cup and more original than a competition for national teams — should be launched.” ? — Gabriel Hanot, editor of L’Équipe 1955 [8]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverhampton_Wanderers_F.C.

    Now THAT is history.

  20. Tom Hingley says:

    “During the summer of 1967, Wolves played a season in North America as part of a fledgling league called the United Soccer Association. This league imported twelve entire clubs from Europe and South America to play in American and Canadian cities, with each club bearing a local name. Wolverhampton Wanderers, playing as the “Los Angeles Wolves”, won the Western Division and then went on to earn the League Title by defeating the Eastern Division champions Washington Whips (Aberdeen of Scotland) in the championship match. (This FIFA-sanctioned league merged the following season with the non-sanctioned National Professional Soccer League, which had also begun in 1967, to form the North American Soccer League).”

  21. Tacony says:

    1st and foremost dont root for the Phillies you scumbag. We philadelphians dont want your bandwagon kind. Stay in your zip code. We dont want you. Us(philly fans) are born and bread from jump street. We are the best fans in the country and we earnd it followin our team to the 1st team w/10,000 losses. Beat it

  22. Jay Jackson says:

    Root for ‘Wolves United’.

  23. Sir Guy says:

    Well, Earl, I’ve weighed in on this before and have to say again I think you’re going about it all wrong. You’re “thinking” way too much.

    You are going to go along eliminating possible teams until, what? There is one left…….and that’s going to be the soccer love of your life? Wow. Hope you didn’t/don’t choose a wife that way! :-)

  24. Jonathan says:

    I, like others believe that you cant just pick a club the club picks you. I became a liverpool supporter at the age of 8 when I was given a jersey by the guy who got me into playing soccer. I have been a supporter ever since. I see it as the club picking me. Dont think about it too much. let you heart decide ( as dumb as that sounds)

  25. The Gaffer says:

    I don’t agree that “you can’t just pick a club, the club picks you.” Yes, this does happen sometimes, but not always. To me, it’s like finding a girlfriend or wife. You could sit at home and wait for someone to walk into your life, but sometimes you have to take your own initiative and find that someone special.

    Earl is going about trying to find his team in a very reasonable approach. He may find what he’s looking for at the end.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

    • Earl Reed says:

      Gaffer,

      I think there is some validity to their arguments, but some of that is based on a number of different circumstances (and in some cases strokes of luck or predestination, depending upon one’s worldview).

      It was so easy as a kid watching American sports, you picked your dad’s team, or the team from your area, or the team you saw on TV all the time (or all three). You grow up, go to school and higher education, and learn to over-analyze, justify, and strategically choose things (I think the proper soundtrack for this point is Supertramp’s “Logical Song”).

      My point being that I my next installment could end up being the last. It could be #3 in 10, I don’t know. I think the concern I’m hearing is that I’m boxing myself in to this “Big Brother”-like mentality where someone’s voted off each week, and thus I’m not using passion but instead reason. In my mind, it’s a mixture of the two, analyzing play and coming to terms with the feelings evoked from supporting a team. God only knows where that will leave this column, but I would imagine next week I’ll be another week closer.

  26. Dave says:

    Dude just go with Aston Villa. nice safe choice. The season will be over by the time you decide. They even play int he midlands to match your middle of the road strategy to choosing a team. They have a neat crest, nice colors, have won Euro once, have spent the second longest in top flight and have an American owner the fans actually like. And Prince Harry likes them I read.

    If I were “choosing” a team I’d probably go with Man City mostly to avoid the crap you get from people when you like one of the big 3. Plus as a Mets fan I’m used to inferiority complex and owners that try to spend their way to a championship.

    It’s true what they said btw it chooses you. Nick Horby’s book and indention their 89 win with the 86 Mets and his life and death agony following them did it for me, and 12 years later I’m following them still. Thank god for the internet and now finally TV showing games.

    I’m more of the mindset of who cares what people think. But I guess this makes for good blogging so enjoy.

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