It’s been a long…but fun, year.
About 51 weeks and several hours ago, my football obsession began. As Robert Green spilled a Clint Dempsey shot over the goal line last June, my interest was stirred. At the time, I didn’t know Robert Green from Robert Pirès. That being said, as the season has progressed, I’ve come to appreciate this current age we’re experiencing…the Information Age, as many have labeled it. Through it, I can learn about every team, every player, every league. And it’s awesome.
I imagine there were plenty of Americans in the middle-to-end of the last century that were just as passionate as myself when the football bug bit them. I also imagine that those hearts were mostly left unrequited, with lower-quality domestic leagues and a dearth of televised matches from the hotbeds of the sport. It’s no wonder that the popular teams in this country have been the best teams, since coverage was so sparse (and for many, remains that way). For instance, I recall in its infancy watching a match or two of the Premier League (at the behest of my roommate) on the Empire Sports Network in the western NY area, where I attended college. From my very sketchy memory, the singular match they showed per week typically involved Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool. The few who could latch onto the sport didn’t have much support choice, at least from what they experienced through the media.
Enter September, 2010. Some of you may recall that back then, I began a series detailing my “search” for a team. I received a lot of feedback from the article. The positives were from fellow Cup Converts who were interested to hear my experience. The negatives ranged from “This is a rehash of what so-and-so did on Such&Such Network a few years ago,” to “This is fruitless, you can’t use logic or a method to find your team.”
What I’ve found, after months of watching, is an agreement that I can’t just pick a team based on a logical process. There are so many ebbs and flows to the Premier League season. A team like Blackpool can look safe in November and be relegated in May. A star player like Darren Bent can leave Sunderland for Aston Villa in a heartbeat, leaving one team with a huge void and another with a great chance to surge to a top-half finish. For me, it’s become less about the team, and more about the game. And honestly, I’m more than content with that status, because it’s allowed me to embark on something new.
One thing I have always enjoyed is writing. I’ve blogged about various things in the past. The toughest part for me was finding the topic I enjoyed enough to consistently put into words. Football has become that object of my affection. For my fellow Americans, they seem to struggle to find the beauty in the beautiful game. I know, I used to be that way. I even think, back in September, I was struggling with that aspect. But through the writing came the analysis, and through the analysis came the underpinnings to what drives the sport. I have a lot to learn, but my hope is that my articles can help my countrymen (and women) to discover the little things that captivate the rest of the world.
One thing I’ve realized about soccer is that it may be the sport with the most variety, especially when it comes to the play. With most sports, there’s usually a primary formula to win. In soccer, the subtleties affect the way the game progresses, and in many cases tell the story. While the same few teams in Europe are typically the strongest, each of them tend to play differently than the other. I’m continuing to learn how to put that into words, and the dialog we’ve generated in the process has been personally exhilarating.
In the process of the 2010-11 Premier League season, I’ve even found a spot in my heart for Manchester United. The other day, I was on their website looking at shirts and thinking, “You know…”, but then realized that it’s just not my gig. I think as a correspondent I’ve kept my personal feelings from influencing the hard facts I’ve reported, but sometimes I have a tough time resisting in the comments section (especially with United fans). United fans, I will try to be more respectful with those interactions with you.
I wouldn’t be here in this position if not for the evolution of media. I’d likely still be an American who rejected soccer, if not for outlets like ESPNSoccernet, Fox Soccer Channel (and Plus and .tv), the Guardian, 5Live, GolTV, and others too numerous to mention. Oh, and most of all, EPLTalk. The Gaffer gave me a platform to speak, as he has so many others. But it’s been more than that. Between the podcasts (especially Richard, Laurence, and Kartik), the fellow writers on both this site as well as MLSTalk, and YOU, the reader, I’ve been blessed with a community of people who share my passion for this sport. I’m grateful, very grateful.
So to close, my search is over. I may not have a team of rooting interest in the EPL, but my love of the league and the sport, manifested through this site and other venues, is enough. When August rolls around, we’ll get back to analyzing matches. Until then, I have a team to support here in the States, the Philadelphia Union, my local team. To me, that’s the European way. Support your local side, come title or relegation. For me, that’s the Union, and I proudly say DOOP.
Again, thanks for reading and sharing your feedback, and I look forward to next season!