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Football For Breakfast

Sunday morning, 26th of July:

On five hours of sleep, I pull myself from my bedroom, cross the hall to the living room and land on the couch. It’s a journey of maybe 20 feet, but it feels like Stage 20 of the Tour de France. I am a zombie on NyQuil dragging bags of concrete behind me. Liverpool FC face Singapore in a friendly 7am: Eastern. Standard. Time. No sane person would get up after so little sleep merely to catch a match where nothing was at stake. But I am not a sane person. I am a football supporter.

As I said in a recent article: I am so football starved at this point in the summer, I’d watch Liverpool play eleven garden gnomes if it was on television… (or eleven crash test dummies… or eleven legless maniquins… or eleven Supreme Court Justices… you get the idea).

It can be hard to motivate myself for an early pre-season friendly (especially when my side haven’t exactly been winning them) but during the regular season the early kick-offs are plentiful and the early rise is as inevitable as death, taxes and bookings from Steve Bennett (I feel like I’ve been knocking him a lot lately: let’s go with Rob Styles). Devout stateside fans of European football are tuning into their favorite club while non-supporters enjoy a healthy weekend sleep-in. We’re not asking for sympathy: it’s the life we’ve chosen. (Or, rather, the one that’s chosen us…)

I’ve trekked to my favorite football pub in a blizzard to see Liverpool play Manchester United at 8 in the morning after closing the restaurant where I bartend the night before circa 1:30am. My beloved Reds lost that day. The same thing happened Easter Sunday (well, minus the blizzard) but I don’t regret it. In fact: I had no choice. The match was on Setanta which I don’t get at home. And it doesn’t have to be United. I’ll get up early for Wolves and Birmingham. Maybe even a cup replay with QPR or Notts County. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Fortunately, I only had to make it as far as my couch yesterday and Liverpool rewarded my devotion with five unanswered goals. Riera and Torres looked fresh and ready after a busy international schedule, scoring one each. Voronin hit one too. (Although his deflected effort made me cringe a little because now I’m afraid Rafa will keep him on and of course the Ukranian won’t score a League goal until April…) Youngster Krisztian Nemeth put two away, giving me hope for his first team future. And the ever-dogged Dirk Kuyt made more assists than a crossing guard outside an old-age home.

And the stadium was bursting with jubilant Singapore supporters.

It turns out, Singapore has its own LFC Supporters club. I can’t complain too much about my early football mornings when I think about them. If Singapore Reds want to catch Liverpool’s visit to Espanyol next week, they’ll need to tune it at 4am their time. Why even go to bed?

And this, my friends, is why I cannot move west. I’ve longed to move to the Bay area where it seemed every drop-dead gorgeous young woman I met had their arm around a geeky little guy… (I walked around the city mumbling: I could be that geeky little guy!) I’d love to live in Seattle, Washington surounded by more delicious varities of small-batch craft beer than a thirsty fool could ever drink… I’ve considered moving to Japan and teaching English and travelling around in a blur of sushi bars, temples and hot springs… but I’m already getting up at 7am to watch the earliest Premiership matches. I can’t talk myself into anything earlier, dammit!

If anything I yearn to move east. Those Amstel Light commercials (dah dah de dah! dah de dah! dah de dah de dah de!) could never make me want to drink watery beer, but they do make me want to relocate to the Netherlands for a year… or I could see myself thriving in Spain—I love a good siesta… or of course: who could forget… the football motherland: England! How great it would be to watch the matches on the doorstep of Greenwich Mean Time? Occasionally taking out a mortgage on some Liverpool tickets and seeing the match live!

Although, I must say: there’s something ever special about our stateside football breakfasts. That je ne sais quoi. When I gather with fellow supporters in our pub in Cambridge and everybody there is there for the same thing and people who pass by outside wonder what this noise is coming from a pub at 7 or 8 or 9am and the shades are drawn and the televisions are blaring… it feels like I’m part of an underground society. We’re in it. In the know. Pints and eggs. Songs and cheers. The heartache and the joy. Like it’s our secret. We can’t explain it to you if you don’t already get it.

Yes, I’ll wander east someday. Hopefully as a working writer. I’ll learn to love football at dinner time as much as at breakfast. I’ll stand in the Kop end and sing my favorite songs and learn some new ones to boot. But for those of us who can’t get to the stadium with ease: all we need is a television and a feed. Doesn’t matter where. Doesn’t matter when. It’s simple and silly to get so excited about such a thing. (Perhaps sillier to write 900 words about it.) But I’m a football supporter. I’m running on very little sleep today. It doesn’t take much to make my head spin.

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  1. Sean Atkinson

    July 28, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Ha ha as soon as I saw the title to your article, I thought to myself, “man I feel sorry for those guys on the west coast.”

  2. Matilda

    July 28, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Ah yes, I remember once waking up at about 5 AM (I’m in the central time zone), in the middle of winter. FSC wasn’t playing the game so I had to go outside in the freezing weather because that was the only place in my house I could get internet fast enough to have a live stream. Bolton were playing some mediocre side, I forget who now, but out there I sat, huddled beneath masses of quilts, shouting for Bolton to “get to the effing ball!”. In the end I got up at 5 AM on a Saturday to watch my side lose 1-0 in a horrid game. I didn’t regret it at all though, my fandom aside, the bemused and slightly scared looks I got from early morning dog walkers was more than enough.

    • eplnfl

      July 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

      Matilda living close to Chicago by any chance. I’m in the north suburban area and have wanted to try to get a group together for a watch party, but most of the bars are in the City itself. Tough ride in the winter.

  3. Eric Truog

    July 28, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Hey Ethan, what pub do you go to? I live in Cambridge, MA (if that’s the one you’re talking about) right near Harvard Sq and love Liverpool so I’m just curious. Not that I could join you though, I’m only 15.

    • Ethan Armstrong

      July 29, 2009 at 10:08 am


      The Phoenix Landing in Central Square is the place to go to watch Liverpool in Boston/Cambridge. It is all-ages for the matches. They only card people looking to drink. They open the kitchen and serve breakfast for even the earliest of games. It is a great atmosphere on gamedays.

      • Eric Truog

        August 6, 2009 at 12:25 am

        Wow I’m absolutely pumped. Thanks a lot for responding.

  4. dkptiger

    July 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    some peopel just dont get it. but thats fine, doesnt make them less of a fan (yes it does) but how can you lay in bed when you know your team needs you?

  5. CA_backpacker

    July 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Lol, the sacrifices a footy fan must make! Nice seeing the Reds play well.

    I bought DirectTV specifically because it carried FSC, Setanta and GolTV, and got a DVR as well. Jump into the 21st Century mate, get some sleep! The game will be there all nice and recorded when you wake up. 🙂

  6. eplnfl

    July 28, 2009 at 6:16 am

    For me, since I am a normal early riser nothing beats getting up in the middle of winter, when it’s still dark here in the Midwest, putting the coffee on, putting on one of the pre-match shows like BBC 5 Live, etc., and watching that early kick-off game. There were the days of the chat here when you waited for it to open up and at that time of the morning only a handful people would be around, but it made things better, a small group whom you can relate to. Miss those days. For us in the Midwest the 3:00pm games come on at 9:00am and by then a bit of the “underground society” feeling is lost. I can say that part of what makes the English game attractive to me are those early mornings. Hey, anyone can be a fan for a noon time start!

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 6:57 am

      How do you get the pre-match shows? Every time I try, it keeps saying “This program not available in the UK”

      • eplnfl

        July 28, 2009 at 7:12 am

        The BBC 5 Live morning programs are not blocked nor is Talksport. Once they go to the stadium they cut off. If you have a iphone then some of the radio apps. give you more coverage from local UK stations.

        • RaiderRich2001

          July 28, 2009 at 7:16 am

          Oh, I thought maybe you knew of some kind of exotic proxy server setup that I wasn’t aware of…

          • eplnfl

            July 28, 2009 at 7:39 am

            Let me say this I believe the iphone to be some sort of exotic proxy server. I do not work for Apple nor until the iphone liked their products much, but the iphone can be the fans best friend.

            Most major UK stations can be found on a radio app or three. There are a lot of them. Most newer cars have the iphone jack for the car radio, so it’s great for me doing my drive home getting the 5 Live post game show for say the Champions League games will fighting traffic. Talksport seems to have all of it’s programming available over the internet. It really helps out one’s hunger for football.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 6:58 am

      or rather “This program not available *outside* the UK”

  7. RaiderRich2001

    July 28, 2009 at 5:09 am

    I DVR everything I can. I could DVR more, except Time Warner still *refuses* to carry Setanta.

  8. Sam

    July 27, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    beer at 7 a.m.?

    • Thomas

      July 28, 2009 at 12:03 am

      Try it. Excellent. Even better if you were out the night before.

      Football tailgating has similar psychotic rituals that start around the same time.

  9. Beto

    July 27, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    This is the life- a great way to wake up. Watch Kuyt control the game, Babel prove himself, Nemeth gaining his confidence and Torres greeted by a roaring crowd. Plus we won…

  10. Thomas

    July 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Not having a club makes this dilemna much easier (though I have always leaned towards Everton).

    For me, I’ll wake up for a big match, but often, I’ll just DVR the game, avoid checking scores, and watch it at a sane hour (live on the West Coast).

    Granted you don’t get that “I was there” experience, but for me it generally suffices.

    Getting a DVR definitely upped the amount of games that I watched.

  11. Adam Childress

    July 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    This is a great article. Its the same story for me. I wake up on the weekends at 6:45 so I can catch the games live. Regardless of team I try to watch them all. Being American and watching th sport is like being in a secret society and its funny once your on the inside looking out thinking wow, why dosnt the rest of America get it.

    Jose my man pay the 14 bucks a month and get Setanta-i /broadband.

  12. AtlantaPompey

    July 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    It’s impossible to avoid scores now. They are shown on every single ESPN channel in the scroll.

    My favorite line was “it feels like I’m part of an underground society. We’re in it. In the know. Pints and eggs. Songs and cheers. The heartache and the joy. Like it’s our secret. We can’t explain it to you if you don’t already get it.” I feel like that quite often, except when I’m at the GA Dome with 50,000 Club America fans.

  13. Jay

    July 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Living in LA I absolutely dread getting up at 430 in the morning but at the same time I love it because I actually get to have a decent breakfast and watch football all morning on the weekend. Also, once all the matches are over for the day(usually at 1130) we still have the rest of the day to enjoy unlike in NYC were its already 230 by the time all saturday matches have ended.

  14. coachie

    July 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    just moved to la from nyc over the winter. so much harder to peep at 5 in the morning, especially since there are so many fewer bars showing the games.

  15. dkptiger

    July 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    if you arent watching it live, you arent watching it. the days of avoiding scores are over, if you can watch live, wake yourself up and watch it. convenience is nothing to a football supporter.

    having said that, i find it sort of funny that an east coast supporter is complaining about the times for matches. im in the central time zone, but the west coast surely has it worse. or australia? even on little sleep, 6 or 7 am is the time most working people wake up everyday anyway.

  16. T-Bull

    July 27, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I hate to record a match I could watch live, knowing that the outcome has already been decided makes me feel even less a part of the action .(as if FSC or Setanta live was any better).

    The upside is your afternoons are free to spend time with the kids, or get fresh air, or discuss the match on EPL talk !

    I would give one of my “testes” to go to Anfield and be a part of the Kop .
    Seriously , anyone want to trade ?

    Hurry Up August 15 !

  17. Paul

    July 27, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I just woke up at 9, flipped on the DVR and watched the game from the beginning. What century are you living in? Nice article though.

    • Ethan Armstrong

      July 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm


      I am living in the 20th century. Probably sometime around the nineteen-eighties. While I don’t own any stone-washed jeans or have Duran Duran going on the tapedeck right now, my only video recording device is a VCR that has no working remote. I can no longer program it.

      The killer is: I got home last night in time to watch the Liverpool/Singapore replay on FSC at 11am (which is a perfect time for me) and I hadn’t talked Liverpool scores with anyone all day so I could have watched it fresh. Ah well. At least it gave me something to write about.

  18. The Gaffer

    July 27, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Great article Ethan. But I feel even more sorry for Nick Webster and Keith Costigan who both had to be in the Fox studios and ready to present this game at 4am PT. Goodness knows what time they had to get up and drive to the studio. If I was either of them, I would have just stayed up all night, did the game and crashed afterwards.

    The Gaffer

    • Ethan Armstrong

      July 27, 2009 at 1:48 pm


      Good point.

      I often feel bad for the barstaff at our pub. Most of them don’t follow football and they have to go in extra early to open up so we can watch the match. I bet Webster and Costigan have some technical staff who don’t share our passion and need to make those hours as well.

  19. Jose

    July 27, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Hear hear! I get up early even if it means following typed commentary on espn’s soccernet. No pubs around here so if it’s not on FSC I’m left with the computer. But I don’t mind, I’ll gladly wake up puffy-eyed for Liverpool =)

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