Rant

The great Bruce McGuire pointed me at this, a celebration of what it is to be discovering football in America at the moment. While I appreciate that a lot of you mericans have been onside for years (many years in some case, eh, Don?), there’s something quite exciting about what seems to be happening in the US of States.

I am a bit envious. Football in England has history (not that we really acknowledge this), but it also has a fairly ridiculous culture of over-analysis. I wish we could all just go along to the matches and sing and be excited like we’re all 11 years old.
This existential crisis is doubly troubling, given that I’m notionally in  the ‘over-analysis’ trade writing all this crap day-upon-day. Were it not for the fact that I quite like doing this website (I think I’ve learned a lot), and especially like putting out the annual reviews (number six (!) is in the works), I’d happily never read another internet football story again.

Is that true? I don’t know. But I certainly would *like* to think nothing of Fulham between matches, attend each game with the freshness of the unburdened mind, experience joy and surprise and relief at every match without having to wonder why, why, why all the time (this’ll never stop: I asked my poor mother ‘why?’ more than any child reasonably should and presumably drove her to the limit of her patience in so doing. If Stanley does this we’ll use the tried and tested Dog Borstal technique of squirting him with a water pistol to effect pavlovian conditioning (not really)).

But the people of Portland seem to be having so much fun!  I do understand that this is all a bit too neat and that they’re marketing themselves like mad things trying to convert people and draw them to the games with what they think is the essense of soccer, but still, it really does look like football in America is *becoming*.  People like Bruce and Brian Quarstad are in at the ground level and must feel like kings of the world to see how it’s all shaking out.

Back here we have the shiny names and the “star power”, but because of all that we’ve reached a point where we are paying silly money to go to the games and can’t really countenance going to away matches, which are the only occasions where you get that eleven year old feeling again (New grounds are exciting, people sing, you’re sitting somewhere different, etc). 

I don’t know. I’m just getting really fed up with how every Fulham defeat requires at least four scapegoats, three horsemen and half an apocalypse, when, as we all know, this team is almost certain to lose 10-15 times a season, some of which will be to good teams, some to bad teams. It’s simply going to happen. And yet every time it does we get the same old outcry as if the Pope’s just used divine power to resurrect Princess Diana then, on a whim, killed her again just because he could.

But no, Fulham may not lose.

It’s always been the way. I know that fans booed in the sixties golden era and had scapegoats then, too (Steve Earl played a bit later than that but talks in “Match of my life” about how he hated the home crowd and the way they treated him). It’s part of life, part of some deep herd instinct to do something or other that makes us feel something or other. I know that. It’s just becoming really dull to me.  Perhaps it’s perspective.  Perhaps I don’t care enough (this is almost certainly true). Perhaps my life is changing too much for me to hang onto 11 year old style ideals. Or perhaps it *is* all becoming a bit rubbish.

Trouble is, there’s nothing else. It’s in too deep. Rugby doesn’t do it, cricket’s great fun to play but I haven’t the time to watch it, and in any case, I don’t know who anyone is anymore. Perhaps the Olympics will renew some kind of thrill-of-sports spark inside me, but it’s more likely that repeated viewing of Sebastian Coe’s face will have entirely the opposite effect. Perhaps horse racing is the answer.

It isn’t though, is it? We’re stuck with football, f*cking football.

15 thoughts on “Rant

  1. I don’t know if its a cultural thing or just the footy being the footy, but this sport could really, really stand to allow more access to it.

    I often find myself not reading anything between matches, because there’s simply nothing to read. It’s all BIG headlines that don’t support any of the story below. And, any headlines that I do skim usually contain the words “City”, “Chelsea”, and/or “Crisis”. There’s no insight, no funny non-sequiturs, nothing. Just shit.

    Also, the game’s advanced statistics cost an arm and a leg to have access to. There are a few free ones left, but its simply not good enough.

  2. I completely agree with this. Nothing about football that comes out of the mainstream UK press is any fun to read, at least none of the stuff that seeps across the ocean. Or maybe it’s just that, at such a great distance, the signal has been weakened and garbled due to interference.

    Presumably I’m just looking in the wrong places.

  3. Don’t envy us too much. I started playing in ’77, and while it was more acceptable for young boys to play soccer, by my teenage years I was called a communist and worse (not that, you know, being called a commie was ever very offensive, but it was intended to be). Up until recent times, access to overseas games was sparse. Through the ’90s about the only thing you could watch regularly were Man U games–I assume they were trying to spread the brand. Now we do get quite a bit on TV thanks to the gazillion cable channels. Soccer fans in the US have always battled against soccer being the country’s 5th sport. Some tell me it has overtaken hockey now, but I don’t know. We look everywhere else in the world and think you all have had it figured out for ages. It’s nice that Portland (and a few other teams) are well supported, but even here in NYC the Red Bulls aren’t that well supported, and I think they may still be riding new stadium appeal. I’ve been to important home matches near the end of the season and would say it was maybe 2/3 full. Maybe. And kind of quiet. Still a ways to go, and I have to admit that most of the time I don’t think it’ll ever arrive in a real way. I’m ok with that now because there’s enough of it around that fans don’t go hungry. It seems like progress to a degree that, say, my brother in rural Ohio can wake up Sat morning and watch something like Villa Swans. Sorry for the rant, good post!

  4. By the way, can’t recall if it has been mentioned here, and no doubt many of you know about this, but the Blizzard is a great soccer read. I always find a few things in each issue that surprise and excite me:

    http://www.theblizzard.co.uk/

    Also, while I’m at!

    This is a fantastic book about soccer in one of the most dangerous places in the world. I worked on it a bit so I’m biased, but I swear I’d love it regardless! Reminded me of Season With Verona in the way that it’s about sport, people, place … but much, much darker:

    http://articles.boston.com/2012-03-13/arts/31151389_1_juarez-cartels-soccer-fans

    1. Ha, did you work on that? Wow – I’ve just ordered it a couple of days ago as it happens, having got ‘into’ Cuidad Juarez through reading Bolano’s 2666 and other things since. It seemed like the perfect book to me so I’m looking forward to it arriving (ordered from the US Amazon as it’s not available here). What was your involvement?

      Also I subscribe to the Blizzard, which remains the best thing out there but is a bit uneven. I think I’d just want Philippe Auclair and Jonathan Wilson to do it all themselves!

      1. Excellent! Great that you heard about it. Could’ve sworn it was coming out in the UK but apparently not. I work on the marketing/sales side of things, and was nearly a lone advocate of the final cover, which I love and think is pretty eye catching, and dark, but doesn’t put you off. The competing cover was an aerial shot of Juarez. I’d love to know your thoughts when you’ve read it. Powell goes into the Juarez of Bolano a little bit. There’s a chapter devoted to femicide.

        After that, I didn’t want to leave Juarez so I picked up Bowden’s Murder City, which is as grim as it gets. Needed a break upon finishing that.

        1. yep, I’ve read an interview where he tries to set things straight on that.

          Ed Vuillamy (Sp?) has a book called Amexica that I haven’t started yet but which looks good.

          Bolano was (I’m fairly sure) painting Juarez as “the future” and I’m not entirely convinced he’s wrong. I don’t mean to be all tin hat sensationalist but I guess if you mix massive inequality with huge cuts to things like police, eventually something has to give. We saw a bit of that last year with the riots, and depending on how you view things, that could either be a one off or the tip of the iceberg. Throw in peak oil and climate change considerations and the fact that it won’t be that long before we’re all making clothes for China rather than the other way round, well I can sort of see it.

          Or not, who knows, but I think this was Bolano’s point and it’s certainly something to ponder.

          1. I have 2066, even have the limited ed version (3 paperbacks in a slipcase) and I have Savage Detectives, but I’ve yet to read either I’m embarrassed to say. I loved his collection of stories Nazi Literature in Americas … there are some frightening soccer hooligans in that. I’ll get to the big important ones sooner or later.

            1. I don’t know what to tell you really. Try the Savage Detectives – people either seem to love it or hate it. Read up on Bolano, read up on his interviews, drink in the personality, then have a go at 2666. It’s a beast but a massive accomplishment.

  5. Re antidotes to the kneejerks, overanalysis and douchebaggery, I’d like to nudge you towards Up Pohnpei by Paul Watson. I’m biased too (I know the writer), but it’s a genuinely excellent read, so I don’t feel too guilty plugging it.

    In sum, the author leaves his job to go to Micronesia and rebuild from scratch a long-dormant domestic football league, culminating in the team’s first-ever foreign tour in search of their first-ever victory. Don’t be put off if this sounds a bit sub-Dave Gorman. Like This Love Is Not For Cowards, and all good football books, it’s much more about people and place than it is about football.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Up-Pohnpei-football-ultimate-underdogs/dp/184668501X

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