July 19, 2006

Simmons picks an EPL team: Soccer has officially turned a corner in the US.

posted by dzot to soccer at 12:42 PM - 39 comments

I don't like the idea of looking like I'm following the BSG's lead, but I've been in the same process myself. An awesome link for the first few paragraphs alone. If EPL = non-manufactured enthusiasm, I'm for it.

posted by yerfatma at 01:42 PM on July 19, 2006

I never guessed he'd settle on the team he picked (no spoilers). Should give me something else to grumble about though (and that's a good thing).

posted by trox at 02:11 PM on July 19, 2006

Fun column. It's easy if you're English: you support your local team unless there are strong enough extenuating circumstances to hold up in a court of law. And if you change your team, you are forever held in scorn. Now all Simmons needs to do is lose the foreign accent ('the ********'? I don't think anyone outside the US calls them that) and he's sorted. But he's made a good selection: as he notes, ***** provides the perfect combination of over-estimation and under-achievement, and are guaranteed to provide the mixture of sporadic joy and regular misery that is the true fan's burden. And apart from *****, there aren't many teams who truly despise them. [spoilers edited]

posted by etagloh at 02:11 PM on July 19, 2006

Dr. Dre supports Liverpool? Whoa. Great article. The only problem I have with it is that, like many, Simmons doesn't realize that Hornby's book Fever Pitch is nothing like either of the movies based on it. I started supporting Arsenal after reading Fever Pitch because the book hands the reader the club's history and the heartache. Fever Pitch is Hornby's biography of how his disfunctional relationship with his father led to his supporting Arsenal. I can't wait until 19 August. [spoiler edited] SORRY!

posted by scully at 02:19 PM on July 19, 2006

It's easy if you're English: you support your local team unless there are strong enough extenuating circumstances to hold up in a court of law Then how does Sir Paul explain supporting Everton?

posted by scully at 02:23 PM on July 19, 2006

Very cool column.

posted by dusted at 02:26 PM on July 19, 2006

terrapin, Everton is based in Liverpool as well. This is my first year following the EPL from the beginning as well, and his logic is actually pretty strong, at least reading this as an American noob. I fell upon Liverpool (Elvis Costello is also a hardcore Reds fan), but I can't fault his choice. And Simmons is a fine writer, when he puts his mind to it. That was a fun read.

posted by chicobangs at 02:34 PM on July 19, 2006

Agreed. Great article. And I'd like to pettily point out I called Simmon's choice over at offwingopinion. i rawk. hawrd.

posted by garfield at 02:36 PM on July 19, 2006

Didn't realize that, chicobangs. Thanks. I read that part of the article too, where he referenced the vacation potential. At least he didn't decide to support ________ or _______.

posted by scully at 02:46 PM on July 19, 2006

Interesting article. He gets most things right and a few things quite wrong but it'd be petty to list them seeing the enthusiasm he displays for the whole endeavour. I think he's made a good pick. They're certainly on Sky Sports here a lot and I guess that may translate to US cable coverage too. I always make a point of watching their games as they play an open, entertaining game with the emphasis on attack (though to be fair I think I only missed watching five televised EPL games in total last season). It was pretty obvious the shortlist he'd draw up given the criteria for picking a team to support. However the end result was somewhat unexpected. Again, a good article and an interesting read even to someone native to England who's avidly followed football for most of their (lengthy) life.

posted by squealy at 02:51 PM on July 19, 2006

Simmons doesn't realize that Hornby's book Fever Pitch is nothing like either of the movies based on it. Oh, that's forgiveable to some extent, given that it's not a book, I think, that would be as accessible to American readers as, say, High Fidelity, which in many ways continues its themes. (Even though I think it's better than any of his novels.) In fact, the storyline of Hornby's support for L'Arse is one of those 'extenuating circumstances' I had in mind. (Another is the political implications of traditional allegiance: support for Man Utd and Liverpool in Northern Ireland grew not just because of players like George Best, but because it couldn't pin your religion down in the way that supporting Rangers or Celtic did.) The Liverpool-Everton loyalty thing is hard to pin down. While there are some family and district-based influences -- and Everton was always the 'Catholic club' of the two -- it's much less acrimonious than other cross-city rivalries. That said, you'll still find families in Manchester that have both City and United supporters: the real enemy of United is Leeds.

posted by etagloh at 03:51 PM on July 19, 2006

Can someone tell me? Which english football team is called "the scum" by Coventry City supporters?

posted by pauleye at 04:14 PM on July 19, 2006

the real enemy of United is Leeds And that goes back to the War of the Roses. House of Lancaster and House of York, Red against white. County Cricket etc. No, not the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner film, dunderheads.

posted by owlhouse at 04:14 PM on July 19, 2006

a great article and will help EPL's status in the states, as long as he writes about every now and then. I have watched a good amount of the EPL over the last few years, but this season, my dvr is set to record every game i can, i cant wait for it to start. FSC shows alot of EPL games and they frequently show the really good teams. I have always liked Chelsea, but since i didnt grow up there, i rout for good, competetive games and pay attention to the style of play and quality of players. This year i will not watch any of the Italian league because of the quality of flopping, as seen in WC final, I thought they were better than that, but now i rate them with the great diving mexican national teams, CLASSLESS.... i think simmons should watch a season before picking a favorite, but thats just me

posted by sauceysays at 04:26 PM on July 19, 2006

A friend of mine just got done with the State Department and his last gig was in London. He didn't think much of soccer before his job there and now he's a rabid Chelsea fan. I told him that I wanted to start following the EPL and that I needed to pick a team. He thought about it for a little while then told me that since I'm of blue collar heritage that I should be a Tottenham fan. So, there's my team.

posted by NoMich at 06:03 PM on July 19, 2006

Hey, I just learned something about my adopted team. I learned that you don't call them Hotspur. Sheesh! I guess I should read up on them before the season starts. Funtime Activity: Google "epl season" and look who comes out on top.

posted by NoMich at 06:20 PM on July 19, 2006

I've never heard them called "The Spurs" either. Usually just "Spurs" or "Tottenham". Confession - I once stood on the old Shelf at White Hart Lane (great name, by the way) for Pat Jenning's Spurs testimonial match against Arsenal. The next season he was transferred to - you guessed it - the Gooners.

posted by owlhouse at 06:24 PM on July 19, 2006

My sister brought me home a Spurs jersey last Christmas, but it's too tight. Not sure what that means.

posted by yerfatma at 07:07 PM on July 19, 2006

Somehow I knew from his 6 criteria that he'd go with Spurs. as sauceysays says, all the better if he actually follows through on the fandon and brings this choice up again, from time to time.

posted by gspm at 09:23 PM on July 19, 2006

I would highly recommend How Soccer Explains The World: An Unlikely Theory of Globaliztion to anyone interested in the game, newbies and old leatherballs alike. There's good coverage in the book regarding Spurs and their fan base, and the book itself easily makes my personal favorites list. Here's a great fan link to Spurs also. yerfatma, there was a story out a couple of years ago about how Tottenham really didn't put a lot of thought into their kit maker when they decided on kappa, leaving some supporters with no place to hide. They're hoping for a more fan-friendly fit with the new Puma shirts.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 09:33 PM on July 19, 2006

I chose Tottenham as my EPL team in 2003 based on this thread here in SpoFi. Then there's this thread where I almost ditched them. Beat you by three years, Simmons!

posted by mbd1 at 09:49 PM on July 19, 2006

Okay, then, next step: What about the idea of starting some kind of exchange program, where Americans interested in the EPL but not sure where to place a rooting interest are paired off with English folk who might be interested in the NFL or NHL or MLS or NASCAR (or, okay, even the NBA) and wouldn't mind adopting a fan interest on this end? Many Americans might be sick up to our back teeth of the canned nature of modern fandom, but North American big league sport isn't hurting for showbiz and sex appeal. Would someone with more time than me please make this happen?

posted by chicobangs at 02:05 AM on July 20, 2006

Which english football team is called "the scum" by Coventry City supporters? I'd hazard a guess at Villa.

posted by squealy at 03:28 AM on July 20, 2006

chico, that sounds like a great idea, though it would be weird if sports did something to increase understanding and brotherly love. leaving some supporters with no place to hide Yeah, in all honestly, the shirt fits, but I figure the world doesn't need to know exactly what my nipples look like.

posted by yerfatma at 06:07 AM on July 20, 2006

Wow. Simmons has enough readers (and as usual, he writes entertainingly enough) that if he actually starts writing about this and enjoys it, it could singlehandedly make a big difference in how people perceive the sport in the US. On the subject of Fever Pitch, I'd be shocked if Simmons hasn't read it- his series of reviews of sports books last summer(?) was great, and I think inadvertently showed he's a lot more serious about this writing thing than most people realize.

posted by tieguy at 08:40 AM on July 20, 2006

Now what I need him to do is make the cable companies and DirectTV start airing EPL in HD. It's going to be a come-down from the World Cup if I can't see the gel in Becks' hair. That is gel, right?

posted by yerfatma at 08:59 AM on July 20, 2006

it could singlehandedly make a big difference in how people perceive the sport in the US. I couldn't agree more. That's why I got so frustrated at the coverage of the World Cup in the states. Every sportswriter, to a person, went overboard on covering how much diving there was. Sure, there was some, but there was so much more to it than that. Even this relatively rigid and predictable world cup had moments of stunning beauty. George Vecsey focused on this a little bit, but the rest of the Fourth Estate pretty much dropped the ball, and focused on the negative. He thought about it for a little while then told me that since I'm of blue collar heritage that I should be a Tottenham fan. NoMich, you should probably do a little more research. Your friend, who pretty much adopted the Dallas Cowboys, didn't do you much of a service. Everything about the game in Britain is blue collar (except Fulham, maybe). Not that I would discourage you from supporting Spurs, but selecting a Premiership side should be a process. For my own part, I had been torn between Crystal Palace (who had some great players when I was a kid), Sunderland (which is where some of my ancestors were from) and Arsenal (because of its proximity to London). Like Terrapin, Hornby's book sealed the deal for me (though it helped that Palace and Sunderland were relegated).

posted by psmealey at 09:08 AM on July 20, 2006

There was more to our conversation than just that one tidbit, psmealey. I posted the only part that I could truly remember. But point taken. I probably should spend the upcoming season feeling my way around the EPL. My friend adopted Chelsea because that was the only team his English friends would allow him to cheer on. I guess they took him to see a bunch of matches as well. So it's not like he just picked a team because he liked the name or something like that. Besides, I think he would be dismayed in knowing that somebody accused him of jumping on a Dallas Cowboys style bandwagon, what with him being a Washington Redskins fan*. * - The Redskins were the football team of choice among most Raleighites prior to the arrival of the Carolina Panthers. A lot of them have continued to keep their wagon hitched to the Redskins train since then. Just trying to explain why a North Carolinian would root on a team from DC.

posted by NoMich at 09:44 AM on July 20, 2006

I made the same choice as Simmons last season. Tottenham is good without being too good, has no recent history of success that would inspire bandwagoning, and of all the teams I watched on Fox Soccer last season, I liked their style of play the best. I hope Davids comes back, because I've been calling him Milli Vanilli. In that 2003 SportsFilter thread, I asked for an English club a couple of divisions down to root for. I've settled there on AFC Wimbledon, because I can't wait for the day they're in the same division as Wimbledon's former club, the MK Dons. But you can't watch them anywhere.

posted by rcade at 12:10 PM on July 20, 2006

"Fun column. It's easy if you're English: you support your local team unless there are strong enough extenuating circumstances to hold up in a court of law." Nonsense, there would be a lot more people supporting the likes of Barnet, Oldham Athletic and Tranmere Rovers if that were true ...

posted by walrus at 01:36 PM on July 20, 2006

Just to carry on the logic in my previous post: Liverpool fans would only come from L4, Manchester United fans would only come from Old Trafford, Arsenal fans would only come from Finsbury Park, and etagloh would be supporting whatever conference or non-league team is closest to him in Middlesbrough. Many people support the biggest team which could be considered local. Others follow the team their father and grandfather followed, no matter where they are brought up. Some follow the first team they saw live, others have an affinity to a certain club and decide to follow it because it appeals. The only rule is to never change your club. That "follow your local team" nonsense only applies to a tiny minority of football supporters living in an ivory tower.

posted by walrus at 02:08 PM on July 20, 2006

Oh, and that tired old sectarian bullshit about Everton being a Catholic club and Liverpool a protestant one is just that. There used to be a chant on the Kop before the games a while back, where some would shout "Rangers" and others would reply with "Celtic". The split was about fifty-fifty. Same with Everton supporters. Neither club has any sectarian affiliation, and they never have had. It's largely a family thing which club you support, but many people support the opposite club to their family as an act of defiance.

posted by walrus at 02:15 PM on July 20, 2006

Okay, living in Indiana, which EPL team should I be supporting? 'Cause I'm wide open here, and a very loyal fan on top of that. Some lucky club's about to get a grade A fan, with your help. I mean, is there a questionaire to fill out, qualifications I need to have, maybe a copy of my resume? Oh, and I'm Irish Catholic, if that helps.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 04:14 PM on July 20, 2006

...and etagloh would be supporting whatever conference or non-league team is closest to him in Middlesbrough. Oooh, burn.

posted by chicobangs at 05:25 PM on July 20, 2006

TBH, Queen's Park Rangers sound like the team for you.

posted by yerfatma at 08:35 PM on July 20, 2006

Despite being a fan of another team in the same division, I heartily support yfm's endorsement of Queens Park Rangers. They're a bit crap, but they have a decent enough past, a decent enough kit, a club director who was forced to resign at gunpoint and, most importantly, they're not Manchester fucking United.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:43 AM on July 21, 2006

"Oooh, burn." Well, I might be being unfair ... etagloh might live right next to the Riverside. But I've heard that "support your local team" line so often from "scouse" reds who then turn out to live on the Wirral that I get suspicious about it ;-)

posted by walrus at 02:43 AM on July 21, 2006

And my mother's relatives all live in Chester or Wrexham, but still have Anfield season tickets. Although I have gone with them to stand at the Racecourse from time to time. I guess their local loyalty is only ever tested if the FA or League Cup throws up a fixture.

posted by owlhouse at 04:15 PM on July 21, 2006

My point being that the concept of local loyalty is nonsense. It never existed: even in the late 1800s people used to travel to watch the team they fancied rather than the closest one in the city.

posted by walrus at 02:50 AM on July 22, 2006

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