I always enjoy a little sports talk topic like the following emailer raised:
Please state a legitimate reason you should be supporting Liverpool -- have you ever lived there, gone to school there? Have you ever received mail there?
Please include why you happen to adopt one of the most successful clubs in Soccer history and not Port Vale, Brentford City, or Oldham Athletic.... would kinda be like me adopting the Patriots, Yankees, and Lakers even though I've never recvd mail in any of these places......
Interested in Burleson
Very fair question. And since I over-think sports issues like these, allow me to spend a few paragraphs on this topic. I get what he is getting at, that I, who often ridicules those who jump bandwagons, has actually jumped a wagon myself. I shall defend my position, and then those bored enough to care can rule for themselves.
Keep in mind, if you don't care, then don't waste your time reading this. But, I do feel everyone could use some logic in the discussion of "picking your teams". There are too many humans who are sucked in by the bandwagon, and I am here to help. The worst thing to ever deal with when it comes to this topic is the guy you meet who cheers for the Cowboys, Yankees, Lakers, Red Wings, and Earnhardt. Whatever the opposite of "die-hard" is defines these people.
Here is how I selected the teams I follow (and how you should, too).
I feel like one of the downfalls of sports fandom is that too many people inexplicably support teams in which there is no rhyme or reason other than they like following a winner. Sticking with your team through thick or thin is too tough for many people, and therefore they jump from winner to winner and while they enjoy the short-term payoff of celebration, they never experience the true joy of your life long allegiance finally reaping what you have sown.
The best way to know who you should support can be easily found by purchasing an atlas. I hate to over-simplify things here, but my favorite teams can be traced back to my hometown of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. From there, with a little help from Rand McNally at my earliest moment of awareness, I claimed the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. This was done by simply finding the closest team to my home in each particular sport and supporting them through thick and thin. To this day, they are my teams.
Of course, living in Dallas for almost 7 years, I have grown an affinity to the locals. We know so many members of the local organizations that we cannot help but have feelings for each of the teams, but I swear, when push comes to shove, I will always feel my roots with the Brewers before the Rangers. And yes, all things being equal (which they are not), give me my beloved Blackhawks of my childhood over the Dallas Stars of my adult-hood.
Now, did I feel enormous joy for the Stars Stanley Cup? Absolutely. Did I artificially latch on to a team after only 12 months in the city? Guilty as charged. But personal relationships (including the Brett Hull factor) and season tickets can build bridges pretty quickly. Honestly, it wasn't the same as my Blackhawks winning the Cup, but then again, if the Hawks ever win the Cup again (doubtful), I will not be in the dressing room with them like I was lucky enough to be with the Stars that night in Buffalo.
And if we are going to be honest here, with the exception of the Packers, I have fallen out of some love for my local teams of my youth in exchange for many of the teams that I am required to follow as part of my job. I don't necessarily love the Rangers now (that might be too strong a term), but I do feel some level of ownership since I have watched nearly every game since 1998. On the other hand, because of my responsibility of watching the Rangers every night, I seldom get the chance to watch the Brewers. There is only so much time in the day to dedicate to bad baseball.
It is just a different relationship. I was a kid then. I am a cynical adult now. I knew no one on those teams, but I have talked with nearly everyone on these Texas teams. But there is nothing like those teams you grew up pulling for.
Which leads me to the question of "Interested in Burleson. How does a guy from Wisconsin, who moved to Texas, follow Liverpool?
Since he cares, allow me to explain. I played soccer my whole life, but only watched soccer during the World Cup every four years. 1990 was solid but not as memorable, 1994 was amazing because of the run of the Americans and the location of the tournament, and 1998 was decent. In 1998, England featured a 18-year old phenom who scored an amazing goal against Argentina named Michael Owen. As memory serves, he was the youngest player to score in World Cup history (I cant swear this is true, but it is how I remember it). I still can see the goal, and found it wonderful. I also remember being amazed at how a kid could do what he did at the highest of levels. It forever stuck in my memory, but then the Cup ended, and I went back to not watching soccer.
In spring of 2000, a P1 named Jake Lawson tried to talk me into watching English soccer. Before that day, my only English Soccer thought was that there was a team named Sheffield United, which occurred to me as cool since Gary Sheffield was a Brewers Shortstop. Also, there was a team from Nottingham Forest, which always made me think of Robin Hood.
Jake was a fan of a fairly obscure club, Leicester City. He explained plenty to me about the English game, and also the joy of his life, which was a new channel on satellite, Fox Sports World. They showed fairly regular coverage of the English Premiership. For reasons, I cannot quite comprehend, he convinced me to watch Leicester City play Leeds United in a game that would end the season for both teams. By extension, I felt a tie to his team for a few weeks, as my interest in the sport deepened.
During the offseason of 2000, which extends from May to August, Fox Sports World showed the best games of the 2000 season. I watched at least a game a week, but quickly found out that Fox Sports World never showed Leicester City. They showed about 5 teams on a regular basis. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle United, and Liverpool. I guess they decided that those were the teams with the most world-wide appeal, and if you liked them, you could watch them nearly every game they played. However, if you liked another team, you would only see them rarely, when they played one of the Big 5.
Well, when watching these 5 teams play replayed games from the past season, I reacquainted myself with Michael Owen, whose club team was Liverpool. Liverpool is one of the most historically dominant teams in world soccer, but has gone through a drought since 1990 without a premiership championship, and for the most part have disappointed its fan base. I suppose if you were to find a similar organization who enjoyed wonderful success a generation ago, but is having a hard time in the last 15 years, it might be the Boston Celtics.
For people who think that is like "cheering for the Yankees or Lakers", that would be Manchester United. ManU has won the premiership in 93, 94, 96, 97, 99, 00, 01, and 03. Liverpool hasn't won since I was in High School. In fact, this is now my 5th season of hardcore fandom, and they have never finished higher than 3rd.
Since the summer of 2000, I am sure I have seen 90% of their games. I watch them every weekend (spending way too much on pay-per-view and all-access website subscriptions), and suggest that despite Michael Owen departing last summer, I am as hardcore a fan of Liverpool in Dallas as there is. I read their papers every day, and feel like I could give you a pretty good rundown of not only their senior club, but also their youth system if you so desire.
I have yet to complete a journey to a home game, but that will be done very soon.
And finally, I did my atlas test. And, to the surprise of many, if you locate Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and Liverpool, England, you will find that the closest English Soccer team to my hometown is in fact, the Reds. 3,778 miles separate us, but that is the closest English team, and therefore my birthright. Sue me for following Liverpool.
English soccer is every bit as exciting as the sports over here. Ok, maybe not the NFL. I recommend that everyone follow a team from week to week through a season and you will likely be hooked soon. But, if you are wise, you will pick a team you can actually watch. Had I chosen Port Vale, I would still be waiting for their first television appearance. I have never received mail there, either.