So there we were, killing time at the car dealership where I spend the worst part of my working week, all of us straining our necks to spot incoming customers so we could avoid serving them. This is a truism of any dealership. Most of the salespeople, or product specialists in my case, would really have nothing to do with the public if at all possible – which is fine if the public understood this. If they could only meet with the guy in the red shirt who is running away from them, ducking down behind a line of Toyota Sienna minivans to avoid being seen, and convince him that they aren’t jerking him around and actually might buy a car this decade then they would get some honest service and a good deal. Instead, they remain convinced that the slimy sharks whose skin and hair battle for the title ‘greasiest appendage,’ who meet them up front with a rictus-grin and a weak joke are their friends and will give them a good deal. Yeah, the same one Dr. Faustus got.
Anyways, there we were, killing time etc, when one of our number mentioned that the baseball cap he’d ordered online was late being delivered. I asked him which Braves cap it was and he told me it wasn’t a Braves cap but a Diamondbacks Cap. He’s a big Braves fan, goes to games, and is always up on the stats and gossip, so I asked him why. He told me that he had a number of different teams’ caps that he wore depending on which outfit he had on. He had recently brought a black shirt so he wanted a Diamondbacks cap to accompany it – also, his surname began with D so he had a personal connection. We laughed at him solidly for one minute and rechristened him ‘Usher.’ It was later on that I realized that this approach could only happen in America and never, ever for a Football fan in England.
Your team is selected for you in England before your name. A variety of external factors – location, family tradition, success, expediency and myriad of others are at work to determine which team you follow. In my case, I was born in Middlesbrough General Hospital, 100 yards away from Ayresome Park, home of the spectacularly unsuccessful Middlesbrough FC and lived a grand total of three streets away. My dad, mum, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, schoolmates, colleagues, girlfriends, even enemies, all supported The Boro so there was not a lot of choice involved.
Like a lot of public duty in England, your football team is stoically supported despite, not because of, any conspicuous public success. If you support a team for 31 years without a sniff of glory and then they go and win the Carling Cup in 2004 then it is sweeter and more valuable than a 1787 Chateau Laffite precisely because of all the nonsense and shite you’ve had to put up with for the previous fruitless seasons. A Manchester United fan from Manchester (there are a couple) would still have moral superiority over a London-based one or the most hated of all fair-weather fans, the Glory Hunter, but they wouldn’t have the same emotional payback that I got on that February afternoon in Cardiff.
A note now on the lowest form of Football life – the team changer. A spineless, weak-willed individual with no moral fiber, with the honesty and decency of a tapeworm; these slime-sucking infidels shrug off their allegiances like last seasons chemise and seek to attach themselves to the latest successful team because the only way their hollow and shameful lives can gain validation is by associating themselves, however vicariously, with success. When these people talk about “We” – We won the League, We are going to win the cup – it is in its broadest possible sentence and should not be tolerated any more than you’d tolerate a Nazi pedophile meth-addict moving into your basement. The wider football community must shine the spotlight of honest failure onto their success-hunting shenanigans and they must be banished form the bosom of footballing fraternity for their sins and spend a season atoning for their sins by being forced to watch either NASCAR or 10 Pin Bowling – whichever is more tedious. You may think this is too harsh but we need to take a stand now.
Otherwise, in the future, Manchester City may be bidding for 10,000 Chelsea season ticket holders to take with them to the Champions League Final and if Liverpool’s new stadium is ever built then a trans-pennine swoop for 25,000 screaming shirtless Newcastle fans to bolster the upper tier would be in the offing.
It’s different for Americans of course, being a minimum of 2,500 miles away from any team renders them immune from similar criticisms made of English turncoats who don’t support their local team. I have a Liverpool supporting friend who chose them because of his love for Michael Owen circa-1998. A Canadian friend has soft spots for Everton and Birmingham City because of their Glasgow Rangers connections. Everton will pick up more fans because of Howard and Donovan, Fulham does well because of Dempsey and McBride, and this is all well and good – the more the merrier. My point is that if you pick a team, then stick with them. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, yours to love, honor and obey. They will be with you longer than any wife, your highs will be higher, your lows will be lower and not only will they love you back, your soul will be all the better for it.
Just don’t end up like this guy: