Like a lot of Americans who are looking for a sport to follow when it’s not baseball season, I have dipped my toe in soccer on occasion over the years. I’ve never really gotten into it because I simply seem to be unable to find room in my life, brain and heart for a second sport at this point in my life, but I’ve come closer to picking up the English Premier League as a habit than anything else in the past few years.
Of course, the issue every American faces when they want to get into soccer from another country is what team to root for. And there are a number of theories and a lot of advice big time soccer fans will give newbies when it comes to picking an allegience.
Some will try to make analogies to baseball teams, such as, “If you like the Dodgers you should like Arsenal because both are usually pretty good but both tend to disappoint you in the end.” Some suggest that, if you have any ancestry in England you can pick a club near where your roots are. I’ve got British blood on both sides of my family, but the most recent relative from there is a great grandmother who was born in West Bromwich in the West Midlands. The problem there is that the West Brom club (a) got relegated last year and failed to make it back to the Premier League this year; and (b) I’m told they are rather boring and tedious to watch in any event. So, sorry great grandma Alice, I won’t be picking them up either.
Beyond those sorts of considerations, the thing you hear most often is that you can’t root for certain clubs because it’s simply wrong to do it. I’ve heard this about Manchester United, Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, and Liverpool on various occasions, with all of them being compared either to the Yankees or the Red Sox. Whether that’s because of their success, their financial dominance or, in the case of Liverpool, having the same dang ownership group as Boston, I’ve been told that it’s simply morally wrong to pick up one of those teams. They don’t need new fans, I’m told, or my support and backing of them would make me a frontrunner or something. I don’t have any idea how valid those notions are — I’m sure some EPL fans will explain it all in the comments — but you hear them a lot.
And now we learn that it goes both ways.
Talk show host and actor John Oliver was at the Mets game yesterday wearing a Mets cap and the crew came down to interview him. Oliver is English, has only been in this country for 13 years and was not any sort of a baseball fan before coming here. He has since married an American and lives here permanently, so like any smart person he has become a baseball fan. Good job, John!
But why a Mets fan?
As the kids say today: where is the lie?