Monday, April 19, 2010

Glad to Be a Soccer Sports Bigamist

Those of you who read ESPN's Bill Simmons, aka the Sports Guy, are probably well aware of a few of his well-know rules for being a true sports fan. One of those rules, one that often goes without saying, is the prohibition against sports bigamy.

However, being a soccer fan, particularly one in the United States, presents a much different situation than your typical NFL, NBA, or NHL fan.  I have a favorite team in those sports, and I will only root for that one team for the entirety of my life. 

But how is soccer different?  For one, MLS only began play 14 years ago.  So prior to that time, allegiances had to lie elsewhere, and as the league was still in fledgling stages, those allegiances remained and kept building.  And as a fan with no other inherent alliances or ties to particular European teams, like many other US soccer fans I suspect I found myself attracted to teams for various reasons, such as cheering for a favorite player (say Roberto Baggio) or a team that plays an attractive style.  Additionally, Champions League aside, the major European leagues offered separate leagues where one could develop multiple allegiances.

So, not being Italian, Spanish or English, with no natural ties to any teams there, I believe it only natural that I find myself cheering for particular teams within each league.  Never multiple teams within a league, but multiple teams across leagues.

But then again, being a US fan presents another wrinkle to this issue.  Like most US fans, I want to see Americans playing in Europe do well, which includes cheering for their teams to do well.  I'm not a Fulham fan, but I root for Clint Demspey and Fulham to win every weekend except when they take on Manchester United.  I don't see anything wrong in this.

To some degree it's not even that I'm a true fan of those teams.  In La Liga I root for Barcelona because I enjoy watching the best soccer on the planet and for whatever reason I disliked all the US fans of Real Madrid who rooted for them just because they had won the most titles. But I'm not really a true Barcelona fan. I'm just a fan of watching Xavi find the unseen angle and Mess perform the unbelievable.

Here's the point of this whole argument.  As a US fan in a time where you can watch soccer from all over the world and circumstances led to fan allegiances with foreign teams, while also having a local MLS team to root for, days like this past Saturday become much more bearable, enjoying, and ultimately fulfilling.

My home team DC United lost yet again, 2-0 at home, falling to 0-4.  It's pretty clear that they are the worst team in MLS, quite a dubious distinction.  It's one thing to root for a middling MLS team, but when your favorite team is this bad, you start questioning the proper outlay of your money.

But that aforementioned soccer bigamy at least gave me a chance to enjoy some good soccer with a vested interest as a fan.  It's one thing to enjoy an exciting Manchester Derby, and marvel at the Ginger Prince securing a second dramatic, extra-time winner against Man City this season.  It's all the better to have a vested rooting interest in seeing the Red Devils pull one out at the death once again.

After that, not to mention knowing that Chelsea's loss left the title race wide open again, everything that was going to happen at RFK stadium could only be gravy.  Sure, watching a team whose only bright spot is a 17 year old academy graduate (I'm already excited about the future of Andy Najar) is slightly depressing.  But that comes with being a fan, and being a US soccer fan, a fully-admitted soccer bigamist, gives me even more to root for.  The good or the bad, I'm still a fan and the more to indulge myself in the better.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

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