Before moving to America, I would go to the pub pretty much every weekend with Steve to watch Manchester United matches. I’m not a Manchester United supporter but I enjoy watching the matches. Since I moved to America, I have not been able to watch matches due to the time difference. I have gone to an NBA game, a Major League Baseball game, a few NFL games and a few NHL games in the time that I’ve been here. While in Ireland I had gone to Gaelic Football, Hurling, Soccer and Rugby. When I was about 18-19, I stopped supporting any team actively, I started to become disillusioned with soccer, I continued to watch matches but wouldn’t buy jerseys or pay to support teams. Many players seemed more focused on being celebrities, setting trends and taking shortcuts (diving) that the game lost it’s appeal. Gone were the days of watching Paul McGrath intercepting a lobbed ball and heading it over half the length of the pitch or watching Mark Hughes muscling into the middle of the box and knocking in a half volley. When goal keepers still rushed off the line and took on the strikers. The new generation brought in David Beckham showing off his scar to the media, Ronaldo flopping about the place, players wearing Snoods and Gloves and other fuckin’ accessories! I had enough.
It started with me just being disillusioned with soccer but in a few more years, I would find myself disillusioned with all professional sports. I have lost interest in the NFL, which I use to be a pretty avid fan of. The games are fun to attend, the crowd has a very friendly vibe to it, not like soccer matches. But having lived here for a while, seeing the passion and money spent on the college game, it has made me pretty skeptical. People have to pay a fortune to attend a University here, meanwhile millions get pumped into these Football teams. Most states highest paid person, is the college Football coach. Arizonas two College teams played each other recently. In the stands two middle aged guys started arguing which led to one kicking the other in the face! One was an ASU fan, the other a U of A fan, now I went to college in the GMIT and while there, a lot of people hated NUIG and vice versa. NUIG’ers had Facebook pages mocking the GMIT, would talk shit on their stupid Forum and Newspapers site…that kind of backwards mentality seems to exist anywhere but when it exists between sports teams, I think it’s even more fuckin stupid.
Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, The Yankees, The Red Sox, The Dallas Cowboys, The New York Giants etc. all have something in common. They are business. They are a brand. They are organizations who’s main interest is making money, it’s just a happy coincidence that the champions\winners get a higher prize rewards tv revenue etc. Fans\Supporters of these teams are customers of a brand. To them they have a deep seeded passion and loyalty for a team based on some rich history, traditions, family connections etc., but in reality when you get beyond the surface level, this really is just them having brand loyalty. It’s like how some people prefer Xbox over Playstations , Coke over Pepsi, or MAC over PC’s. I loved that Barcelona had Unicef on their jerseys rather than take money for sponsorship, I thought it was a touch of class, but that’s been scrapped now.
So what, you say? I find it a little irritating hearing fans talking shit about a player who just signed for a rival team, talking about how he turned his back due to some long standing tradition and rivalry….look at the situation. The player is more than likely not even from that country, has not grown up watching this rivalry of these two brands unfold and thus doesn’t give a shit about it. He’s a man who works for a large Corporation who was offered a lot of money to go work for another corporation and the customers of the company he left are so angry that they send him death threats for trying to get paid! Does it make any sense to anybody else? I think it’s fuckin stupid. Carlos Tevez was from Argentina, not Manchester or even England. Even the English guys like Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell…at the end of the day, they have short careers and need to go where they get paid the most so their small brains don’t have to stress\work after they retire.
With all of this said, I still watch sports but I watch only for entertainment. I find it difficult to get passionate about any rivalries, players or even scores. Recently I have started to support the local Hockey team but not for reasons which you might associate with people picking their soccer teams back in Ireland. The Hockey team here were on the verge of being sold to another state and moving. A last ditch effort was made to keep them here. They got new owners, these owners have worked very hard to draw a crowd (They never could before), before one of their games, the owners went outside the Arena and cooked over BBQ’s and gave out free food to fans. They have started student nights and other things to get an interest in their brand. They also associate with a lot of local charities. These are ventures that I can get behind, also Hockey players are tough!! Rather than dive and flop about the place, they try to stay on the Ice while hurt and if I met one of them out on the street I wouldn’t know, they don’t get media attention, try to set trends, I don’t even see them without their masks on! Hockey may very well be my new sport.