I have never been to England. Four years ago I couldn’t tell you what teams play in the English Premier League, which are from London, what the Champions League is, and what a North London derby consists of -- though if pressed I’d guess it had to do with fried fish a pint of ale and a girl with a horse-face. I couldn’t tell you who Andrés Villas-Boas or Arséne Wenger was, where to find White Hart Lane, why Tottenham supporters are “Yids” and why they call Arsenal fans “Gooners.”
I didn’t give a shit.
I liked baseball. I tolerated football (the kind with an oblong ball and oversized date-rapists). And when there was nothing else on I could be convinced to sit through a few depressing quarters of Knicks basketball.
But everything changes. It’s one of those universal rules, like “shit runs downhill” or “Wayne Rooney’s a bald twat.”
It started with the world cup. Maybe it was America’s exciting play. Maybe it was the drama of Ghana’s incredible run. Maybe it was England’s exit, Thierry Henri’s hand ball in the qualifiers, Spain’s unbelievable passing, or just the many afternoons spent sitting in an outdoor bar in Red Hook drinking beer with strangers and shouting the score to men hanging out the doorway of every passing bus. When the 2010 final was over and the world champion was crowned I was hooked.
Now I love soccer. I adore it. I obsess about it.
Between mid-August and late-May, one or two days a week, I live on Greenwich Mean Time, rising at the crack of dawn to pace nervously in front of my television set or join the modest crowds at the local bar. We order beer and breakfast and stare up at the game, singing and screaming as though we’re in the grandstands cheering on our sides.
In the beginning I’d go with a couple of friends who liked to joke through the game and bum cigarettes from the ex-pats during half-time. They understood the game, they followed the league, they introduced me to it all. I was their wide-eyed sidekick confused and excited by all that I saw.
That was a two and a half years ago. Now they turn to me with questions.
This, you see, is the way of the righteous convert: the Mongols raped and murder the heathen Muslims then converted to Islam and then raped and murdered the insufficiently pious Muslims. Or In other words: there will be no small talk with me during the game.
Okay, but who cares? Why another blog about soccer? Why, Aaron, why?
I can't really answer that, except that maybe you are also new to this and want a little friendly perspective from a few rungs up the obsession ladder. Maybe it's a guide to the perplexed for initiates, a way into the strange, baroque soap opera that is English Premier League football.
Or maybe you just want to read funny stories about my life and how they relate to games being played 1,000 miles away by men with bad haircuts and incredible abs.
For the next 10 months I'll chronicle the soccer season, tell stories from my past, share what I think are the most compelling dramas playing out in European Football, and hopefully you'll join me.
When I started this post there were 5 days, 15 hours, 58 minutes, and 44 seconds before Tottenham Hotspur (my team) kick off against Crystal Palace. If you hate soccer that's not a lot of time to convince you why it's great, but over the next few days I'll try my best to do just that.
And if you're already a fan, well then you know that 5 days 15 hours and 58 minutes is an eternity before we hear that wonderful sound of the first whistle, so maybe this blog will be a welcome distraction from the will he/won't he stories of the transfer window and the deadly wait until our lives regain that particular little kernel of meaning.