In The Fan In You (TFIY) series, TSG will explore how you, yes you, became a fan of the USMNT, or your favorite club team. This piece by Sabrina Blanks.
I am an almost completely accidental fan of “the beautiful game.” I grew up and still live in Charlotte, NC, right in the middle of basketball country, and until several years ago, the main things I knew about Manchester, England were that one song from “Hair” and that the city tends to produce good bands.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now five years old, I took a job at a newsstand specializing in international periodicals, and there in the pages of “heat” and “Hello” and “OK!” I became passing familiar with the shopping habits of one Coleen McLoughlin (wife of Wayne Rooney).
Turns out footballers and their WAGs are seriously famous in England. I had no idea.
Several months later, I found myself up at all hours of the night with a baby and cable television. Why not watch Coleen’s boyfriend’s team play some soccer?
I was hooked. Over the next three years, I started using words like “footy” and “pitch” and “striker.” I learned to jeer at Manchester City’s every misfortune and eagerly anticipate the derby (and how to pronounce it). That one episode of Life On Mars made way more sense than it would have otherwise. I crocheted myself a red and white scarf and wore it proudly even though nobody else where I live really knew what it symbolized to me.
I must confess I have very few specific memories of those first several months of matches I watched, often days after their original airings, during the wee hours of the morning. I suspect my spotty memory is likely due to the sleep deprivation of early parenthood.
Most of all, I remember Giggs. I remember Coleen’s Rooney, Scholes, Neville, Van der Sar, Owen, Saha, van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo, Park, Beckham, and of course, Sir Alex Ferguson (Happy 24th!).
Later, continuing to follow United, I remember Tevez, and then Tevez, Ronaldo, and Beckham all leaving the club to go play somewhere else, a concept I had more trouble wrapping my head around the longer I kept following the club’s progress. Why would anyone want to play anywhere but United?
When United lost to Barcelona in the finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2009, I was gutted (another word I picked up from watching football). That was the game I remember as being the one that cemented it for me, that made me almost painfully aware United was My Team. I was yelling at the TV like I hadn’t since the 2004 NBA Finals (when my underdog Pistons beat the Lakers). If you look back far enough in my Twitter feed, you can probably find the frustrated tweets I wrote while watching this match. I knew they had it in them to win. I had seen them come back from deficits before. Up until the second Barça goal, I had no doubt we’d come back. I was a bit worried after that, but still somewhat confident. But then a few minutes and a few yellow cards later, time was up and we were still down 2-0. Gutted.
But I think it was because they lost then that I knew I would always love this team. I knew because I was hungry for the next match already, and that’s what it means to me to be a fan. Always looking ahead, always expecting a better result next time.