A top "team"
If you did not have a chance to read our post and commentary on Cody Arnoux, the title of this post–or specifically the humor of it–may be lost on you.
First, a big thank you for the compliments to our post and a bigger thank you for contributing all the commentary. The unequaled most rewarding phenomena of writing this publication it being able to gain reaction from a diverse and learned crowd.
For that piece, we heard from Bluenosers from the source city, Liverpool and from a Wake Forest grad who gave us more input on one of the top collegiate coaches. Thank you, your commentary makes this site better for everyone.
I thought I would tease apart the various comments on the piece and see if there was a way to weave them back into a compelling follow-up piece. I can promise the former, not the latter, but will certainly try.
Theme 1: Appreciation of the knowledge of Everton football
It was great to be complimented on TSG’s knowledge of Everton football. That being said, that a fanbase would reach out and offer such plaudits digs at something deeper. What I have come to find, and I am definitely not the first or last to find this, is the real local pride and respect for the heritage of a team specifically in EPL, but generally in soccer leagues around the world.
As a parallel to just how deep soccer’s passion runs, I grew up rooting for the “dreaded” New York Yankees in baseball. I can still rattle of Mike “Pags” Pagliarulo’s homeruns by season (32 in 1987…great year) and the starting 5 pitchers annually–I don’t fondly remember 1990.
However, as baseball has become more and more commercial and less grassroots, the attachments to players and history in baseball has waned. This is because the frequency of player movement is dictated less by passion to a team and more do to player and agent salary pissing contests.
(As a manner of this piece, I’m going to leave out referencing the history that is described in “How Soccer Explains the World” and “Among the Thugs.”)
This is not the same in the EPL which despite an emerging global following and global player base has maintained a maniacal sense of sense of pride and teams still resemble their locality.
Not a chance in hell!
We didn't sign him, did we?!
Whereas a player like Michael Owen would never ever have been considered at Everton this year due to past allegiances, the New York Yankees opened up their checkbook a few years ago for, gulp, Red Sox outfield Johnny Damon. Did this pull even a little bit at the local fabric of New York Yankee pride? You bet it did.
Theme 2: Labeling the world’s most played game as “soccer” and/or “football”
My brother who writes with me here (Hey Mark, when we getting a pic on the About Us page) is a staunch advocate of using the word “soccer” in writing as oppose to “football.” His arguments if you haven’t read them are compelling.
I am going to defer mostly to his commentary here, but add a little bit of my own thoughts.
First, that an argument over the nomenclature of the name of the game itself is so hotly contested shows again just how passionate the fan base over the sport. You don’t hear folks who follow “the American helmeted version” aghast at the notion that the game is called pigskin even though that material hasn’t been used in years.
Second, akin to my brother’s piece, I will more harshly admonish sportscasters in general, and ESPN specifically, for doing a disservice to the game. Note: I am hoping this changes as ESPN has picked up the EPL here for a number of games this season.
ESPN specifically tries to get “too cute” with it’s references to the sport–apparently poking fun at the lack of a following in the U.S. One problem, I don’t think they are doing their homework. I would be willing to wager that in terms of “serious” soccer fans running the gamut of Latin Americans, American-bred soccer fanatics, and emigrants, that those number are not so minuscule as the relative nature of the uneducated coverage is.
Continually, this a network that took the time to develop the “sport” of “poker” (I have nothing against the card game poker) and throw their promotion machine behind it. That’s a bit hypocritical in my sports book.
Theme 3: How I came to root for the right side of the Meyerside Derby
This was my favorite part of the post to write. Fan Jane was quite foreboding of my forthcoming words. She’s said, “Everton are the supreme team in English Football. They play consistently and their team is all based on the players working together with the disadvantage (or advantage) of having no money (i say advantage because with Everton you see football and not flashy shows of spend spend spend power that has taken over the ‘top four’ of English football.”
Well said Jane.
I came to root for the Toffees both explicitly and implicitly.
Explicitly, I wanted to root for a team that won through player development, not player purchase.
Another NY Yankees analogy here: Having grown up a Yanks fan due to proximity and then the love of the team. I always appreciate the players that came through the Yankees “farm system.” Players like Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, etc. It was the years when those players were at their utmost peaks that I enjoyed watching the team compete.
Ah, the mistakes of youth
Per my comments before, a little bit is “lost” each time you sign an outside player–signing even more of them and your identity is confusing to say the least. To use a cruel analogy, it is tough for me to root for Wayne Rooney not only because he rose through the ranks with Everton, but also because his style to me really is more Everton-like than ManU-like.
To use a more present day example, I am sure that just as Manchester City fans really want a winner, there are some out there who feel the bottomless pocket approach is cheapening their path to fame. Maybe I’m wrong, but this is how I feel about team creation.
Everton is a team that grows from within and shrewdly evaluates affordable talent. I wanted those dispositions in the team I put my support behind.
Implicitly, I came to root for Everton by being drawn to their specific style of play through hours and hours of watching EPL games. The best part of beginning to follow and root in the EPL was that I did not have a preconfigured geography to skew who I wanted to root for. Sure, having Tim Howard minding the net helped along the decision, but when I began watching more and more Everton games I was drawn to their team mentality (I credit this to David Moyes as well as the players).
The best way to explain this is through Everton’s recently concluded season. I had thought at the time that the loss of Mikel Arteta would really spell quick a lot of difficulty for the Toffees. But what transpired, and how it transpired, says a lot about the team. After Arteta went down, players had to pick up the offensive slack, but the players who stepped up were probably not who you thought would step up, chiefly Leon Osman and Leighton Baines (Jo did as well, but he came midseason).
In a more shocking twist, due to the new contributions from Osman and Baines, the introduction of Jo and the emergence of Fellaini, Tim Cahill, who you thought would be the first person to have more scoring opportunities, ended up contributing by playing a deeper supporting role. Cahill literally evolved into the position the team needed him in; compromising his ego and scoring chances for the betterment of the team.
Cahill understood and understands the team concepts. One of my measures of team success is the clean sheet. Not only does the defensive line need to play collectively well together and in communication with the goalie, but the offense has to do there part as well, increasing offensive pressure (to play from the lead) and maintaining possession (to reduce the opponents scoring opportunities).
After Man U’s record breaking midseason run (and Fullham’s mini-run), guess who was the team with most kept clean sheets: Everton. They ended the season with a nearly iron back line. And this was after their main offensive cog went down.
That’s team play; that’s Everton and that’s why I root for them.
Oh and there’s a good example of college team that plays that way, that team is Wake Forest.
In conclusion, I’m not sure I really wove together a storyline from all these comments, but maybe that’s more of the point. It’s unique and individual commentary from our fans that make this blog better and starts up new threads of debate.
I’ll have a follow-up on Cody Arnoux and how I think he’ll do shortly.
Thanks for supporting us at The Shin Guardian, keep the comments coming, and let us know what else you want us to write about.