Can I become a sports fan?

Towards the end of 2011 I made a bold declaration, I am going to be a sports fan.  I decided that this sport would be football (soccer to all Americans and Americanised Australians). This, apart from field hockey, is the only sport I’ve felt drawn in by. I was super excited! I decided that the best way to approach my new found passion would be to pick a team in the British Premier League (yes, I know it’s not actually called that, but I dislike calling things by their sponsor’s name, it cheapens it and takes away the sense of community and history). I happened to be in a bar in Siem Reap with my friends Elysse and Ally at the time of the great revelation. The bar tender, a friend of theirs, was a Brit and a Premier League fan. I asked him to help me pick a team.

Although new to the world of sports fandom, I do have opinions about it. Having grown up in Newcastle I had attended many Newcastle Knights games and cheered along, drawn in by the energy of the crowd, rather than the game itself (I remember the first time I saw a union game, I remember thinking ‘oh, that’s what the scrum is for’). The players had the status of minor deities, and I remember taking Paul Harragon’s ticket at the Glendale Cinemas when he went to see The Nutty Professor 2 (rugby players, I suppose all the brain injury makes stupid movies enjoyable). I also remember the time we went to Scratchleys and every time we called my brother by name, Matty Johns, who was sitting right behind him, would turn around in response. This is not a post about whether or not sports stars should be revered so highly (I don’t think they should), but what I’m trying to say, is that growing up in a city (not a town, stupid Sydney people) like Newcastle instilled in me a strong sense that one should support the team where one is from.

So, when I was choosing a team with the help of the bar tender, I specified that it should be a North London team, as that is where I lived when I was in London. There were two options, Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur. I chose Tottenham over Arsenal, as Arsenal has a canon as part of their symbol (or whatever you call those things). The bar tender was delighted, he was a Tottenham supporter. I promptly announced my new found allegiance on Facebook, which of course made it real, and prepared to stay up at all hours to watch every game of my beloved team.

I failed. Miserably. I’ve seen one game, and that was a rerun about a week after the actual match (are they called matches?).

Why does this matter to me? Well, it actually doesn’t really, not in a day to day sense. It’s bigger than that. I felt I had covered all of my cultural bases. I can discuss film (obviously not of the Nutty Professor variety), music, politics, religion, ethics, and other things that I can’t think of right now. But I have nothing to contribute when the conversation turns to sport. And I really want to.

Sports fans seem like they have so much fun! I want to be willing to wake up at 2am, watch two teams kick around a ball, cry with joy when my team wins, sob in anguish when they lose. I want to understand the off-side rule and scream at the ref when he gives one of my beloved boys a red card. I want to call them ‘my boys’. I want to hug sweaty, stinky, drunk strangers and share a camaraderie with people I wouldn’t look twice at in another context. I feel I’m missing out on something beautiful. But I just never seem find the motivation to start.

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