Monday, February 11, 2013

Why I Root For: Manchester United

Okay, so I'm just gonna knock out this one real quick, because there honestly aren't a lot of people who care about this sport stateside. But those that do feel very passionate about it, which is cool. I'm speaking of football, or as we Americans refer to it, soccer.

I'm serious. Quick. Name the first three things that come to mind when you hear the word "soccer"

1) Pele, because everyone knows who Pele is.

2) That dude with the big frizzy orange fro.

3) That chick who ripped her shirt off after winning some supposedly important game.

NOTE: If you're actually a fan, then this likely doesn't apply to you. But you probably still thought of #3.

Anyway, as a youth I actually played soccer for about two weeks before I got kicked in the shins a few too many times and decided it wasn't for me. I love my father, but that was one thing I feel in hindsight he let me off the hook waaaaaay too easy. I wish I'd stuck with it. The game was fun, and the orange slices and Capri Suns were always a nice perk.

So granted for most of my life I didn't give two craps about the sport, but like most people on the planet I sure enjoyed watching the World Cup Finals. Still didn't really care, but it was fun.

It seems that nobody in the U.S. cares about it until the World Cup rolls around. There was 2002 when the U.S. squad upset heavily favored Portugal and that was a big deal. That is until the guy announcing the game for ESPN (I'm speaking of Jack "Ass" Edwards) tried to secure his place in the Great Sports Announcers Hall of Fame by exclaiming in self-important fashion, as time was winding down (or up, in soccer) and the U.S. team was headed toward a major upset, "mine eyes have seen the glory!" and I just wanted to slam my head against the wall because he ruined this great victory saying something so stupid. I imagine he had that one planned out in case he ever got to call a big game, thinking his line was worthy of such beauties as "do you believe in miracles?" and "I don't believe what I just saw!" Soccer actually took a step back that day because of him.

NOTE: Edwards now does play-by-play for the NHL Boston Bruins on NESN, so he gets to annoy me any time my Senators play them.

Noted columnist Dave Berry once wrote about soccer, and I'm paraphrasing, that it was lame because it's played on a field the size of Kansas and that 90% of the games end in a 0-0 tie. 

But I digress. Soccer is honestly a second-tier sport with me. I don't have the passion about it as I do for hockey, baseball or football. But it's fun to watch and I truly do enjoy it. But it has to be English Premiere League, not that weird experimental MLS, which I just cannot get into. (though I do root for the Colorado Rapids)  Major League Soccer is to the EPL what single-A baseball is to Major League Baseball. Just a whole other level of competition.

So as for how I came to root for Manchester United, it was during the summer of 1988 when I even first became aware of English football. A friend of mine was watching it at his house one morning, and out of curiosity I watched with him. I don't remember who was playing, but I asked him one question: Does Manchester have a team?

Now, why is this important to me? At that time I was well down the path of earning my alternative musical education. After growing up on a steady diet of Top 40 and classic rock, I started to become a fan of the band New Order, and as a result of that, Joy Division. (to this day, two of my favorite bands) But at that time, it was a full-on obsession for our little group of friends as we all liked those bands. And as they hailed from Manchester, it was natural that I would ask that particular question. Hell, I didn't know anything about England in a geographic sense other than London. But at that time it was Manchester that was important. So again, I asked the question: Does Manchester have a team?

His response was that indeed they did. Manchester United. As a follow-up I asked if they were any good. He said yeah, they were alright. So in the summer of 1988 I decided that I was going to root for Manchester United.

Of course, pre-internet there was no way I was getting any information about Manchester United results or anything. In fact, it didn't even become an issue until I met a girl who would become my girlfriend for a period, and she revealed herself to be a fan of what was by the 1990s referred to as the English Premiere League. I told her that I was a fan of Manchester United and her response was something like a prolonged fit of retching noises. She said that liking them was similar to liking the Yankees. In fact, she said they were the Yankees of the soccer world. Everybody hated Manchester United because of it, and now that I think about it I may have been accused of being a bandwagoner. Once I told her my story and claimed that I had no knowledge of their money and success, I guess that made it okay. Her team was Arsenal, so they became the arch-enemy. It didn't help that they wore jerseys with Sega Dreamcast as the sponsor, as I was a big fan of that video game system. However, it did help that ManU routinely kicked Arsenal's arse. (see what I did there?)

Even though that girl is no longer a part of my life I still dislike Arsenal just out of habit. Manchester United has won seven Premiere League titles since I started following them and are well on their way to another one this season. It's a brief and silly story, but it's mine.

As for the gear, I own three ManU jerseys. One black Ruud Van Nistelrooy #10 (Vodafone), a green goaltenders jersey, blank (Vodafone) and a red Ronaldo #7 (AIG). I don't have a current sponsor jersey but am working on it.

I do have one very important New Era cap. I busted my ass trying to find this cap, and was finally able to secure two after seeing it available on ManU's official shop site. Yes, I had to buy two. I knew I'd never see one again, and so far that has been the case.

Perhaps the rarest cap in my collection.

I'm always on the hunt for another one, maybe another style, but for the time being I'm pretty happy with this cap. When I wear it out I usually get a comment or two. I'm pretty proud of it.

I watched Manchester United blank Everton this morning two-nil as they pulled out to a 12 point lead with 12 games remaining. Not bad for a team that in all honesty I started following almost at random. I'm just glad Joy Division was from Manchester. Lucky with that one. My friend could have answered my question in 1988 by saying Manchester City. Yes, they are the defending champions, by backing into it, but not the same thing.

And also the Gallagher brothers like City. That's reason enough not to root for them. Glory Glory Man United!!

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