I am fascinated by how American Premier League fans identify a rooting interest. Free of such obligations as a “local” team to support, the stories are most often full of wonder. The product of a chance exchange student experience in Leicester or a random relative hailing from Stoke.
One of my favorites was a Tottenham fan I encountered who had the Spurs tattoo inked on his forearm, the result of the fact that the North Londoners’ jerseys had once been sponsored by Thomson Travel and his surname was Thomson.
Out of such tiny details can all-consuming passion grow.
In the wake of the surge in US interest caused by the 2014 World Cup, we are receiving hundreds of emails from Americans asking themselves variations on the same question: facing the Premier League with a clean slate, who should they chose to support?
When Fox broadcast the Premier League, the rational choices were narrower. Only a couple of games were broadcast live. Why wouldn’t you support one of the big four — Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City or Arsenal — who were guaranteed to be broadcast every week?
But one season into the NBC-era in which every teams and every game is available, the options are suddenly boundless. Yes, on-field success remains a massive driver. The thrill of goals and glory remain alluring.
But let me make a case for diversification of interests. For supporting the road not taken. Cheering for the little guy. Full disclosure: I have lived for Everton Football Club from birth. Almost every lesson of life — both good and bad, joyous and painful — has come as a result.
Sport is ultimately about feelings. Feeling emotions you are meant to experience in everyday life — happiness, anticipation, fear, ecstasy, searing disappointment — but are regrettably numb to.
A palette of textured experiences that can be stunted by picking a big club. So my advice would be to dive into the rich histories of the subtler teams and the cities they hail from — revel in Aston Villa’s night of European Cup glory (Villa 1 Bayern Munich 0), marvel that Burnley, a town of just 73,000 people, has somehow gifted the world with both a Premier League team and Chumbawumba.
And savor Philip Larkin’s description of parts of Hull, a town in which ”silence (is) laid like carpet”.
I promise this: Every goal will feel like victory, and every victory, like a title win. So, let us know which team you end up with and why. And remember, once you have chosen a team, stick with it through thick and thin. You can change your partner, you can change your underwear, but you can never, ever change your football team.