Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Red Bull Fandom

I've just started, over the past few months to be a serious New York Red Bulls fan. Now, before, if you had asked me, I would have said I was a Red Bulls fan - and I wasn't entirely just pulling it out of thin air - I occasionally followed the stories and I watched playoff games, but I couldn't tell you who they were playing next week, or who their regular center backs were. Suffice to say, I was a very casual fan. For years, I had wanted to make a more concerted effort to follow the Red Bulls - a few years ago, I became a fan of the Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League which is great, but games are not on often because they're kind of a second tier time, and after all, I'm from the US, I should have a US team to root for, dammit.

I had chosen the Red Bulls as the local team (either reason 1 or 1A on how to chose a team, along with team your parents rooted for) which comes with the benefits that all the games will be shown on local TV. Before I watched my first few games, I looked up the players and history on wikipedia - but you can't really learn them that way (well, you can - you can just force yourself to memorize them, but that's kind of cheating and absolutely no fun). Each game, I would remember one or two more players - just by osmosis, and sooner or later, you get to know the players, where they play and more and more about their style, and hopefully start remembering at least the better players on opposing teams.

There's a great getting-to-know you feeling about the early stages of following a new team. You can even note that fantastic first moment when the team scores and you actually feel an authentic, unforced moment of joy - one that you can only earn from commitment to a team - learning the players as they kick corners or crosses or tackle opposing attackers (As soccer goes, it's a lot easier to learn the more offensively minded players usually, as they're the ones scoring the goals). And, of course with that, the actual feeling of irrational anger and disappointment that follows a loss (failing to get a win when the other side has ten men for most of the match? Come on!).

It feels a little bit like cheating to be really getting into it when the Red Bulls are just starting to coalesce as one of the favorites for the MLS Cup (Yes, that's what it's called) or the Supporters Shield (best regular season record, and this is a much cooler name than MLS Cup (and possibly as important - winning a regular season is a regularly underrated feat in American sports where playoffs are such a big deal). That said, I don't feel too bad considering it's hardly like jumping on the Yankees' bandwagon - MLS could use all the fans they could get, and most people in New York still don't give a shit about the Red Bulls.

And yeah, getting players who are big names, and who as someone who followed soccer even just a little bit knows, is pretty exciting - Thierry Henry was the leading goal scorer for Arsenal for years, and Rafael Marquez was a key cog in Barcelona's defense, and is still captain of the Mexican national team. Adding to that is young guns like Tim Ream, who could be on the US team in a couple of years.

It's exciting - it's easy enough - watching just two hours a week - and you get on board with both a franchise and a new league. I know some people are content with just one or two sports, and going all out with those but I like a more broad approach (not every sport of course, no NASCAR - everyone's got to have limits). Plus, it's good to diversify the things you care about - when your other teams are in down years (Mets, Bills - and we'll see on Knicks), it's nice to have enough that one of them is bound to be successful.

So yeah, go Red Bulls!

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