(Sports) Loyalty ?
I expect this to be the most long-winded, contradicting, biased, hypocritical, and transparent blog I will write in a while so brace your selves… or in other words you may not choose to surf away from this page, thanks anyways! haha.
Sports have always been a part of my life, a huge part. Early in my life they were nothing more than a pastime, later on it became a way of life and currently they symbolize and or help me give meaning and make comparisons to, many aspects of life.
One of my first memories is watching the Dutch National team playing. I was sitting next to my dad and it was the first time I ever watched fútbol, football, soccer. The bright orange shirts were enough to catch my attention and to this day I don’t know if its my favorite color because of Holland or I like Holland because of the orange shirt. I remember Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard (both of whom were the inspiration of my dreadlocks alongside Edgar Davids) and Marco Van Basten and i fell in love with the sport. Years went by and I kept watching games; 1990 came around and I watched my first World Cup sparking my obsession into new heights. Parallel to this I loved baseball and american football. All my friends played sports and when we weren’t playing them in real life we were playing Nintendo’s Bad News Baseball or Tecmo Bowl.
My parents always supported my love for soccer and they always taught me that even though it was fun and “a game” i should always treat it with respect, never missing a practice, being on time and giving it my all, not only for me but for my teammates. I can tell you that I never missed a practice and was never late but I didn’t really always give it my all and that’s one of the reasons I didn’t keep pursuing this particular dream. I didn’t have the hunger, the grit and the drive necessary to go run the extra lap.
Up until that point, early in high school, I had “chosen” what sport teams I liked in every sport, every league, etc. Most of my choices had to do with the team having a player I thought was cool or having interesting uniforms, names i liked, etc, random shit. I picked The Atlanta Braves in Baseball, the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL, Boston Bruins in the NHL and of course the Dutch National team in World Cup soccer, Barcelona in Spain was my main club team back then. All but the Spurs were actually doing GREAT, so there, i liked winning teams.
Although sports are HUGE in Venezuela, specially baseball and futbol, I supported a baseball team that was NOT from Caracas, my home city. So once that choice was made i completely ended any hope of supporting a team from the place I was from and with that choice I also had to outsource my sports identity; so how deep can it really be if you are not even from that city? if you’ve never been to a game? if you know very little of the team’s history? Does that make you less of a fan? Does that mean that i can’t be the biggest say The Who fan because I’ve never seen them live? Depends and I will elaborate much to your fear in a bit.
Fast forward to the 1998 World Cup in France. Holland vs Argentina, quarterfinals, 92nd minute, Dennis Bergkamp scored the most incredible goal I have ever seen and I’m sure I won’t see anything like it again, and you bet your ass i’m embedding it at the end of this blog. Changed my sporting life forever. After that goal I said to myself this was the guy I have to support, he was already playing for Holland so thats the first requirement, second he’s playing in England, for a team called Arsenal. Arsenal? i heard that name before… “The Arsenal of Mega-death can’t be rid” … a quote from which Dave Mustaine got the name “MegadetH” a band which would become my obsession hand in hand with soccer. Wanna laugh even more? Coincidentally my father had bought me a VHS with goal highlights from England and I liked a team wearing red and white, with the JVC logo; JVC? as in the brand of my new stereo in which i blasted megadeth day and night? YES. I’m a product of marketing… Nike, JVC… congrats!
Anyways I formally started following Arsenal FC in the fall of 1998. 11 years later I follow them more avidly than ever. I’m THAT guy that says things like: “we won 3-0” or “we have to buy that guy in the summer” . WOW… i just can’t help it, sounds stupid when you hear it but I feel in some way deeply connected with the team. I still love Barcelona and Juventus in Italy, i think it has to do with being born here in Caracas, everyone has a team in a particular league, sport and city almost. Whenever I speak to a die hard fan like myself there’s a bond that is unquestionable, although some are way more biased than others. I’m not talking about an obsession like you’ve seen in movies, etc… i would never make the woman i’ll marry wear an Arsenal shirt as a gown or stuff like that…. actually its so tacky even if SHE wanted it I wouldn’t let her.
Its hard work enough to follow YOUR team, and imagine supporting 5 or 6 semi strongly… its not that hard when you share a common denominator, which is LOYALTY. A big big word which is not only used by everyone but its something different to everyone as well. I think if you say you are a fan of a sport and you are not loyal, according to my gray ass parameters, it says a lot of who you are as a person. Maybe i think i’m very loyal and i’m self-righteous but i do believe that it does say a lot about your conviction, ethics, principles and will to face the odds. This is not a pat in the back, no, i don’t think i’m the greatest fan out there and this is precisely the point of my blog but I can’t imagine living without the lessons that sports loyalty have brought in my life, as my friends Igor, Joan, Gonzo, Michele and Kevin would testify…. this shit is serious people.
What sort of trust and conviction can you expect from a person who picks teams every other season? who likes their team when ONLY they are winning? Wear that shirt when your team has lost 3-0 to a 3rd division team… might sound even more stupid than choosing a team every year, but i actually think its not. Every team goes through ups and downs and you can see who are the real fans… they stick by their teams. However I am example of jumping ship and I sorta hate myself for that. I used to love the 49ers but they started sucking, i was young but still… then i moved to Boston and started watching the Pats and 8 years later they are my fave team… I always check 49ers scores first but I can’t tell the QB from the RB… so did I become what I hate??? possibly. We don’t have to go back that far… I have no idea how “my” SA spurs are doing… so there you go, I think I have flaws as a fan and according to my theory, as a man as well. CRAP!
My defense is not unpredictable… I clearly didn’t love those teams as much as I do arsenal, with whom I’m stuck by through glorious and terrible times. Would I have loved them if they kept winning? most likely but just as I saw Barcelona play quite possibly the greatest football season of the last 3 decades and the coming 2, i never even thought of “going back”….
But how can I love a team if i hadn’t even been to London? How can I REALLY relate and identify with a team if i’m so far away figuratively and literally speaking? I can, just like with music and that’s why I love both so much… as objective as it seems, few things for me are as subjective as sports. No-one, even if they have all the stats and know more about your own team than you, can take happiness away from you, no-one, BUT there has to be honesty behind that happiness.
I don’t really know what my point is…Loyalty is relative… believe me, if I meet the woman of my dreams and she supports Manchester United I highly doubt I wouldn’t pursue her, don’t be fooled.
I always criticize fair weather fans, nouveau fans, but was i not JUST that early on? is youth an excuse? of course it is , at least that helps me sleep at night.
excuse the poor quality: