Thursday, May 5, 2016

121. Soccer

Something about this soccer season has captivated me like other sports seasons have not in a long while. There are those seasons that draw you in. The ones where you have a good feeling about the team and you have to watch or follow every game. There was the ’98 Minnesota Vikings, the 2004 Timberwolves, the 2006 Twins. I usually define the seasons by the team, but this season has just been a season that I’ve enjoyed. Or in the words of Men in Blazers, the Premier League scriptwriters have written a quality season. 

I’ve continued to casually follow the Minnesota teams, but they haven’t captured my heart the way they have in season’s past. I don’t know if my emotional capital towards sports has just been used up or what, but it’s not the same as it was when I was younger. 

But this Premier League season has stuck with me, even though my team, Tottenham Hotspur, didn’t win it all. I haven’t been able to watch games every week, but I’ve kept on eye on many of the teams and the table.

First, there was the story of Leicester City. They were 5,000-to-1 odds to win the Premier League this season and they won it yesterday after Tottenham drew with Chelsea. A friend of mine struggled to find an appropriate comparison, mainly because there isn’t one. The U.S. men’s hockey team was 500-to-1 odds to beat the Russians in 1980. Leicester’s manager buys the team pizza after shutouts and one of their best players was playing in the fifth division of English football before joining the Foxes a few years ago. Leicester is a pretty working class town and it’s great to see a team not from the football power centers of London and Manchester take a crown. That’s a great story. 

Second, it’s kept me in touch with some friends. American football, basketball, baseball, and hockey seem to always be in the news cycle. I like having to find a certain community, both on the internet and among my friends, to discuss this. I love listening to Men in Blazers and reading Howler magazine. I know soccer fans can be obnoxious, but I try not to be. This is just something new that I’m glad I’m wading deep into.

Third, it’s connected me with some family. i’m a good decade younger than many of my extended family members. That’s been fine, but I missed out on that era when you are the same age as your cousins. However, one of my cousins, Joe, is an avid soccer fan. I’ve always been able to connect with Joe pretty well at family gatherings, either by talking politics or sports (except for soccer), but now that I’ve gotten into it more, we’ve taken in a few Saturday morning games at the Local in downtown Minneapolis. He’s a pretty diehard Manchester City fan, and I don’t think anyone else on the Hansen side of family could name one English Premiere League Team. 

After one match day, I realized that it was the first time I had hung out with a family member outside of family event. That was nice to have. Joe knows much more than I do. Hopefully, this sort of thing will continue next season. 

Thanks football for continuing to bring some joy, excitement, and curiosity into my life on a weekly basis. 

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