It's Sunday morning and I'm watching my favorite European soccer team. At the half-way mark, Liverpool is up 2-0 over Manchester United. If you were ever curious (and I doubt you are), I'm a big Liverpool fan. I jumped on the soccer bandwagon back in 1994 when the World Cup came to the United States. Regrettably, the 2022 World Cup bid was awarded to Qatar but that's another matter entirely. I'm still bitter over that nonsense, but like I said, another time.
Anyway, there's a pretty large gap in American comprehension of soccer. Most people in the states just don't have a decent grasp. Since I have a decent understanding of both, I'm going to chime in. Rather than go into a lengthy explanation of the rules and trends, I'm going to spoon feed you the essentials. I'll be the first to admit, if you turn on the television and view a soccer match at random, it can be kind of dull and uninspired. It's imperative to know which games to watch. Which games matter in terms of relegation or promotion - a concept that Americans will never comprehend. Anyhoo, a good question you might ask is, "I don't know shit about soccer. Saf, what team should I root for?" Excellent query.
My heart will always be with Liverpool. Back in 1994, I was captivated by the 17 year old phenom Michael Owen. His heroics rallied the English National team even though they eventually fizzled out. Owen got his start at Liverpool so naturally they became my instant favorite. Another reason is their anthem. The song "You'll Never Walk Alone" is sung before every game. It's a tribute to the 96 fans who died as a result of a stampede in the former stadium in nearby Sheffield, England. Knowing my fascination with human stampedes and the possibility of death through crush asphyxiation, Liverpool just seems cool. And they were home to The Beatles. Tough to top that one.
I could understand if you have difficulty wrapping your head around that line of reasoning. So allow me to simplify. If you're a fan of the coolest NFL franchise aka the Pittsburgh Steelers, you should invariably root for Liverpool. Liverpool is historically the most successful team in English soccer. The fans trend very passionate and have a noticeable blue collar vibe. Very similar to the Steelers faithful.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the most reviled, yet commonly worshiped team known as Manchester United. This is the ultimate poser, bandwagon team. If you ally yourself with things like gaudy jewelry, Hummer-type vehicles, boob jobs, Jersey Shore antics and just an all-around propensity for being an obnoxious douche bag... look no further, you should cheer for Manchester United. Now which American football team parallels those thematic underpinnings? Yep you guessed it. The Dallas Cowboys are the no-brainer choice here in the states. The egomaniac owner and the self-absorbed fans help elevate the Cowboys to the status of "America's Team." Man U. fans have that exact same distinction. I mentioned The Beatles were home to Liverpool. If I had to select a band to represent the Cowboys, I'd probably choose an emo-band like Good Charlotte, or better yet, Creed seems to be a nice fit.
One of the other big English clubs is Arsenal. This team reminds me of the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams always seem to place an emphasis on speed, pace, precision, accuracy and timing. Does that sound like anyone familiar? Yep... Peyton Manning. The Arsenal legend Frenchman Thierry (pronounced tea-air-ee) Henry reminds me of the Indy QB. Henry is far less animated but just as effective and confident. Ken Dague likes to say the word "Arsenal."
The final team of the big 4 is Chelsea. I don't really have anything against the blues. I'm a big fan of the Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba. Definitely one of the most recognizable athletes of Europe. This guy is a bad ass finisher. I suppose I'd compare Chelsea to the New York Giants (probably the traditional blue uniforms). Chelsea is owned by a billionaire Russian oil tycoon. Very high profile, just like the New York Giants despite their stadium being in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Dirk Kuyt just scored another goal for Liverpool in the 66th minute. He has a hat trick. They are now up 3-0 on the asshole team and the fans at Anfield are going nuts. For American football fans - a ripe analogy would be the Steelers beating the Cowboys 24-0 late in the 3rd period. And James Harrison just knocked Tony Homo out of the game with a concussion.
Since I'm on the subject of European soccer, here are the other cool teams in case anyone wants to know.
Germany - stick with Bayer Leverkusen. The Dallas Cowboys of the German Bundesliga are most certainly Bayern Munich.
Spain - Cheer for Deportivo La Coruna (Leigh Cliser's favorite team because she enjoyed repeating the word "Deportivo"). Barcelona is also cool to root for. Lots of flash and excitement.
Italy - You're probably assuming I'd root for Juventus, because my weak WV accent would pronounce it "Jew-Vent-Us." You would be mistaken. I honestly don't have a favorite Italian club team in the Serie-A. The Italian style of play bores the piss out of me. Low scoring games with a tedious emphasis on the bulk of play through the midfield. I do like the Roma fans, but that's just because they assaulted the poser Man U fans a few years ago at a European Champions League game in Rome. Manchester United followers have no right whatsoever to equate their behavior with that of the true hooligans.
Scotland - I'd probably go with Falkirk or Stirling based on the battle scenes from the movie Braveheart. Not very scientific methodology with this one.
France - don't care.
And my favorite national team is England of course. Runner up you gotta go with The Netherlands. In a distant 3rd place, I guess I'd go with our own National team which really need an identity. We just call it the U.S. National Team. Lame. England has a cool nickname - The Three Lions. The Dutch are usually referred to as Clockwork Orange. How fucking cool is that? Maybe the U.S. team could be called "The States." Or maybe "All-States." Hell, you could get that assholic insurance company Allstate to come on board, maybe they could be the sponsor. I detest all insurance companies, but there's a special place in heart for Allstate. Actually, instead of my heart, I'd place my love for Allstate somewhere deep in my colon. Specifically, the portion that is affected by a flare-up of ulcerative colitis from time to time. But why do I specifically loathe Allstate? In 1991, I canceled my auto insurance with their local provider. Nonetheless, they decided to reward me with an additional 2 months of coverage. Even though I proved that I switched insurance coverage, they sent me the bill. I ignored the bill and yep, you guessed it, those mother fuckers sent it to a collection agency. Nothing's worse than insurance, right? Well, there is one thing that's worse. Paying for insurance that doesn't insure shit. Fuck Allstate. Fuck them. I will never let this go.
And Liverpool triumphs 3-0 over Manchester United. You'll never walk alone (unless you have insurance through Allstate I suppose).