To say Lianne is an avid Manchester United fan would be the under statement of the year. Every week I get the pleasure of witnessing the roller coaster of emotions Lianne experiences while watching her one and only Busby Babes. The ups and downs are quite significant and are rapidly changing. In a mere instant she can go from being utterly disgusted to fully hysteric, and that is when they are winning. If Man United doesn’t score when they obviously should, Lianne will clearly disown Man Untied for the rest of eternity to only display pure child-like pandemonium when a goal graces the net. From unrepeatable insults to singing praises, it is all pretty unbelievable, enormously entertaining, and I often find myself torn between watching the game or just watching her. And, as a important side note, don’t even ask what happens when they lose. Let’s just say being silent is the best option.
This past week was a big one for United. They had to win their final Champions League round robin match against Basel to advance to the knock out stages of the worlds biggest tournament. Manchester has only failed to do this twice in their history, 1995 and 2007, and they were perilously close to tarnishing their history yet again. I knew very little about United before I met Lianne but whether I like it or not (I really do), I know all about them now. I have a personalized jersey, I have been to two games, and I have been briefed on every important event in their accomplished history. Even my 1.5 year old nephew is sporting the Man U onsie all the way in California.
To her credit, Lianne is a Man United wizard. She can recall the slightest details from the most obscure games. She can argue with her father (Arsenal supporter) and on twitter (as I am sure many of you know) until she is blue in the face. The arguments always seem to come back to the same conclusion, “how many titles have United won?” The answer, 19, and she will never let anyone forget it.
Leading up to this game against Basle, Lianne was uncharacteristically nervous. United is known for their comebacks, last second victories, and seemingly incomprehensible stoppage-time goals. They seem to have that unique, champions mentality where they always believe they will win and their trophy case proves this. However, with the dubbed “easy” group, United was struggling. The last three games, three ties, no wins. So, it came down to this match and Lianne understood the significance more than anyone.
There is no need to rub salt into a wound so let’s just say things didn’t turn out well. The late on-set panic was appropriate because United now finds itself out of the Champions League for only the third time in their storied history. As the final whistle blew, Lianne immediately turned off her phone. After about 20 minutes of mourning she returned to the many messages that glorified Manchesters defeat and (this should go without saying), proceeded in a twitter war with various fans of opposing teams.
Ah, the life of a English Football supporter. As all of this mayhem plays out in front of me, I try to be supportive, tell her there is always “next game”, or that there is still a chance to win the Premiere League. All true things but only serve to make her feel worse and further emphasize, I will NEVER understand. This isn’t an insult, its just reality. After that reality deeply sets in, I think to myself, “Am I missing something?” Why is it that if you combine my passion for every one of my local sports team it couldn’t add up to half as much as she cares about United?
Answer: I am American. As an American you are subjected to about 50 different sports. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, soccer, golf, Nascar, Horse racing, and the list goes on. How can I possibly focus this already tormented attention deficit brain on just one? Of course I will watch college football on Saturday, switch to NFL on Sunday, then the World Series on Monday, and go with my friends to a hockey game on Tuesday. Isn’t’ that what any normal, sport-loving person in the United States would do?
You know what they say, your biggest assets are your biggest liabilities. Having options is empowering yet having too many is paralyzing. The passion within our large American population is dispersed between so many sports. Sure you grow up supporting a team but you don’t identify yourself through that allegiance. Many people know that I love the Redskins but I love the Redskins tailgates more. I will fully admit that I have been to numerous Ravens games and I am not ashamed to say I wore a Ravens jersey. A Washington fan supporting a Baltimore team? Gasp!
Before I start getting hate mail from all the lunatic fans out there, i will say that the American die-hards exists but they are few and far between. There is something to be said that when Lianne sees two opposing NFL fan bases tailgating together she wonders how it is even possible without a brawl. When you attend a Premier League game you are LOCKED into your section. The away fans are placed in some gated, far off corner only to be surrounded by about 100 security guards. There is no way in and there is no way out, for everyone’s protection. And, they don’t dare wear their own colors out of fear for their lives.
I am not condoning this type of set-up, merely just pointing out the differences from the US sporting events. For Lianne and the majority of English supporters, there are only two options. Death or Glory. It must be thrilling to face the complete opposite sides of the spectrum every weekend…..or is it agonizing? Either way, I know I will NEVER understand, so I will just sit back and enjoy the show.