When my alarm clock went off I figured it had to be a mistake.
Possibly the time got pushed forward through some electronic glitch and it’s really still close to midnight? There is no way it’s already 4:15 am, that was a whole four hours away when I laid down a second ago. I swear, the slightest blink and back awake before gravity took my head to my shoulder has eroded the entire four hour window I carved out by ditching the bars early last night. I was supposed to relish that time, not skip it.
Ugh, whatever, it’s matchday.
To me, and many other American’s scattered in small towns, big cities, and in pockets of earth everywhere in between, the Barclays Premier League is not optional. The weekly rush of life-gratifying victory, or soul crushing how-will-I-get-through-the-international-break taste of defeat is as much as a necessary piece of my life as consuming alcohol in the morning. Sure life might go on in theory, but would I really even want it to?
When that alarm goes off and I finally do stretch out the cobwebs to open my FotMob app on my phone with one cracked eye, the justification is already apparent. The feeling of Premier League matchday evokes a certain adrenaline (or is it dopamine) rush that reminds you why you love it. Every ‘1’ or ‘2’ on the scoreboard across the league could represent beautiful team counter, or an overhead kick, or maybe it even *gasp* was an own goal. While your eyes fixate on your own club, whether on a beautiful NBC Live stream (honestly, thank you) or through a reddit link, the rest of the world is having a kick, creating chances and adding pages to this season’s screenplay, which will eventually be binded and filed away in the world’s largest collection of transcribed magic.
On this particular morning, I find myself in the salt water air of San Diego, California in a small pub by the name of Shakespeare. There are 30 or so of us sitting around wooden tables, some with coffee, others with alcohol, everyone with smiles. The Tottenham (yuck) game is finishing up and there is a man in an Ashley Cole Chelsea jersey in front of me. I shake my head in joking disgust and he goes “oh you’re a gunner aren’t ya” and we laugh and cheers.
It’s a unique group, American Premier League fans, as it is actually one of the only collection of individuals who follow the league in it’s entirety. In England, (according to Men In Blazers I think, this is a blog, sue me) supporters follow more their club than the entire macroscope lens we see it through every weekend morning. Due to obvious time differences we find ourselves choosing between the 4:30 am game (west coast) or sleeping in until the 7’s, frantically googling to find a bar open in your current vicinity that sounds european enough to possible have Fox Soccer Plus. I’s a grueling process, but one that universally unites all patrons once arrived, with only a simple nod and a smile enough to acknowledge your respect for one another’s efforts to wind up in that particular bar chair this early.
That’s how I ended up at Shakespeare’s. As I type this, the sun is peeping above a blind drawn to satisfy the 75 year old British man to my left, and he keeps rambling on about the Sunderland fans showing no respect leaving early after only 10 minutes and two goals allowed.
“Where’s the spirit? Where is the hope?” He mumbles on. “The beautiful moments that occur only after sure defeat, those are the only worth celebrating anyways! Why have your ass in a pint down the street when the boys are looking at an empty seat?”
I asked him to repeat what he just said slowly so I could get it right.
The result? Oh it really doesn’t matter. If The Arsenal prevail or break my heart it’s all the same. Next week it will probably be another bar, another set of people, another fixture. The feeling though, it actually can’t change if it wanted to.
Because there is something about a human sacrificing a thing universally adored for genetic reasons, sleep, in exchange for watching an imitation of art performed by men not allowed to use their hands, that creates a sense of achievement and energy unrivaled. When men and women gather in the sunrise light at a bar, usually with a man still sweeping up in a corner from last night’s late close, to be greeted by a bartender as eager for the drama as you are, the love is palatable. The beer gets flowing and the conversations get louder, Dele Alli flops and we bash him, then he dances beautifully and we praise him. Andy Carroll makes everyone crack up laughing and then hold our heads screaming. That one guy still says that if Charlie Adam can last the 90 then he could get a trial.
It’s everything that is right about sport. If you want to be there, you made a true effort to do so. No one is getting talked into going there if they don’t want to be there. Only those with a knowledge or desire (neither more valuable than the other) in attendance, the orchestra plays another set of tunes. While your ears stay fixed on one, the echo of others can be heard (or seen in the top right corner) whenever you turn your attention.
From San Diego to Boston, Michigan to Houston, there are those individuals who feel that this matters. Who quite literally lose sleep over their men and the pursuit of either a title or ‘not relegation.’ With jerseys on our backs and a guinness in our hand we peer through squinting eyes at the current chapter of our story, never knowing if this week is when the twist happens.
And next time you find yourself surrounded by peers, enjoying whatever you please, with an eye on the clock and another on Danny Welbeck’s incredible man pectorals ask yourself this: Have I ever been this peaceful?
At least for me, the sleep can wait until I’m either dead or soccer goes away. But that’s a conversation for another time.
For now, it’s matchday.
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