Some Foreign Field

by

My travels have taken me to a couple of matches in England. It is fun to see their game and the fans are interested in a Yank who follows "footy." I get asked why I like football and why the rest of America doesn’t.

We aren’t taken too seriously there of course. I was stopped in London by a workman this summer.

"Whose kit is that?"

"U.S. They play Germany today in the World Cup."

"Five-nil," was his disparaging prediction.

I grinned back at him. "I’d take those odds if I were you."

His mood changed and he made a fist. "Stuff ‘em for us!"

If only we had . . .

Serious fans in the United Kingdom know about Major League Soccer, but only because some of their players have slipped here beyond the statistical reach of the known soccer world. Fans are more likely to have heard of the "North American Soccer League." Hence the query, "You used to have a soccer league didn’t you?"

It made me eager to show off the MLS, so I was very happy when a Scottish friend came for a visit.

Graham is a Rangers fan. He wanted to see a baseball game and a soccer game. I taught him to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game!" He reciprocated by teaching me what to sing after a bad call:

"Who’s the bastard?

Who’s the bastard?

Who’s the bastard in black?"

I knew this would be fun.

My Ranger buddy was amazed to hear beer would be sold at the game and asked me twice as if I might be mistaken. I gather the pre-game activities in Glasgow include trying to find beer on the day of the match and avoiding capture.

I was quizzed on what the atmosphere would be like. He took his girlfriend once to see Rangers, as he would say. The train ride with the fans to the park was too much. They left the train and stood on the platform. She was crying and he put his arm around her. He describes the trains going by and the fans chanting, "Shag her! Shag her!" They didn’t get to the match and she is now an ex-girlfriend. I told him not too expect quite that much atmosphere.

Tailgates had to be explained, especially the part about fans from the rival team being welcome. Rarely at a loss (he is a beat poet) his voice trailed off at the idea of Ranger fans eating with Celtic fans before the match.

The match was a revelation too. "They are really trying." Graham was surprised at how seriously the players took the match. Some of the shot selection was questionable, even by MLS standards, but when Wolff scored by boldly dashing into the box with the ball, I heard, "That was brilliant!"

Nowadays with the Internet, fans can always find out that vital score information. By coincidence, Rangers were also playing this day. After the Fire victory, I checked on Graham’s team. He read how they whupped Motherwell One-nil and was ecstatic. Then he gave me the satisfaction I was seeking.

"We saw the better game tonight. I’m glad we saw the match we did. That goal was brilliant."

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