Up until this year, my weekend ritual was waking up early, putting the coffee on, and flipping on the TV. Watching the Premier League meant that I often had to get up at 7:45 or earlier on a weekend when all the normal people were sleeping off their previous night’s poor decisions. Coffee, for me, has always been the beverage of football. Even now that I go to the Rhinehaus every weekend, I always walk past the pub to Coffee Emporium to get my first round there.
The only reason I started leaving my house to watch soccer was to make friends. I play pickup soccer on Monday nights but none of those guys were big into watching soccer. For them, it seemed, the game that they loved was meant to be played more than watched. I love playing, even though I am consistently the absolute worst player on the field, every. single. week. I played very little as a kid so I never learned anything. I’ve watched a ton of games though. I’m guessing it’s getting close to a thousand if not more. Apparently watching a lot of soccer doesn’t turn you into Messi. Who would have guessed?
I’ve met other people, at work or through other friends, who liked soccer but they weren’t super fans. They rarely followed their teams enough to want to go out early on a weekend. I knew that people met at the pubs but I’m actually a decently shy person and the couple of times I went, I never really made friends or even talked with anyone. Meeting new people and becoming friends as an adult is stupid and hard.
I started getting more involved in the Cincinnati soccer community the nerdy way. Create a twitter profile, interact with the community, and then force myself to actually meet in-person the people who I’d talked to online. I tweeted a bunch with the owner of my city’s Arsenal chapter handle and from him I figured out where the Gooners meet. (Pro tip – find your team’s local chapter’s twitter and ask. Or you can check out WSOTP’s handy Pub Atlas for a soccer pub near you). Interacting online first isn’t the bravest, but it did work for me. The tough step is actually going and forcing yourself to talk to people. Since it’s a bit of an artificial community, we tend to be pretty open and inviting of new people. We’re glad to have more fans and friends. I was able to meet some new people and I can tell you cheering on your team winning something is way better with other people than on your couch.
If this shows my level of soccer love, when my wife and I got our new place, proximity to a soccer pub was a consideration (at least for me). I’m a 5 minute walk from Molly Malone’s which is a great place to watch and is home to AO Cincy. But as luck would have it, all of my friends and the local supporters group meet at a different pub across the river.
I know there are people who don’t come out every week. I see them during the big games between Liverpool, Arsenal, City, Spurs, United, and Chelsea. This post isn’t intended to make you feel bad or guilty but to encourage you to make a bigger effort to come out in the morning. The more people there are, the better it is for everyone. And let’s be honest, if you only go out against the big teams, you’re a bit more likely to end up with a bad result.
The social aspect of any sport is crucial to how we interact with it. I honestly don’t know anyone who is a huge fan who doesn’t find a way to express their emotions about it. That can take the form of Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or in real life. I’ve had experience with all of those and IRL is by far the superior one. Those years of sitting on the couch were not the best fan experience. You can’t run up and down the bar high fiving everyone online and crying in your beer alone is just sad. Sports needs fans to support not only their teams but also each other.
Watching your team in a bar with friends is fun but the next step up is going to local games. The MLS team for my area is an almost 2 hour drive to Columbus but I plan to catch a couple games with some of my friends who are big Crew fans. My local pub is now a recognized Crew bar and will be giving out tickets and swag. There’s a bunch of people who meet to watch the game, which isn’t always on ESPN or local TV. Going to Crew Stadium and yelling at the actual athletes, as opposed to the TV, is very cathartic. If we’re being honest, Jermaine Jones knows he’s a terrible human being (unless he’s playing for USA, will still kinda then, too) but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to be told so in person from time to time.
My town’s team is the Cincy Saints. They’ve made huge steps these past two years in growing their brand. They made a very cool commercial and aired it this weekend during the Chelsea/United game. Their whole project is exciting for what it means to local soccer and local supporters. I’ve set a personal goal of going to every home game this season. I think supporting soccer at a more local level is the best way to grow the sport and it’s more personal and fun as well. I hope to have some match reports to put up here as well when they start their campaign May 23rd against FC Indiana.
Soccer is meant to be watched in person. If you aren’t doing that, then you’re missing out. Preferably, sit with the crazies who sing the whole time and let off smoke bombs for goals. If you can’t go to England to watch the Premier League, then the pub is the next best place. Meet people and have a good time. There’s friends, beer, and football. What more do you need?