Bloody Confused, by Chuck Culpepper

“It was like childhood, but with beer.”

For many Americans, soccer’s appeal comes from being something new. It’s a change of pace to explore something new again after learning all there is to know about baseball, basketball, and football. I imagine there are British fans of the NFL who feel the same way.

That sense of newness is the driving force behind Bloody Confused, by Chuck Culpepper. Where Michael Agovino latched onto soccer in a fit of adolescent curiosity, Culpepper was a veteran of American sports reporting before soccer and England caught his eye. As a reporter, he had grown tired with American sports, filled as they are with flaws and cliches. It’s a problem he describes as “common sportswriter malaise.” While he came to find that English soccer has plenty of flaws and cliches, he found the learning process refreshing.

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We’re all in this Together

AJ DeLaGarza has only ever played for the LA Galaxy. With the tremendously sad news last week that his infant son passed away, Friday night’s Galaxy victory was marked by touching displays of support from the fans at the StubHub Center. The news, however, resonated far beyond California. There was a moment of silence before every Major League Soccer game this weekend. Fans in New York and New England had signs with messages of support for him. If there is a silver lining to the story of Luca DeLaGarza, it’s that it highlighted a sense of community among MLS fans, which extends not just within each fanbase, but league-wide. I can’t think of any other league that generates that sort of bond.

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Hoolifan, by Martin King and Martin Knight

“Malice hung heavily in the air, along with the stench of horse shit and hot-dog fumes.” 

By the time that European soccer reached American shores in earnest, the game was a sanitized version of its former self. In the U.S., the sport is often viewed as “soft,” especially in comparison to the game we know as football, and the modern game often makes this notion hard to deny. But England and the rest of Europe know that this is a fairly recent phenomenon. The game of just a generation ago was marked by real venom, both on and off the pitch. You can’t watch a Premier League match without a commentator noting wistfully that a yellow card tackle wouldn’t even have been a foul some 25 years ago. And along with two-footed tackles, crowd violence has mostly been left in the past in top-level soccer. 

In 1999, Martin King wrote Hoolifan: 30 years of Hurt with the help of Martin Knight. The subtitle might lead you to believe that this is a Fever Pitch-esque book about the trauma of fandom, but “hurt” here is meant quite physically. King was a Chelsea supporter through the 70s and 80s, the peak of hooliganism in the English game. Here he provides some insight into that experience.

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A Brief History of Soccer in Boston*

That asterisk is important. To tell the history of soccer in Boston is mostly to tell the history of soccer in nearby cities and towns. Owing to a lack of available land, among other matters, the city has struggled to provide a suitable home for the beautiful game. It should be noted that this lack of land has treated American football much the same way; there is a reason the Patriots play in Foxboro. Soccer’s fortune has been inextricably linked to the gridiron game, in this area especially, since the very beginning.

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Why Do We Watch? An Answer, of Sorts.

The Kinsale, in Government Center in Boston

The Kinsale, in Government Center in Boston

The European football season stretches from August to May, and yet, as we’ve reached the end of one, the beginning of the next feels so far away. The ecstasies of the World Cup will assuage some of this summer’s loneliness, but it is (obviously and perhaps even for the better) not the same.

38 games is a lot. Over the course of a season, you build up an attachment to a club in a way that can’t happen with a national team. International play occurs in fits and bursts, where club soccer provides a consistent slow burn. Thanks to NBC’s Premier League coverage, I can say that I watched at least some of all 38 Tottenham Hotspur matches this season. I was lucky enough to do so with the fine folks at Boston Spurs. As a reward for our loyalty, Tottenham finished sixth, doomed to another season of purgatory in the Europa League.

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Why do we Watch?

PLIt doesn’t make sense. I am of course talking about Liverpool’s 3-3 draw to Crystal Palace. But then, no I’m not.

On a whim, I decided to take the bus into Cambridge to take in the match at The Phoenix Landing. LFC Boston meets there, and even for a Monday afternoon kickoff, the bar was standing-room only. A few dozen red-clad Liverpool supporters had skipped work or had the luck to be unemployed so that they could watch the game with a crowd.

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