I don’t think I could be pegged as a proto-typical “soccer” fan. My faintest recollection of what a “soccer” fan would be is the SNL short, “Scottish Soccer Hooligans,” with Mike Myers <link to all things Scottish>. Nor am I English or foreign, which would automatically make me a “soccer” fan. However, I can do a pretty dead-on Irish accent (thanks to my high school friend Sean having a 100% Irish mother).
Nor did I play “soccer” with any sort of aptitude. I played in the Brookfield Youth Soccer Program from 3rd grade through 8th grade, but I was never any good. The highlight of my time playing was the one game against the Rockets in 6th grade (I remember it was the Rockets because they wore bright orange jerseys and my good friend Adam, the wizard of SNES, was on their team) where I scored not one but TWO goals in the same game. One was a deflection off the goalie (dumb luck) that I just tapped in the goal and the other was a chip shot from outside the penalty box that deposited itself in the top left-hand corner of the goal (pure luck). I still to this day have no idea how I managed to kick such a pretty goal, but I’m positive it was an errant pass that “accidentally” ended up as a goal. I’ll take dumb luck and glory over below average skill and kicks to the one part of your shins the shin pads aren’t covering any day.
Sadly, those were the only two goals I scored that year and the last time any ball booted by me ever ended up in the back of the net (except in practice). I wasn’t too broken up, since I got to play football (which I also was terrible at) until Junior year when I gave it up to pursue playing guitar and ping-pong (I was probably the coolest person ever in High School).
Anyways, my exploits as a semi-skilled athletic loser aside, my love affair with the game of football (which shall never again be called “soccer” by me) began on Mother’s Day in 2012. My wife and I and our three lovely children joined my Mom, Dad, Grandmas, and sisters at the Mother’s Day Brunch at Mo’s Irish Pub in West Allis, right near the Milwaukee County Zoo. It was a fine brunch, and like any fine establishment that calls itself a pub, the place was littered with HDTVs, and fortunately we were plopped down right in front of them.
I was idly chatting while I ate and keeping a casual eye on the Manchester City v. Queens Park Rangers game that was on ESPN. You know what I am talking about guys, that casual eye we males have on the TV when it is on. Just enough to keep us from actually focusing on the conversation we are supposed to be having and just enough to pay attention to all the important details of what is going on during the sporting event we happen to be watching. We do this despite out lack of multi-tasking prowess, and we think that no one notices.
As an aside and a wake-up call, everyone CAN tell. I now do not sight within earshot or eyesight of TVs when Tina and I go out to eat, since my attention can be easily taken away from her to whatever is on the TV (almost always ESPN). If you are a man, and are in any serious relationship, I highly encourage you to do the same to avoid the “ESPN Lazy Eye” and avoid the “Relationship Evil Eye.”
Anywho, I was watching QPR v. Manchester City, not knowing that it was probably the most important game of the Premier League season and an extremely important game for both teams. Let me set this one up for you. Manchester City was playing for the Premier League Title, something they had not accomplished in 44 years. For a top-level club and one of the founding members of the Premier League this was an unheard of amount of time to be without a league championship. However, standing in their way was their arch-rivals from the Manchester Derby, Manchester United. Entering the final day the teams were in a dead heat, however it was Manchester City’s title to win due to their big goal differential lead over Manchester United.
The added twist was that the Queens Park Rangers (QPR) were facing the possibility of regulation (demotion to a lesser league) if they lost to Manchester City. So, this was not going to be a roll-over win for Man City, QPR was going to give them all they had. And trust me, QPR brought it.
It was 0-0 (that’s nil-nil for you non-footballers out there), when Man City fans were subject to nerves as Manchester United took an early lead in their game on a Wayne Rooney goal. For those of you not in the know, Rooney is like the Albert Pujols of Premier League Soccer. Twenty minutes later, Man City gets a goal from Pablo Zabletta that puts them ahead and a win looks like a possibility if they can just hold on to the lead. Blanking opponents was what Man City did best that year with the superb English National Team goalkeeper Joe Hart.
However, two goals by QPR in the second half (despite playing with 10 men on an inexcusable red card by Joey Barton) left Man City in a deep hole with little time left. I remember, as I bit into my French toast, seeing the second goal and sensing the magnitude of the goal and audibly gasping as I started to realize what I was watching.
As the game progressed, Manchester United seemed certain for victory and as time dwindled into stoppage time (for you non-footballers, that is time added on at the end of the second half for time taken for injuries, corner kicks, penalties, etc.) for Manchester City, all hope seemed lost. ESPN kept cutting to angry Man City fans, and I can only slightly relate to the frustration of a great season seemingly going down the toilet…wait, I forgot about Brett Favre and the 2007 NFC Championship game…I can totally relate. Curse you Brett Favre!!! (we’re still friends and Go Pack Go).
At this point, I was pretty much watching. The conversation had broken off after brunch and my son and I were idly watching when Man City tied it up at 2-2 with a header by Edin Dzeko. They were tied, but it still wasn’t enough to beat Manchester United who had cruised to a 1-0 decision over Sunderland.
HOWEVER, with barely a minute left in stoppage time, enter the man of the year, Sergio Aguero. After a throw-in, the ball moves down the pitch and into the penalty box area where a couple deft steps by Aguero open up a window and he slams the ball home past QPR keeper Paddy Kenny and celebrates wildly as bedlam ensues at the Ethiad. Man City wins 3-2 and clinches their first League Title in 44 years! Check out the video HERE!
At that point, I was hooked. Others had caught wind of the game and many people audibly screamed or yelled out when Aguero scored, and I gasped and yelled, “No Way”! I may have not physically done it, but the sporting fan inside me was bounding around like Mancini and tearing off my shirt like Aguero. I wasn’t a fan of football, but I could sense the significance and how special of a sports moment that was. There was nothing quite like it. It was truly a great moment in sporting history, and I was glad I could see it and have such a vivid memory attached to it.
The pure jubilation of Man City players and fans, plus beating a heated rival for the title, and the sheer impossibility and improbability of the whole moment made it one of the coolest sports moments I have ever witnessed on TV. There are few things that can make a grown man tear up, but I could listen to the call of the game over and over again and it would make me tear up as I feel the pure jubilation and excitement from fans, players, and commentators.
From that moment on, I have become a devoted fan of the “beautiful game” and of the Sky Blues. I’m following this year’s team and watched with joy as they took it Newcastle United to open the season. Like that QPR game, they faced a 10 man squad in the second half, but this time there was no let downs or late deficits, as Manchester City cruised to a 4-0 decision over the decidedly outmatched Newcastle squad.
I’m looking forward to a Premier League season filled with excitement, superb strikes, stellar saves, and brutal tackles (all legal ones, of course). Mostly, I’m looking forward to being a Wisconsin member of the Kippax and cheering on the Sky Blues to Premier League glory!