3am Monday 14th May 2012 – Nunhead Heights
The Manchester City and Manchester United football battle was so good this year I almost forgot that City are being bankrolled by a billionaire
Arab oilman. His money created the best team in English football.
I wanted to support City. They were the Brooklyn Dodgers or New York Mets to Manchester United’s New York Yankees and I’m a Mets fan. And you couldn’t deny that City supporters believed they deserved their good luck but it was like they were taking stolen money to pay a debt. It feels good but it isn’t right. You can say what you want about United but their owner is isn’t pumping money into his team.
Still, it was an incredible end to an incredible season in an incredible sport. You know I don’t say much good about England. Well, I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I loved English football. I want to say it again: I love English football.
I would say more nice things about England if I could get some mileage out of it. The English don’t want to hear compliments about their country. They either don’t believe it or don’t believe it coming from an American or it embarrasses them or they don’t feel like they can take credit for it, thinking they are individually far superior to their fellow citizens.
English patriotism may be complicated but it is very, very, deep. Deeper than American patriotism, I would say. An Englishman is born in this country, and more than in America, is born in the town he is living in now. So he has not just the love for the country but also love for his hometown. If I went back to my hometown of Great Neck, New York, I doubt there would be more than five people I knew from when I was a kid. I don’t think the Kirks, the Links, the Gottesmans, or the Bergmans are still living on Essex Road – Essex Road was the name of my street. Everyone moves in America.
America is a nation of the descendants of losers. Every American, black and white, was forced to leave his homeland in adverse circumstances. They came to America for a better life, or by force, and eventually found a better life, and freedom. Eventually. And you can’t call the “native” Americans winners, either, after what happened to them.
The Kings and Queens of England didn’t need to board a ship and sail for America for a better life or freedom. The peasants who stayed must have been happy-enough in England. The English are descendants of the winners and they know it.
I love English football tribalism. Manchester City supporters here, Manchester United supporters there. The slur on United is that they are supported by foreigners: Indonesians, Australians, and Londoners. I have read otherwise. Manchester, the city or the area, [what Manchester is is a question I haven’t gotten my head around yet] has three times as many United supporters than City supporters living in Manchester. That’s one reason why City supporters care so much about winning the League. They have to live with the enemy.
If you like a place in England, you’ll think fondly of their team. I smile at the mention of Ipswich Town F.C. because of the two good gigs I had in the town when I first moved to London in 2000. Good gigs were few and far between then. Still are. I doubt if I was from Norwich or Colchester I’d have warm feelings for Ipswich.
If I had been raised in England I wouldn’t have followed football. English supporters would have beaten up the kind of child I was. They used to try to beat up everybody, not just sissy kids like me, a few years back.
While traveling in Britain in 1989 I went to a Fulham FC game at Craven Cottage.
[Fulham is a team in London. London has no “London” team and I proposed that my main team, Crystal Palace FC near Nunhead, rebrand itself as the “London Eagles”. Imagine the replica shirts they could sell? Every Palace fan I told shot me down. Change, except promotion, bad!]
So I remember being corralled down a road blockaded by mounted policemen. Very scary scene. At the time Fulham was more than 40 places away from winning the old League One and not exactly contenders. The situation around football is a bit gentler today.
I never once felt that fear at a baseball game, except at being kicked out of the expensive seats I used to blag my way into. I’ve never was beaten up by a Yankees fan because I was wearing a Mets hat. I’ve been gloated at but only in friendly ways.
Maybe that is why I can’t love the New York Mets as much as Manchester City supporters love City. They took it on the chin for 44 years and endured the abuse from their “noisy” neighbors. They love their team so much they were willing to pay any price to beat United, including taking tens of millions of pounds of oil money.
I admire that love. I supported United but congratulations, City.
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