Last summer, I decided to become a Liverpool fan, and it went…pretty okay! I watched most of their matches before the shutdown, I caught a couple in a Raleigh bar with my friend Alex, and I even bought a jersey in Northern Ireland at the Liverpool shop in Belfast. I made an honest go of it, and though I’m not anything close to a rabid supporter, I count it as a positive sports experience. We can build on this.
EPL soccer returns today, with Aston Villa v. Sheffield at 1 ET and the more alluring Manchester City v. Arsenal at 3:30. And this is definitely a “get it while it’s hot” situation, since a handful of lower league players have tested positive for corona and there’s every chance that the whole situation could go pear-shaped (to quote one of my favorite British soccer announcer-isms). I’ll definitely watch at least the second half of this afternoon’s second match, and this Sunday at 2 ET, it’s the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton. I might be in South Carolina watching live golf and trying not to catch corona, but if not, that’s appointment viewing. And folks, I have actually been to the River Mersey, when I went to the British Open in Hoylake in 2014. Let me tell you, as far as rivers go? It’s quite river-like.
(I also spent a little time in Liverpool, but not enough; I was mostly in the city centre, which is basically drab. I regret not going to the cool parts.)
Anyway, my relationship with soccer is an interesting one, because I remember watching the 1994 World Cup when I was 11 years old, back when they would take commercial breaks during the actual match, and sometimes you’d come back and the announcer would be like, “hey, you missed a goal.” I really liked the Dutch team, mostly for their orange uniforms, and was sad when they lost to Brazil.
If you took a snapshot of me then, you’d probably have me pegged as one of those Americans who would ride the soccer wave and become a huge fan as the sport became more and more popular here. Instead, compared to most of my sports-loving friends and acquaintances my age and a little younger, I’m now way behind the curve. I’m routinely astounded by how much they love soccer, how much they know about it, and how passionate they are. I like it, but deep in my heart, I still find sitting through most matches a little bit boring. There have been some exceptions, like American World Cup matches, and I got really into a handful of Liverpool’s matches this season, but by and large I’m not very gung-ho, and there’s a good chance I never will be. This hurts my ego, because I want to be a cool worldly soccer guy, but in terms of being anything more than casually interested, I think I’ve missed my boat.
Still, I’m going to hang on, because you never know. I would love to be someone who added a new sport to his repertoire, because as life goes on, the list of sports I’ll spend time caring about gets shorter. I follow football, for instance, but almost never watch a full game before the playoffs, and I loved football as recently as, like, six years ago. Baseball ebbs and flows. Unless Duke is playing, I refuse to watch a college basketball game outside the tournament (to be fair, that’s their fault). If you told me tomorrow that the only three sports we’d be allowed to play from here to eternity were golf, tennis, and NBA basketball, I’d be sad, but not devastated. Throw in the Olympics every two years, and I could manage.
I don’t consider this a positive trajectory. As the world crumbles around us, I need more distractions, not fewer, and so I’ll keep trying with soccer. I mean, we’re still only in year one of the Futbol Experiment. It might not be a natural fit, but I’m convinced that if I force the exposure long enough, the day will come when I catch the fever for real.
Until then, here are some highlights from my favorite player, Roberto Firmino (you can watch his first 50 EPL goals here, but to get a better sense of his brilliance, you need to see the passes):
It looks like I’ll be heading down last-minute to see the weekend action at the Heritage, and I’m torn. On one hand, I’m very excited to see live golf again. On the other, as you may have heard on yesterday’s podcast breaking down the Colonial with Kevin Robbins, there’s very little access for the media, and I’ll mostly be writing from the course. That’s fine, I guess…I can pretend to read people’s minds and write 1,000 words about Bryson DeChambeau’s pectorals. The only interviews will be done remotely, and I can guarantee you they won’t be very interesting. Plus, I could catch COVID and kill myself and everyone I love. A lot of ins and outs here!
But mostly I’m excited. Assuming I can stay safe, it’ll have been worth the trip to see DeChambeau especially. It’s hard to decide if he’s a sideshow or a truly transformative golf figure, and the fact that he has an off-kilter personality and the other players don’t seem to like him makes it tempting to lean toward the former. But then again, he’s always ahead of the curve. First it was his clubs all being the same length, which I guarantee you is a phenomenon that will become normal as kids who are ten years old today grow and become the next pros. Then he was the first one to putt with the flag in, which seemed like a joke until everyone realized it was a smart play. Now he’s bulking up to insane degrees, and was little more than a meme before the Colonial began…until he started bombing the hell out of the ball and scoring with ease. He came so close to winning, and that was on a week when he didn’t putt well.
It feels very weird to think of DeChambeau as revolutionary in some way, but I can’t help thinking that he’s miles ahead in his brain. I want to see him in action; I want to see one of his booming drives, that go higher than anybody else’s despite the fact that he’s hitting with a 5.5 degree club. And I want to try to gauge if this is for real, or if he’s on the verge of hurting himself with too much weight and having this entire bulk-up strategy go down as a farce.
Either way, it’s going to be interesting, and I’ll have the scoop for you on Monday. Now it’s time to break off early; a podcast interview with Yahoo’s Hannah Keyser is coming up shortly, and that’ll be out tomorrow afternoon. Enjoy your days.