Soccer Spotting

AMERICANS WEARING SOCCER JERSEYS and other examples of MEMORABILIA IN PUBLIC

Symbolism in Giants Attire

 

Tailgate for a while in the MetLife Stadium parking lot before a Giants game and your dying duck anti-spiral will crazy hop away from your friend and into a number 10 jersey hunched over a grill. Later, you’ll slosh Bud Light on a 56 and high five at least one 89. Eli, LT and Mark Bavaro jerseys at Giants games are like Simpsons quotes. You encounter them so often you don’t even realize anymore. No, Tiki. They’re saying Boo-arber!


Each rectangular section inside Air-Conditioner Vent Stadium is a three-number Bingo board. And each number is a sandwich board announcing what the wearer values about the Giants and what flimsy metaphors for life he or she gleans from the way twenty-five-year-old NY-helmeted superhumans stiff arm twenty-four-year-old star-helmeted superhumans.

10. Eli is easy. He’s the team’s beloved starting quarterback who outplayed GQ Brady twice in the Super Bowl. He’s a privileged son of the Quarterback Kennedys, was the #1 overall pick in the 2004 draft and has a hot wife, but fans still root for him like he’s a three-legged dog climbing stairs. The franchise’s all-time leading rusher is now the franchise’s leading villain just because he criticized Eli’s leadership. We’re in La Belle Epoque right now, Giants fans, and Manning is Picasso. It’s good we recognize it as it’s happening.

56. When you wear a Lawrence Taylor jersey — and after Manning, Taylor is the most common last name at MetLife Stadium — you are either condoning abhorrent, anti-social behavior or proclaiming that off-field disgrace will never tarnish on-field GLORY. Department of Corrections No. R18755? Who cares. He’s number 56. And 56 is The Big Blue Wrecking Crew!

Ottis Anderson was Super Bowl XXV MVP and scored rushing touchdowns in the ‘86 and ‘90 Super Bowls. Meh. Carl Banks was on the the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team and does color commentary for WFAN. Cool. Harry Carson is in the Hall of Fame. What number was he again?

I was at the Giants/Bucs game on Sept. 16 and I didn’t see any of their jerseys until Carson’s 53 popped out of a bathroom stall at halftime.

Why wear Pippen or Grant when you can wear Michael Jordan? Sorry, Banks and Carson, but 56 is Big Blue’s 23.

89. There’s a common belief among mediocre, middle class, white men that, “Yeah, bro. If I could play any position in the NFL, I’d be a tight end.” Tight Ends are sports’ submission to American mythology. They’re frontiersmen and WPA laborers and characters in Bruce Springsteen songs. Mark Bavaro fits this ideal perfectly.

Receivers are lithe, marble-sculpted Olympians. Whatever sport they chose, they would excel.  The towering, V-Shaped defensive ends are architectural marvels. The linemen are behemoths. But the tight ends are just a couple of honest, hard-working dudes. Let’s write country music about them!

Check out some of this NFL Films special on Bavaro: http://youtu.be/-7vW_0vL5qs

The guy was good (he made two Pro Bowls) but not Gonzalez/Gronk/Graham good. He was tough, but everyone in the NFL is tough. He was quiet — except when it came to opposing women’s rights. People wear his jersey because he once dragged seven 49ers twenty yards downfield. We turn plays like that into an allegory for the power of human will and struggle. But Bavaro’s just an ex-NFL player and we don’t know much about him other than where he used to work.

It’s cool to admire his ferocious play (like we do with LT), but we should not lionize a man for what he did on a field.

Emmanuel Adebayor or any jersey you own will do

              

                                        (three years and four teams ago) 

The American Soccer Spectator Dress Code dictates that one must wear a soccer jersey to a soccer match.

Really any jersey will do, so long as its nylon and features a multinational corporation’s logo and/or a club or national crest.

Say you’re at a high school match in Essex County, NJ. You want to prove you’re not a lame dad who doesn’t know anything about soccer because your high school didn’t offer a single team sport invented outside the USofA. Au contrair, you know l’football. You watched Tony Meola for the Metrostars at Giants Stadium. You coached your kid’s U9 team. You don’t yell inane BS like “SEND IT!” at fullbacks who clearly have enough time to settle the ball with their chest and take a touch while they assess their attacking options. You’re not one of those fans. You’re hip to soccer. And now you have to demonstrate your knowledge, or at least the perception that you are knowledgeable, by pacing behind the spectators in a professional Football Club’s snug, DriFit kit.

So what if the traditional American sports fan thinks you promote the shady British bank Standard Chartered, the same shady bank that was recently tisk-tisked for laundering hundreds of billions of Iranian dollars?  To the American soccer fan, you proudly display your commitment to Liverpool, one of the most popular teams among other American soccer fans.  

And so what that your shiny, red Liverpool shirt has no relation to the two mediocre high school teams lobbing long ball after long ball before you? Americans will wear any soccer jersey to a soccer game no matter how unrelated that jersey is to the game they are watching. 

Last Saturday, I watched my brother play goalie for his northeast-Pennsylvania, D-III college (There are roughly 76 schools that fit this description) against another, more, like, central-Pennsylvania D-III college (in this case, one of nearly 257 such schools). Both teams wore blue and white. During the first half, I noticed an older man, probably in his early-60s, standing near the spectator sideline in a scarlet shirt with telltale white sleeves. Aha! Arsenal. Spotted!

At halftime, Gunners-guy peed next to me at the urinals. When I walked away from the wall, I checked out his back and noticed he was not wearing a regular old Arsenal jersey. His old Arsenal jersey was emblazoned with “ADEBAYOR 25.” Even more disconnected from game at hand. 

Emmanuel Adebayor is a shredded, surly, 6’3”, acrobatic striker from Togo who, since 2009, has played for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Tottenham. He scores a lot of awesome goals and sometimes taunts the opposing fans, but that’s okay because he survived a terrorist attack (Two years ago, AK-47-strapped separatists from a province in Angola shot up his Togo national team’s bus during the Africa Cup of Nations tournament). He has never been to Pennsylvania. At least not to a college soccer game in the Lehigh Valley.

But his jersey was strutting and spectating and peeing all over the place last weekend. Old white Pennsylvanians LOVE Adebayor! 

Or, more likely, older white American soccer fans want to give the impression they love Adebayor. Americans don’t wear old-school Hakeem Olajuwon tank tops to small-time college basketball games. We know basketball. We have nothing to prove. But liking, paying attention to and spending money on soccer is new for us. We’re a little self conscious and we mask it by being smug.

"Excuse me, other spectators. Take me seriously when I criticize my kid’s coach because, even though I am a white baby boomer with a silver mustache, I am wearing an Emmanuel Adebayor jersey." 

Photo subject: Who you picture when you picture someone from the Pacific Northwest. ie: Physically fit. Hardy. Probably outdoorsy based on lumberjack facial hair (but don’t you dare accuse him of supporting the Portland Timbers). ‘Round-the-campfire-guitar-player. Cyclist. Jilted by the Sonics, embraced by the Sounders.
Where to find him: Playing guitar ‘round the campfire. Downward dogging in the park. A farmer’s market. But if none is available or its veggies are not sufficiently organic, Whole Foods. Bike Lanes, rocking back and forth on his pedals, waiting for the light to change. Walking past Starbucks, telling friends about the original, risque logo.
Team: Major League Soccer’s most locally loved club, Seattle Sounders FC, which entered the league in 2009, sold out every home game since opening day and tapped a Northwestern well of soccer enthusiam that surged with the addition of teams in Portland and Vancouver. In August 2011, they became the second MLS team to beat un equipo de la FMF en Mexico when they defeated CF Monterrey 2-1.
American connection: Superfan and former U.S. Marine Drew Carey is a minority owner. Three-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year Kasey Keller was Seattle’s first goalkeeper. They are threepeat© U.S. Open Cup champs.

Photo subject: Who you picture when you picture someone from the Pacific Northwest. ie: Physically fit. Hardy. Probably outdoorsy based on lumberjack facial hair (but don’t you dare accuse him of supporting the Portland Timbers). ‘Round-the-campfire-guitar-player. Cyclist. Jilted by the Sonics, embraced by the Sounders.

Where to find him: Playing guitar ‘round the campfire. Downward dogging in the park. A farmer’s market. But if none is available or its veggies are not sufficiently organic, Whole Foods. Bike Lanes, rocking back and forth on his pedals, waiting for the light to change. Walking past Starbucks, telling friends about the original, risque logo.

Team: Major League Soccer’s most locally loved club, Seattle Sounders FC, which entered the league in 2009, sold out every home game since opening day and tapped a Northwestern well of soccer enthusiam that surged with the addition of teams in Portland and Vancouver. In August 2011, they became the second MLS team to beat un equipo de la FMF en Mexico when they defeated CF Monterrey 2-1.

American connection: Superfan and former U.S. Marine Drew Carey is a minority owner. Three-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year Kasey Keller was Seattle’s first goalkeeper. They are threepeat© U.S. Open Cup champs.

Spotted: FUN AMERICAN APARTMENT WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY! 
Partying at this apartment, located just a beer bottle’s toss away from the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, should become a requisite goal for all progressive, free-spirited, soccer-mad Americans. The tenants have basically invited you and me to that great polygonal porch for a three-kegs-in-the-bath-tub bash Saturday afternoon. 
FC St. Pauli plays near the Reeperbahn, the party center/red-light district of Hamburg, where the excitement spread from the discotheques and bars to the pre-match tailgates and stadium concourses. Beginning in the 1980s, the swell of supporters embraced social activism, anti-establishment punk culture and general match-day revelry.  Since then, the bohemian fans have stood in firm opposition to the fascist Ultras that continue to disgrace clubs throughout Europe. 
Although they yo-yo through various German soccer divisions — They played in the Bundesliga last year! :D But they finished in last place and were relegated : ( — they routinely cram the stands for what is probably like some amazing season-long Oktoberfest/Love In. Like an SEC football tailgate without the casual racism. 
Man, Wikipedia sums it up nicely: 

St. Pauli enjoys a certain fame for the left-leaning character of its supporters: most of the team’s fans regard themselves as anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-homophobic and anti-sexist, and this has on occasion brought them into conflict with neo-Nazis and hooligans at away games. The organisation has adopted an outspoken stance against racism, fascism, sexism, and homophobia and has embodied this position in its constitution.

I’ll bring the solo cups and 5-Hour-Energies, St. Pauli Apartment Tenants. 
American connection: St. Pauli’s home stadium Millerntor-Stadion also hosts the Hamburg Blue Devils football team. Two-time Eurobowl Champions!

Spotted: FUN AMERICAN APARTMENT WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY

Partying at this apartment, located just a beer bottle’s toss away from the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, should become a requisite goal for all progressive, free-spirited, soccer-mad Americans. The tenants have basically invited you and me to that great polygonal porch for a three-kegs-in-the-bath-tub bash Saturday afternoon. 

FC St. Pauli plays near the Reeperbahn, the party center/red-light district of Hamburg, where the excitement spread from the discotheques and bars to the pre-match tailgates and stadium concourses. Beginning in the 1980s, the swell of supporters embraced social activism, anti-establishment punk culture and general match-day revelry.  Since then, the bohemian fans have stood in firm opposition to the fascist Ultras that continue to disgrace clubs throughout Europe. 

Although they yo-yo through various German soccer divisions — They played in the Bundesliga last year! :D But they finished in last place and were relegated : ( — they routinely cram the stands for what is probably like some amazing season-long Oktoberfest/Love In. Like an SEC football tailgate without the casual racism. 

Man, Wikipedia sums it up nicely: 

St. Pauli enjoys a certain fame for the left-leaning character of its supporters: most of the team’s fans regard themselves as anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-homophobic and anti-sexist, and this has on occasion brought them into conflict with neo-Nazis and hooligans at away games. The organisation has adopted an outspoken stance against racism, fascism, sexism, and homophobia and has embodied this position in its constitution.

I’ll bring the solo cups and 5-Hour-Energies, St. Pauli Apartment Tenants. 

American connection: St. Pauli’s home stadium Millerntor-Stadion also hosts the Hamburg Blue Devils football team. Two-time Eurobowl Champions!

AMERICAN CELEBRITY WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY of the WEEK. Huzzah!
Don’t be fleeced by the bow-tie, that Pringle chap can really muck it up on the pitch with these fine fellows:
 
Why, there’s the lad. There in the back, wearing the swell Baker Boy.

AMERICAN CELEBRITY WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY of the WEEK. Huzzah!

Don’t be fleeced by the bow-tie, that Pringle chap can really muck it up on the pitch with these fine fellows:

 

Why, there’s the lad. There in the back, wearing the swell Baker Boy.

Genuine SON OF BEN repping the most rabid fan base in Major League Soccer.  
This Unionista demonstrates his commitment to the club by wearing a full kit and color-coordinated indoor shoes.  
                                                    

Genuine SON OF BEN repping the most rabid fan base in Major League Soccer.  

This Unionista demonstrates his commitment to the club by wearing a full kit and color-coordinated indoor shoes.  

                                                    

Photo subject: Indie dad wearing Bonnaroo commemorative shirt at Lollapalooza for street cred/as conversation starter
Where to find him: Following the music, dude.
Team: 2010 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, the ninth incarnation of Tennessee’s giant extravaganza. The year’s team was captained by Jay-Z, Dave Matthews, Leon King, and Stevie Wonder. Aging star Conan O’Brien — winding down his self-pity tour/media blitz — featured as a late substitute. 
American connection(s): Well traveled music fan shows his son (bottom right) the United States of America one huge musical gathering at a time. Six-year-old now convinced the US population is one homogenous unit of white, 20-something, progressives.

Photo subject: Indie dad wearing Bonnaroo commemorative shirt at Lollapalooza for street cred/as conversation starter

Where to find him: Following the music, dude.

Team: 2010 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, the ninth incarnation of Tennessee’s giant extravaganza. The year’s team was captained by Jay-Z, Dave Matthews, Leon King, and Stevie Wonder. Aging star Conan O’Brien — winding down his self-pity tour/media blitz — featured as a late substitute. 

American connection(s): Well traveled music fan shows his son (bottom right) the United States of America one huge musical gathering at a time. Six-year-old now convinced the US population is one homogenous unit of white, 20-something, progressives.

AMERICAN CELEBRITY WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY of the WEEK
Photo subject: Slight, boyish faun. FRODO. 
Where to find him: Flaunted by fantasy fans’ in geeky DVD collections, concealed by closet geeks in Quentin Tarantino-heavy DVD collections, SPYRO
Team: West Ham United, the East London club whose violent supporters inspired the film Green Street Hooligans, which stars the aforementioned hobbit. The 116-year old Hammers have never won a league title, though they have won three FA cups and one European Cup Winners’ Cup. Club captain Bobby Moore was skipper of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad. Along with Aston Villa, West Ham has worn their iconic claret shirts with sky blue sleeves for more than a century. 
American connection(s): Elijah Wood is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa — a quintessential All-American city that seemingly epitomizes imagined nostalgia for a simpler, calmer, more hard-working era in our nation’s heartland. In fact, Grant Wood is also from Cedar Rapids as were the subjects of American Gothic.
US international fullback Jonathan Spector made 101 league appearances in West Ham’s defense from 2006 to 2011. 

AMERICAN CELEBRITY WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY of the WEEK

Photo subject: Slight, boyish faun. FRODO. 

Where to find him: Flaunted by fantasy fans’ in geeky DVD collections, concealed by closet geeks in Quentin Tarantino-heavy DVD collections, SPYRO

Team: West Ham United, the East London club whose violent supporters inspired the film Green Street Hooligans, which stars the aforementioned hobbit. The 116-year old Hammers have never won a league title, though they have won three FA cups and one European Cup Winners’ Cup. Club captain Bobby Moore was skipper of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad. Along with Aston Villa, West Ham has worn their iconic claret shirts with sky blue sleeves for more than a century. 

American connection(s): Elijah Wood is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa — a quintessential All-American city that seemingly epitomizes imagined nostalgia for a simpler, calmer, more hard-working era in our nation’s heartland. In fact, Grant Wood is also from Cedar Rapids as were the subjects of American Gothic.

US international fullback Jonathan Spector made 101 league appearances in West Ham’s defense from 2006 to 2011. 

SPOTTED! AMERICAN WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY AMID A CROWD OF NORMAL AMERICANS.
Photo subject: Seemingly average guy upon first impression but full of surprises once you get to know him; The entertaining, yet pleasant friend whom everyone admires and wants at their housewarming parties 
Where to find him: Swapping stories with fellow well traveled partygoers (without pretense) near the door to the bathroom; Secretly streaming Champions League matches in his cubicle at 2 pm; Public transportation
Team represented: Spain National Team, La Furia Roja, previously photographed and analyzed last month. Spain won the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 European Championship as well as Euro 1964 and the 1992 Olympic gold medal. Their beautiful, quick-passing, free-movement style of play is called Tiki-Taka. Spain, along with FC Barcelona (which contributed 7 players to the 2010 World Cup-winning starting lineup), are the current standard bearers of The Beautiful Game. 
In 2009, the team tied an international record by going unbeaten for 35 games before they lost 2-0 to … 
American connection: THE USA! in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals. 

SPOTTED! AMERICAN WEARING A SOCCER JERSEY AMID A CROWD OF NORMAL AMERICANS.

Photo subject: Seemingly average guy upon first impression but full of surprises once you get to know him; The entertaining, yet pleasant friend whom everyone admires and wants at their housewarming parties 

Where to find him: Swapping stories with fellow well traveled partygoers (without pretense) near the door to the bathroom; Secretly streaming Champions League matches in his cubicle at 2 pm; Public transportation

Team represented: Spain National Team, La Furia Roja, previously photographed and analyzed last month. Spain won the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 European Championship as well as Euro 1964 and the 1992 Olympic gold medal. Their beautiful, quick-passing, free-movement style of play is called Tiki-Taka. Spain, along with FC Barcelona (which contributed 7 players to the 2010 World Cup-winning starting lineup), are the current standard bearers of The Beautiful Game. 

In 2009, the team tied an international record by going unbeaten for 35 games before they lost 2-0 to … 

American connection: THE USA! in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals.