With all this time on our hands before Arsenal play games that matter again (ALL INTERNATIONALS AND NO REAL GAMES MAKES PDB REALLY REALLY WANT SOCCER BACK), I got to wonderin' about something. Ever since I started paying close attention to MLS, way back when in the olden days of, er, February 2011, I noticed something interesting among some of the more fervent MLS fans I encountered.
While there are of course many different types of fan, with varying levels of knowledge and interest in the game, I noticed something about the more hardcore MLS fan that I have never noticed before. Really serious American MLS fans seem to also be fans of many other teams in many other leagues - having an MLS team seems to have opened the floodgates for a lot of people, and now they have favorite teams in five or six leagues and at least passing interests in many other teams and leagues as well.
I have spent a fair bit of time abroad, and I've not encountered this level of fandom in almost anybody I know in Europe - a lot of them have their local team and maybe one more, and that's about it. Americans have taken to drinking from the firehose that is soccer with a particular gusto, and it's kinda cool to see.
What I'm not sure of is why this is. Come with me and we'll try to figure it out!
Lest the tone of that last sentence lead you astray, I don't think it's a bad thing at all that a person would like a team in each of 8 or 9 different leagues. I admire that kind of dedication and wish I had that kind of time - even following two teams is enough to make my head spin sometimes. But there are two things I feel like I need to unpack to make sense of this particular mode of fandom.
First off, as far as fandom goes, why is soccer different than any other sport? I can assume, seeing your sig files and interacting with a lot of you here on the site, that most if not all of you are into a few non-soccer sports. For those of you who are into basketball, baseball, or hockey, do you follow (for instance) any Eastern European basketball or hockey leagues? Do you follow NPB or any of the Central American/Caribbean baseball leagues? Or Canadian football, for that matter (I'm not a football fan at all so I don't know if other countries play it - I assume not, though)? In other words, if you follow soccer in six countries, why not do the same with baseball, basketball, or hockey?
Secondly, how did you first become aware that (insert random country's league here) was a league that you wanted to follow? I assume that most people who are fans of the "big boys" became so because you saw a player or players you liked at the World Cup and said "Hey that Spanish player is awesome I should watch the league he plays in", which leads you to La Liga, which leads you to the Champions League, etc (and please correct me if I'm wrong in this - and if I am wrong, how did you become a fan of one of the bigger leagues?).
Even if you became a fan of one of the major soccer nations that way - or another way - how did you then make the leap to being a fan of, say, the Turkish league, any of the other smaller Eastern European leagues, or the South American/African leagues?
I'm guessing that video games may have something to do with it - I'm not much of a gamer, so I don't really play any soccer video games (although I do have FIFA 11 for the Wii), but it looks like with most of those games you can play as any team from any country in the world. Was this a big factor for you if you are a fan of a league that only about 10 people outside the country of the league even care about?
Again, please don't misunderstand - I'm not criticizing this immersive level of fandom in the slightest. I'm just genuinely curious as to how it comes about for you, if you're one of those people.