Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ryan Bailey, KickTV, and Glory Hunting

Ryan Bailey does work for KickTV and while I don't always agree with his assessments he generally provides some good commentary on football happenings around the world.  He recently did a video on the "Top 5 Signs you might be a Glory Hunter."  His first three were pretty logical:

1.  You're a Faraway Follower: you've never been to the home stadium of the team you support and have no plans to.
2.  All the Gear, No Idea: you haven't read a single book about your club's history.
3.  Can't Name a Starting 11: I would add on to this and say you should be able to name a starting 11, plus 7 subs, and the reasoning behind why you would pick them for this particular fixture.

When he comes on to reasons 4 and 5, Bailey treads onto the familiar grounds of Nick Hornsby's Fever Pitch, where a Brit tells us "the rules of football fandom."

There are no shortage of us who love the fact that the British invented the game and ourselves use anglicisms (pitch, match, hard done by, buzzing) to describe the game.  But to concede that the British didn't just invent the game but have written non-negotiable rules of fandom?  Sorry, Ryan, as we say in the Colonies, "that dog won't hunt."

Reason 4:  Long Distance Relationship.  There is a bit of overlap here, but Bailey is pointing out that you should support your local team first.  But this is a bit of a First World perspective, no?  There are people in countries all over the world who want to have a team to cheer for at the top levels of club competition, you know, during the 4 years that there isn't a World Cup and all you have are sporadic qualifiers to move you on.  Do you think there's a "club team" to cheer for in Singapore, my country of birth?  You pick a team, however you want to, and you support them.  In that support you shouldn't, as legions of Arsenal fans do, tweet #ArseneKnows one week and #WengerOut the next.  

Again, if you know your team's history and anything about the manager you are less likely to do something like the stupid #MoyesOut people are doing.  Those people must really not have read about Alex Ferguson's early years at United, which were hardly covered in glory.

Just because you don't live or have never lived in North London, doesn't mean you can't be an Arsenal fan.  A fellow gooner who I had never met bought me a pint upon my first visit to the Tollington for West Ham away on Boxing Day (couldn't get tickets there, but had seen us play Chelsea at the Emirates a few days before).  Apparently, he didn't, despite being an Arsenal fan his whole life, think I was a glory hunter for supporting Arsenal despite my birth in Singapore and my American citizenship.

There's also the matter of National Team Players.  When Clint Dempsey was playing the best football of his life, Americans bought Fulham shirts and supported that team because they loved seeing an American abroad.  Roma - and now Toronto FC - shirts probably sold because of Michael Bradley.  That's how this works.

Which leads to the final reason:

Reason 5:   Divided Loyalties.  Bailey serves up a dated notion:  You can only support one time.  Says who??  We are in the modern era, Ryan.  We can have access, via TV, satellite, and streams, to almost any league we want.  Some of us need a team to cheer for, sure, but others enjoy being a follower or even a neutral for other teams.  There are no "divided loyalties" when your teams never meet.  I'm a Sporting KC fan - who never plays Paris St. Germain.  According to Bailey, I'm only allowed to be a fan of SKC, the team of my residence for 7 years, and not allowed to be a fan of the city that plays in the city I live in now (albeit Parc des Princes is as close to outside of the city limits as you can get without actually being outside!).

Again, I think the glory hunters have been mostly driven out of Old Trafford (but they shall return!) as the club is unlikely to finish Top 4 or 5 this season, and to the instructive end of identifying and shunning said glory hunters, Bailey's first 3 reasons are well-taken.  But ultimately, it is totally reasonable for people who live in Mongolia, or the Congo, or Singapore, who don't have proximate club teams to follow (or don't want to follow - are all Koreans supposed to support the J-League, because it's "close" to them?) to instead follow and support distant clubs.

Furthermore, should a fan love soccer so much that he/she wishes to follow and support multiple teams in multiple leagues, God bless him/her.  I'm always up for fun and informative conversations with knowledgeable fans - and we cant all be journos who get paid to follow all the leagues, like Mr. Bailey.  Some of us follow those leagues and teams for love of the game.

And hopefully that, and not glory-hunting, is the reason we do it.

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