First off, I have to come out and say – I haven’t been to an EPL match in person yet.
I have heard that the experience is great and that we need to go.
I’ve had friends offer to take us to one, which I’m excited to do – but, I know it’s going to be different than what I’m used to.
As you all have heard from me in person and through the blog – I’m an avid Sporting KC fan. I have been an SKC fan since they were still called the Wizards. When I got into football, I was in my early teens with a friend who played on multiple fun leagues. I wasn’t allowed to play sports during that time, due to my medical issues (Sporatic internal bleeding really kills your chances to be a cool kid).
But I spent the next few years desperate to get on the pitch. The friend above, took me to a KC Wiz match (Later the Wizards, then SKC) back in 1996. Along with seeing the KC Attack (Previously Comets, then later Comets again) indoor soccer because this girl was in love.
In turn, it created a sport for me, where American Football and Baseball could never fill. I became passionate about it – So when Brad took me to the KC Wizards vs. Columbus Crew for my Birthday in 2006, and I saw the Cauldron – I was in love (On both accounts).
From there, Brad and I, even when we were super poor, made sure we had money for 4 things – Bills, food, KC Wizards/SKC tickets and movie tickets. We wanted to be there and it was something we did together – Even if our time at Arrowhead and Community America Ballpark – with $1 Hot Dogs.
The Cauldron was an amazing place to be. We didn’t formally join until 2011, after years of creeping closer. We were welcomed with open arms, doing Roadrons, drinking Boulevards and screaming and cheering for 90 minutes. The culture and feelings were remarkable and I could not replace them with anything else.
Leaving Kansas City was hard for many reasons, but leaving our community, tied to Sporting Kansas City, was one of the things that broke my heart the first season away. Between the difficulty to catch the matches (6 p.m. matches start at midnight here, for instance) and my general pain of missing out on all of my favourite moments with amazing friends.
We actively watched English Premier League from the States. We had a pub that would open early on Saturdays/Sundays, serving beers and breakfast to watch the matches. If they didn’t show our match that week, we’d stay home and find a stream online. It was at a reasonable time (Well, usually 6-9 a.m., but you get what I’m saying) and we could easily do it.
But, we haven’t made the leap to go to matches here.
The thing is, there are key differences between the two and the main reason that affects all things is popularity. US Soccer is growing, but it’s still not at the level of NHL or NBA. The teams have evolved to having proper stadiums (Not just playing in NFL stadiums), nurturing their bases and fighting for primetime airing for matches – But even in soccer crazed KC – We are still playing second fiddle to MLB and NFL – and we would be also to the NHL / NBA. if we had those in KC.
Ignoring the general high cost of EPL match tickets, most of the matches are similar to ours.
The main thing to understand, here – EPL is life. I know some people who go to Rugby and Cricket matches, but more than less, most people have an EPL team they follow, whether they are active fans or not.
Which, as interesting as it sounds – can be a problem.
It’s a tribalism thing – Similar to what we have with the NFL – Except, we don’t have a sub-culture of beating up opposing team’s fans.
I’m not bashing any cultural aspects. I understand these rivals go a far way back and to be part of a supporting group for specific teams are a family affair and goes back generations.
I would want my kids to be Sporting KC fans – but if they came home and said they are actually Colorado Rapids fans – I would allow it. *
* Sounders, Timbers or Fire fans are another story and I will no longer have a child.
To be honest, this is one of the reasons why I’m not too keen on going to match. Even though it’s improved over the years due to the influx of tourist fans (Non-Brits coming to here for matches), it’s not something I’m keen on seeing.
The previous incidents are one of the reasons why fans are no longer allowed to drink alcohol at their seats at EPL games. Whereas, that’s not a huge issue for me – because I come to the matches to watch the beautiful game, it would really kill an SKC chant of “Who drinks the beer” if we were cut off from drinking in the cauldron.
It makes me miss the days of MLS, where we ribbed at the fans from Portland, while handing them a beer and a plate of ribs. I mean, yes, they are bastards. But, they are human and not everyone can pick the right team.
At the end of the day, I like the EPL. We’re supporters of a club, which we have been for years and are generally enjoy watching the matches. But, the culture is just different. I don’t feel like I belong to anything anymore and my apprehension to piss off the wrong person over being a determined supporter like I was back home, probably doesn’t help either.
So what do you think – Am I over glorifying MLS by my own cultural experience and giving EPL a bad shake, or am I leaning the general consensus? Let me know.
The featured image is one of our many Cauldron celebrations at a Sporting KC match from 2015.