ARMCHAIR FAN

I missed the FA Cup tie the other week against Manchester City. Not that I’m complaining too much.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Manchester City v Chelsea - Etihad Stadium

 

Every week for years now, I’ve gone to Finn McCool’s Irish Pub here in New Orleans to watch Chelsea, even though many games were on the cable package I had at home. As I’m sure I don’t need to explain to anyone, being at the pub is always better. And I mean because of the atmosphere and being with your fellow supporters, not because of the beer.

But for a variety of reasons, including the twilight years of my own football career, my high school coaching, and my daughter starting to play the sport, I haven’t been for months now. So I’ve been catching matches at home when I can.
In the old days out here in the colonies, there was Fox Soccer Channel which showed the Premier League and the FA Cup, Setanta for the League Cup, and ESPN for the Champions League. You knew where you stood.

But then Fox lost some rights, gained some others, the same thing happened to ESPN, and you didn’t know what was on what. FSC is no more, broadcast giants NBC took over as the main supplier to us football / soccer junkies, and it’s all terribly confusing to an old man like me.
So after watching my six-year-old play up front for her side (two games, no goals, they are the West Ham of the under-8 New Orleans league) I rushed home to see the FA Cup contest – only to find it was on Fox Sports 2, a channel I apparently don’t have. I then tried to follow it on Radio 5 Live on the BBC website, but that didn’t work either. So instead I was reduced to keeping up with what was happening via live updates on the site. That always reminds me of Gary Lineker’s quote from the eighties that the best way to watch Wimbledon was with Teletext.

But the point is that the channel swapping and differing cable companies and switching rights and what have you, means something. It means that TV stations are aware that football / soccer is a game with a growing following.

When I first arrived in the Land of the Free a decade ago, football was a quirky European / Hispanic sport, banished to a channel at the bottom of the cable grid. Most bars, pubs and drinking establishments of any description wouldn’t carry it, never mind the thought of actually being able to watch a match in your own living room.But things have changed.

Some matches are on regular network TV, others are on the main sports channels, and every single premier league game can be streamed live on the web. The great American public want to watch football.

This is a good thing. But it’s a bad thing that I get mixed up and can’t keep track of who is showing what. And maybe it’s a sign from God that I should return to going to the pub every week…

Stephen Rea is the author of the book Finn McCool’s Football Club, a tale of supporting Chelsea from the United States, the formation of a pub football team in New Orleans and the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina on that city. Visit his site here: www.stephen-rea.com or friend him at www.facebook.com/stevorea

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