How to Become a Premier League Fan Without Becoming an Asshole
How to enjoy the English Premier League without becoming "that guy."
Image via Complex Original
For as long as I can remember, there have been four major sports in America—football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. I was never a big fan of the latter two, but I always respected their place near the top the totem pole of athletics in this country. Over the past several years, though, this longstanding hegemony has been challenged.
Three years ago, the largest association football league in the world, the Premier League, sold its television rights to NBC Sports, providing tens of millions of Americans access to matches once reserved for top-flight cable packages. Since then, U.S. viewership of the league has increased by 234 percent, with more viewers on average tuning into the 380 weekly matches broadcasted on NBC, NBCSN, and NBCSports.com (514,000 per match) than the regular season NHL games televised on those networks (503,000 per game). Indeed, the most-viewed league in the world is also one of the fastest-growing in the American market.
Perhaps you have friends who have already been indoctrinated into the dedicated religion that is the Premier League. Maybe you’d like to join them before the new nine-month campaign begins this Saturday, but you don’t know where to begin, who to root for, or whether or not it’s okay to refer to the sport as soccer.
You’re not alone. In fact, that’s exactly where I was earlier this summer, when a week-long trip to Ireland that happened to coincide with the Euro 2016 tournament turned my latent interest in association football into an insatiable itch. Two months later, I’m still clumsily working my way through the basic details of the league and its clubs, history, and culture.
Because of my nascent understanding of the Premier League and crippling fear of judgment, I’ve attempted to navigate this path while avoiding coming across like a dumb American asshole as best as possible. It’s difficult, though, because when it comes to the sport, I am a dumb American asshole. When I hear the name Ronaldo, the first thing that pops into my mind is the surname Balkman. If a player isn’t a mainstay on the international teams I play as on FIFA, I probably haven’t heard of them. And I can’t help but call it offsides. Every. Single. Goddamn. Time. Through my trials and errors, I’ve learned a great deal, and for those of you who wish to join me in taking the Premiership plunge here is my advice. This is How to Become a Premier League Fan Without Becoming an Asshole.