Thursday, May 27, 2010

Up Wolves!

I am a fan of the Wolverhampton Wanderers of the English Premiere League. (soccer)

How did I become a fan? Well, I'd been getting geared up for the 2010 FIFA World Cup by watching an increasing amount of soccer on the Fox Soccer Channel (check local listings. Given that the EPL is one of the top leagues in the world, FSC shows a good number of their matches.

I've always enjoyed watching soccer, but in the past was generally limited to the World Cup. A few MLS matches have graced my screen, but I find it hard to really get into it. The stands are more empty than full, the fields are always lined for something else and the television productions are second or third rate. Between all that and the fact that it's not soccer being played at the highest level, I tend to lose interest. Honestly, I don't hold out much hope that the MLS will ever compete with the European leagues, though I think it can and will get better. It just strikes me that MLS suffer in comparison to European Leagues the way Japanese baseball does to MLB, the Canadian Football League does to the NFL, Euro Basketball does to the NBA, etc.

So I figured to really become a proper fan, I needed to pick a league to follow, then a team. It's not that I won't watch and follow some other leagues (Go Revs!) but it's always easier, i think, to learn from the experience of one team. I tell people that want to learn about NASCAR to pick a single driver and learn from them. You'll pick up other stuff while you watch, but you won't be overwhelmed if you focus mainly on one driver, rather than the entire field.

The EPL seemed a logical choice for a league, but what team? I traded messages with my nephew a bit, because he's a fan of West Ham in the EPL. He became a fan because when he was younger, his dad went to England, saw a West Ham game and brought back a shirt and program for his son.

So, over the course of a week or so, I picked the Wolverhampton Wanderers to be my team. Here was the logic I gave my nephew:

"Why Wolverhampton? Some randomness, some reasons. They have a long history. I don't feel like I'd be cherry picking from "the big four" or other current top teams. Good logo. Cool name. They just got back in the EPL and appear to be building. They've got an Irish manager and some Irish players and a stadium with a French name. (me being Irish/French)

Their academy produced Robbie Keane and some other notables. Their u17 team is World Youth Cup Champions. And I like Orange.

I didn't study all the teams. Some I ditched for dumb reasons. Like I said, I may switch teams as I get more into it. But it's easier to get into it when you can learn from one team.

Plus, we can see who makes more progress next year, West Ham or the Wolves, since they finished 17/15 this year. They split their two games last season, each winning on the road."

So, like Robert Plant, I am now a fan of "Wolves." Timing was a bit dodgy (yes, I'm going to start using English phrasing when discussing soccer) as the season was just ended when I settled on Wolves. But it gives me plenty of time to brush up before the next season starts in the fall.

Until then, I've also been following the UEFA Champions League (jumped on at the end of the semis) and getting excited for the World Cup.

I'll try to post updates on Wolverhampton team news and my learning curve as it goes along. First tidbit to share is that Wolves regular keeper (translation: goaltender), Marcus Hahnemann, is on the US World Cup team. He's not expected to start, but it's still a nice honor.

Right, then. Carry on.

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