Finding America

Me and Tarah

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Apparently, there are people who don’t get excited when their home-town NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL franchise take to the field, court, diamond, or ice…unbelievable, right? How can you not get excited about tapping in to the fellowship of fans supporting your local team? Well, America has made that quite easy, actually.

In the past 100 years or so, over 60 NFL, NBA, MLB teams have relocated to other cities and, in most instances, to other states, some teams more than once. In at least one instance (Montreal Expos, please step forward) a team has jumped the border to a different country altogether. Moves often lead to new expansion teams taking the original team's place. However, some of those expansion teams have then also moved.

Whilst considering this phenomenon in North America, let’s also explore if it exists elsewhere, specifically for the sake of convenience where I’m originally from, England. 

Football — adorably termed “soccer” stateside — the world’s most popular sport, has been in existence for over 150 years. You can count on the fingers of one hand how many English football teams have moved from within 10 miles of their original ground in that time. The same is true of the ‘other football’, Rugby League and Rugby Union, in which relocation is almost unheard of.

So, whilst American pro sports teams flit from coast to coast, why have their British counterparts doggedly clung to the same post-code for the past century and a half? Having grown up an English football fan, I can confidently submit to you a singular suggestion, a single word in fact: pride. A true, hard-core, woven-in-to-the-DNA type of pride.

Your team is your tribe in England, but more than that it was your father’s tribe, your grandfather’s tribe and more than likely his father’s tribe, too. Your team is of its town. It’s as a river or a mountain or any other immovable, inscrutable aspect of the local landscape. To betray that, either as an owner or as a fan — as demonstrated on those handful of rare occasions — is unforgivable.

American college football for a long time confused me. How were colleges filling stadiums with 100,000 people for games? These aren’t pros, they aren’t superstars, they’re just kids! When I played soccer for my college team back in England, we were lucky if four people showed up to watch us – luckier still if you knew any of them. They were mostly people just out walking their dogs through the park. But now I finally understand the appeal of American college football. Just as with professional football back in England, it’s about pride.

Pride isn’t represented by a t-shirt or a baseball cap or a bumper sticker, but resides in the hearts of the local people. I’d submit that wherever in the world sport is played, not just in America or England, that which fuels the fans’ passion more than anything else, makes the enjoyment of watching it so great, the agony of defeat so devastating, and the ecstasy of victory so overwhelming is pride, rooted in community and spanning generations.

Denver Broncos, please don’t go anywhere.

Laurence is touring America! Help fund his YouTube travel series by becoming a patron!

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 16 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or listened to on the Whistle Stop Week (@WSWShow), a news comedy podcast he hosts.

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