Days before the start of the Premier League season

The world is far too serious right now and I just spent 30-days of intense learning and self-discovery in my altMBA course… I am happy that my beloved Manchester City Football Club and the Premier League will be returning this weekend. The season ended a short 90-days ago when the dreaded Chelsea lifted their second Championship in three seasons. Chelsea restored order and narrative of only the big, rich teams winning after the insane, bizarre victory of Leicester City the previous season .

My team, Manchester City, sporting the coach the’d been after for 3 years, Pep Guardiola, had a disappointing season. Pep is considered one of the great managers in world football after his previous stops with boyhood club Spanish world power Barcelona and the venerable German titans Bayern Munich. Wherever he went, his teams would win. Pep is a football idealist. He believes if he can’t win the way he wants to play, then it isn’t worth winning. Pep believes in free flowing, expressive, attacking football as described by Johan Cruyff.  Cruyff is an important figures in football history for his play, but more importantly his philosophy. His philosophy and Pep’s idealism are captured in this piece; The Church of Cruyff

Football came to me late in life. I didn’t play as a kid and only knew about it thru the lens of my Anglophile musical tastes. Specifically, my tastes took me to Manchester. Manchester is not just a musical hotbed in England but also its football home. As I followed bands like The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, thu to New Order, The Smiths, on to Madchester era bands like 808 State, Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, I got deeper into the culture of the bands, the clothes they wore, the music they liked, the FOOTBALL teams they supported. I found out that Johnny Marr from The Smiths had a trial with City. I found out that the “real” Manchester folks were City fans and trying to live in that world, I said I was a City fan too. I had not seen the team, didn’t know their history, but when the table was published by the New York Times once a week, I looked at the table to see where they were…. that was the extent of my football fandom for City.

The games weren’t on TV much and if they were on, it was Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool that were televised. I had watched some football in England when I visited in college… but that was just Match of the Day. So I was a football fan, as much as I was aware and I was a City fan if someone asked who I supported, but it was in name only.

Football came and went, World Cups… France winning in 1998, France losing in 2006 come to mind, but Premier League football was not something that was in my life on a regular basis. I watched a few Champions League Finals. Barcelona v Manchester United comes to mind. And Messi became a thing to talk about. My friends and I played around with nostalgic forays into football and my dear friend Fred, kept the annual tradition of “Hooligan Day” going, where we pretended to be casuals and proper lads, but it was a show.

I had been watching a game here and there and I liked it, but wasn’t committed. That changed in 2011-12 season. I had been hearing rumblings of City getting better but I was not up on football. They were moving up the table, had won the FA Cup the year before, but soccer was not on the brain…. but that changed.

I can’t say why, what happened or what it was…. but I connected with the team…maybe early that season. I think it was because of Mario Balotelli; an African-Italian. He was adopted by an Italian family and he was just eye catching. His look, his swagger, the fact that he was BLACK and ITALIAN, just made him something… I began to tune in for him… then the games themselves… and it all grew… culminating in the greatest Premier League moment in history… just known as “The Aguero Goal”

It gives me goosebumps to this day, and I didn’t know at the time, and this is not hyperbole, it changed my life. From that moment on…. I have not missed a Premier League game Manchester City has played. NOT ONE.

The goal coincided with lots of things happening… the Premier League was on more often, it would get picked up by NBC and EVERY game was on. I would never miss a game again. I took a job where I was working with the Premier League… My love of baseball was waning. I had room for a new sports passion… everything happened. I had so many experiences of AWARENESS of fandom.

It’s very rare that you can consciously have fandom happening… but something about the ball moving, the green of the pitch… the TENSION of waiting for goals… the ritual of making an effort to watch games that came on at 8 am… something… made it stick… Now, City is part of my life… I feel grateful and odd… I have a very strange relationship with fandom… I am always embarrassed by my fandom; as though, I’m a smart person, I shouldn’t be wasting my time with sport… That’s a post for another day!

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