Friday, 29 April 2011

Total Soccer Magazine

Just wanted to thank Total Soccer Magazine for using The Indecision 2011, my column on picking an English football team. They printed it in 5 parts with the conclusion in Issue #14 (Page 45). Thanks again!

Click here for the link

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

When news first came out that there would be a Michael Jackson statue erected outside of Craven Cottage...I really didn't care that much. It was one of those things that I wouldn't know how I felt until I saw the statue for myself.

The statue went up this weekend and to be honest...it looks pretty terrifying. I remember the walk to Craven Cottage from the Putney Bridge tube stop through Bishops Park along the Riverbank. At night, you just follow the crowd since it's pretty dark. I can't imagine arriving there to see the King of Pop in all his glory staring down at me. In fact...I shiver just thinking about it.


When you own a team...you really own the team. There's nothing anyone can say or do about it. Fulham chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed showed everyone his power by deciding to erect a statue of his close personal friend right outside of Craven Cottage. Fans have been in an uproar over this decision to which Fayed responded that they can "go to hell" or "go to Chelsea." I don't claim to be an expert on customer service and fan relations but I'm guessing this isn't the best way to build fan support at Fulham.


What kind of a relationship did they have anyways? If Fayed had passed away before Jacko did, would there have been a Fayed statue outside of the Neverland Ranch? I just don't get it. I do know that friendship is important and if I had a friend who was a legendary entertainer, using a football team that I owned to honor that friend would probably be the second most selfish thing that I could do besides playing myself at center forward for one season.

Is this the worst thing to happen to one of my teams? I'm not sure. Fulham won 3-0 on Sunday so maybe the Man in the Mirror will be a good luck charm. I'm used to embarrassing situations from my teams. The New York Mets were recently insulted by a cartoon character and the New York Knicks currently play a statue at center named Jared Jeffries.

I guess the Jacko statue seems okay for now. After all, he made Thriller...Thriller.

I just hope this story will not take away from the football that is being played as Fulham looks to finish in the Premier League's top ten.

Surely, this isn't the worst thing Fayed could've done. I mean, who knows, Fayed could decide to have our new kits designed to honor Jacko for next season. I'll just stop giving him ideas right now.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Buying a Jersey

When I was nine years old, I was obsessed with getting a New York Rangers hockey jersey. My friends and I were starting to get into hockey and we loved the Rangers. I remember seeing the Rangers jersey for the first time at a sports apparel shop in Lower Manhattan. I thought the jersey looked really cool with the long sleeves, and the word "Rangers" diagonally across the front.


I begged my mother for the jersey but she didn't want to buy it for me. She didn't see the point in getting a jersey that she thought I would not wear and she didn't know if this hockey obsession was just a phase. I explained to her that I loved hockey, I would wear the jersey to school, and I would wear it whenever I played hockey or went ice skating with my friends. Eventually she gave in and bought it for me and I will always remember that first sports jersey.

Many years later, I still have the same obsession with sports jerseys. It's nice to wear a jersey to represent your favorite team or player. I don't have as many as some of my friends but I have acquired a few random jerseys over the years. One of the things I promised myself after I decided on a new team would be that I would buy a new jersey which was really just an excuse to get something new.

A purchase like this can get pretty expensive. Stores charge an extra fee per letter if you want a player's name embroidered on the back along with the number which also has an extra fee per digit. I was getting Dempsey's name on the back and his name isn't short by any means. I also hate the fact that he chose number 23. Couldn't he have taken a single digit number and saved me a couple pounds? Although it could be worse. Thankfully I didn't become a fan of Dutch footballer Jan Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink who didn't even have the decency to choose a single digit number.


Obviously I'm not nine years old anymore, I don't need to ask my mother for permission to buy a sports jersey. She would have no say in whether or not I could buy a brand new Fulham jersey.

So after my wife gave me permission to buy a Fulham jersey I placed my order online.

I was pretty excited to get this brand new jersey since you know....nothing says "cool" like a middle aged man wearing a funny looking shirt with a number on it, another man's name embroidered on the back and the logo of a corporate sponsor across the chest.

Eventually I'll get some more Fulham apparel, but this new jersey is a good start of representing my new team.

Whatever happened to that New York Rangers jersey, you ask?

I wore it one time (at home). I have never played organized hockey, I don't watch hockey and I've been ice skating about ten times my whole life and every time feels like the first time.

Monday, 14 February 2011

So......close......

Since I made my decision to support Fulham, I have marked down all of the remaining games for the 2011 season to make sure that I follow Fulham as much as possible. Of course the first game that I would be watching as a Fulham supporter would be against my "old" team, Chelsea.

Would I have regrets about picking Fulham? Would Drogba score two goals against Fulham, run over to the corner, point to the camera and say "you picked the wrong team mate." The match would surely test my loyalty and most of all test my wife's patience upon arriving home to hear me say "Happy Valentine's Day, Fulham is playing Chelsea in 15 minutes."

I decided to watch the match at home even though last week tickets were still available. Enticing as it may be to attend a match with 25,000 other raging fans who may or may not have been able to find dates on this night, I decided to save the money for a later match.

I thought about this match all day. I was really looking forward to my first game as a Fulham supporter. I thought I would have mixed feelings but once the match started I knew I had made the right decision because of my anxiety and the feeling of wanting to throw up the entire game that I always get whenever I watch one of my teams. No really, I love sports.

Two surprises as the game began. Drogba was not starting and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was in attendance wearing a gray hoodie.


I could probably come up with a million different jokes on this picture but that will have to be another blog post on its own.

The game was what I expected. I thought the game would either be a 1-1 draw with Chelsea scoring first or a scoreless game. The atmosphere looked and sounded intense at the Cottage as the Chelsea fans did their best to make their presence felt amongst the Fulham supporters. I thought Fulham started the game a little tense but their energy level was high. I was on the edge of my seat for the first half and there was no doubt in my mind, I was happy I chose Fulham.

Chelsea had a few opportunities in the first half with Torres coming close to putting his team up.

At halftime, I felt relieved that the score was still 0-0 and that Fulham had a really good chance of coming out of this match with three points. They had some opportunities and the effort was there. In the second half, Chelsea brought the attack on and Fulham did well to withstand it. There were a couple of moments where Fulham's play from the back looked a little dodgy and Chelsea had their opportunities but could not take advantage.

Clint Dempsey's last minute missed penalty was painful....but it was not new to me. I've felt this pain many times before with the teams that I support.

I'm the person that usually supports teams that are on the losing side of a game winning three point shot in basketball, a walk off home run in baseball, or a miraculous Wayne Rooney bicycle kick. In this case, I'm the person that was supporting the team that had their chances, held their ground and then had one final shot that would have been a great win for the club against their big time neighbors.

I'm used to this feeling. It happens to me and my teams all the time. That's why I felt comfortable choosing a team that played hard and had its chances. A team like Fulham.

I just hope they felt comfortable with me choosing them.

*Next post - I'll discuss the new Fulham jersey I purchased today. Do you even need to guess who's name is on the back of the jersey?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Inauguration or The Vow?

The Inauguration?

I, Kent, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend Fulham Football Club, inside and outside of London, that I will bear true faith and allegiance as a supporter; that I will utilize this blog freely to give perspective and opinion from a fan's viewpoint living in the U.S., while watching as many matches as possible live or on digital video recording; and that I will well and faithfully uphold the spirit and passion associated with being a supporter of Fulham FC and all things related to football. So help me Johnny Haynes.

or.....The Vow?

I, Kent, take you, Fulham FC, to be my team. I promise to be true to you in wins, losses, or draws, at half time, full time and stoppage time. I will support you and honor you all the days of my life. I, Kent, take you, Fulham FC, for my team, to have and to follow, from this day forward, for the Premier League, for Championship League, until <insert something less creepy than death> do us part.


I think The Inauguration is probably the way to go.  Especially since I started with The Indecision.  The Vow seemed too creepy.

The important message I'm trying to get out is that I'm continuing with this blog.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Indecision 2011 - Part IV

If you're just getting to this blog for the first time, check out the links for Part I, Part II, and Part III of The Indecision 2011 as I tried to figure out which English Football team to support.

So there are two teams left. Chelsea and Fulham. I'll get straight to the point. Fulham's my team. How many of you thought I would pick Fulham? How many of you are still reading this?

First, let's take a look at...

2. Chelsea -- I still like this team in many ways even though they won't be getting my full support. I'll still keep the blue Chelsea #3 jersey (Ashley Cole) that I have as a keepsake like most psychotic people do after break-ups and keep articles of clothing or locks of hair of their ex's.

One of the biggest rubs that people have against this team is their owner, Roman Abramovich. From over-spending each year on new players to allegations of criminal activity in Russia, this guy's got it all. You know what? He never bothered me for a second. I actually like him. For two reasons:

A) The owner of my favorite team, the New York Knicks is Jim Dolan. Dolan (this sorry bloke pictured on the left) is hands down the most incompetent, clueless, worst owner in sports.  He was handed control of the Knicks in 1999 and has run the team into the ground since. With the help of former team president, Isiah Thomas, they found new ways to humiliate themselves every year from team issues, media conflicts, and lawsuits from former employees.

After Isiah Thomas was forced to leave a little over two years ago, the team finally started to make its way back with the help of new team president, Donnie Walsh. The team is doing well again and Donnie Walsh's contract is up for renewal this summer. You would think it would be an easy decision to extend his contract right? Wrong. Nothing is ever easy with Jim Dolan. Every time I hear a rumor that he may bring Isiah Thomas back as team president, I just get sick to my stomach. I just can't handle "Isiah Thomas" the sequel. If that happens, I may be forced to drop the Knicks and adopt a 2nd English football team.

Since I just ruptured a vein in my brain while typing that last paragraph, I'm not even going to get into the owner of the New York Mets, Fred Wilpon.  In short, he pretty much runs his franchise as poorly as Dolan, the only differences are he invested millions of dollars into the largest Ponzi scheme in history and he doesn't play in a band.

Let's just say, with these two owners running two of my favorite teams, Abramovich never seemed that bad to me.

B) The other reason I like Abramovich - anyone who can run this type of bill at an Italian restaurant in New York is a hero of mine, and not just because he spent $28 on 2 chunks of Parmesan Cheese.

I've looked at this receipt time and time again and it never gets old for me. It's just fascinating and brings up so many questions:
  • Did the waiter ask if he wanted tap or bottled when he ordered the $12 bottle of water?
  • How did the waiter spend his $7328.20 tip?
  • The time on this bill is 14:39pm.  What did he do for the rest of the day after that?  Prepare for a $100k dinner?
  • It says 6 customers on the receipt.  Who were those 5 other people?  Were they business associates?  Was he entertaining FIFA officials?  Or was it just Abramovich eating by himself while two prostitutes, his driver, his lawyer, and his bodyguard just stood behind the table with bread and water?




So besides the owner, what else is there to like about this team for me?  I already mentioned that they have my favorite player in Didier Drogba.  They will always challenge Manchester United and they are pretty close to where we live in London.  (Stamford Bridge is 5.5 miles away, Emirates Stadium is 3.3 miles away).  Abramovich will keep them in contention every year due to his lavish spending.

However, they failed one really important test.  I don't like them as a TEAM.  If Didier Drogba left this team tomorrow, I wouldn't care about Chelsea....which is why I started this search for a new team in the first place.  I just don't like the way they play and I don't like any of the other players.  Even with the recent acquisition of Fernando Torres which was a great move for the team, the older players, and Drogba, I still didn't feel any different about this club.  I attended Chelsea vs Bolton a couple of months ago and I remember being at Stamford Bridge thinking to myself  "this isn't my team."  I knew right away.

One important note -- two of my friends here in London, Nico P. and Mark M. who are also Chelsea fans applied the pressure on me to support their team.  They were the only ones that I talked to during this process that wanted me to join their fold.  Is it because they feel lonely as Chelsea fans?  Is it because no one else wanted me to soil their team's fan base by joining their ranks?  I'll never know....

1. Fulham -- The first thing you're thinking is "he picked Fulham because of Dempsey."  I have really enjoyed watching Clint "Deuce" Dempsey play for Fulham.  He's not the best player in the world or as skillful as the other star players in the Premier League.  However, you know he'll always try and always give it everything he's got and that's all you can really ask for.  If the second thing you're thinking is "oh, you're just saying that because you guys are American."  Well you're wrong.  Any fan of football knows this guy plays hard.  Do I like the way he plays just because he's American?  No.  Does it make me feel proud that he's well respected, plays hard and he's American?  Yes.  Big difference. 


I know there's a good chance that Dempsey could move on to a bigger club.  So if anything, knowing this actually helped me pick Fulham as a team because it made me focus on other factors of choosing which team to support.

When I was planning out which games to attend, I knew that the team that I would end up supporting would be the team that I enjoyed being at the game the most.  I thought it would be Chelsea or Arsenal.  Not once did I ever think it would be Fulham.  Going back to Part I of the blog when I said how kids don't put as much thought into things and they just pick a team based on players.  They get brainwashed instantly at their first Yankees game or the first time they go to a basketball game.  I guess the kid in me is no different.  We saw Fulham vs West Brom and it was great.  Fulham won 3-0, Craven Cottage is a great place to watch a game, the Fulham and West Brom fans were lively, we had great seats, and watching Clint Dempsey score this goal was the highlight of my English football tour.

video

Yes, that's me letting out a big "ooh" as Dempsey came across the box on the corner kick.

Fulham met the criteria that I was looking for in one way or another.  They're the oldest professional football team in London, they play solid football, I like them as a team, and I didn't want them to lose.

My top 3 teams have changed several times in the past couple of weeks between Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham.  It pretty much got to the point where it seemed like I was looking for reasons to not pick Fulham.  However, none of those reasons mattered to me.  Let's take a look at the case against Fulham:

Television Coverage in the States:  This was brought up by several people when I asked what team to support.  I think this factor is really overrated.  Fulham will be on tv enough when they play the bigger names like Manchester United, Chelsea and the other big teams.  If I really wanted to, I'm sure I could watch it online.  Besides, there are tons of games and its not like people watch every single minute of every game every season.  Being a grown man and watching every single minute of every single game in one season doesn't mean you're a great fan, it just means you're psychotic, don't have anything to do outdoors and live in a city where there is only 5 hours of sunlight.

Clint Dempsey: As I said earlier, it wouldn't surprise me if Dempsey moved on to another team.  Players have been changing teams for years.  Obviously I hope he'll stay but it doesn't change my mind about anything with this team.  I liked enough of the guys overall from Damien Duff to Brede Hangeland to Andy Johnson and Simon Davies to still have an interest in this team if Dempsey got a better deal elsewhere.  

Winning: You're also saying right now "I thought you wanted to be happy watching your team instead of being miserable?"  Well, to be fair....I don't think it's always about winning or losing.  If that was the case, I would just sell out and support Manchester United, the New York Yankees and move to Brazil and become a citizen just in time for the next World Cup.  We live in a world where there is too much emphasis placed on winning a game and not enough on how a game is won.

As I said earlier, I thought the team would be Chelsea or Arsenal.  Three people helped me come to my decision in choosing Fulham:
  1. Lebron James --  The best basketball player in the world changed teams last summer because he couldn't handle the pressure that came with being the best basketball player in the world.  Because of him, I realized that I didn't need to front run with one of the bigger teams in the Premier League.
  2. West Brom & Aston Villa fans --  Both groups of fans traveled 5 hours and 3 hours round trip respectively to Fulham and Manchester United to see their teams get spanked.  They were lively the entire game, and both games were on a weeknight no less.  Their dedication shows that it's not always about winning or losing but enjoying the ride that comes with supporting your team.
  3. Tom L -- My football soul-mate in a not-in-any-way-shape-or-form-are-we-a-Brokeback-Mountain-couple.  I asked him who he thought I was going to pick.  He said, "Arsenal.  You just can't bring yourself to pick Chelsea."  This guy knows me better than most people.  I'm not sure if he said that just to mind-screw me into not picking Chelsea.  I wouldn't be surprised if that was his plan.  No, seriously, we're not a couple and we both have terrific wives, thanks for asking.  
He actually went through the same process that I've gone through.  He spent time in London for university a while back and then he eventually decided on supporting Everton.  (It only took about 10 years for him to decide).

We haven't really discussed it yet but I'm pretty sure the reasons I picked Fulham are the same reasons he picked Everton.



It actually works out perfectly because Fulham and Everton are the same type of team, always in the middle of the pack in the standings with Everton having some nice finishes in the past 10 years. 

I know Fulham's chances of winning the Premier League are not as good as the other bigger clubs.  It doesn't bother me.  They will still compete and try hard and that's all that matters. 

Call us boring for not picking one of the Big 4 teams that will contend most years for the League Title and the Champions League but you know what?  At least we're original.

So there you have it.  Fulham is the pick.  Back to New York in a month with a new team.    Thanks for reading.

COYW!!!!!

The Indecision 2011 - Part III

Here are the links to Part I and Part II just in case you missed it.

In the U.S. and around the world, most fans generally like one of the big teams: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, or Arsenal.  Since I've been in London, I've had the privilege to work with some great people at Matchbox Magazine and Equipio. I've asked everyone about the team they support.  It's been very refreshing to meet fans of some of the smaller clubs like Aston Villa, Wolverhampton, Sunderland, Middlesborough and Reading.  It's a nice change to talk football with someone that's not a fan of one of the Big 4 which brings me to the 4th team to be eliminated from my list.

4. Manchester United -- The most popular football team in the world and the favorite team for most of my football friends back in New York.  The club has everything.  They have a great history, tradition, manager, team, and fan base.  They are always on tv back in the States so following them would not be hard.  The majority of the games that I watch at Nevada Smith's (The famous soccer pub) in New York are Manchester United games.  I made the pilgrimage up to Old Trafford to see Manchester United play Aston Villa.  Tons of fans showed up early to see the stadium and we were treated to a nice game with Wayne Rooney scoring 2 goals.  In many ways, this team resembles the type of team that I liked in Chelsea a couple of years ago.  They have a bunch of guys I like,  a good striker in Rooney, good defenders in Ferdinand and Vidic, and solid all around players in Park and Hernandez.



The day after the match, I was able to check out the museum and take the tour of Old Trafford.  It was definitely a great experience and I would recommend it to any football fan.

So what's the problem?  Why are they eliminated here?

If I was born into this team, like my friend's son Alex, as his father will pass all of his Manchester United jerseys down to him, I wouldn't have a problem with liking Manchester United.  However, to actually go through the process of picking a team and then pick the best team out there?  I just can't do it.

Before the game against Aston Villa, I was walking around Old Trafford and I called up my buddy in New York to tell him what the entire scene reminded me of.  Those of you who follow sports like I do know where I'm going with this.  Walking around Old Trafford, seeing all the fans, taking in the atmosphere and the vibe in the air felt like I was at a Yankees game.  I know it's great to like a team that wins all the time but you know what's even greater than that?  When the team that wins all the time loses.  Manchester United....you were great to me but I can't root for you.   


*As I was typing this, one of the members on my panel of experts emailed me back with a very impressive and lengthy analysis on what team I should pick.  He told me to pick Tottenham (just like everyone else) and to not pick Manchester United (his team).

His reason for me to not pick Manchester United: "You want to avoid looking like a glory hunting wank of the highest order."  Done and done.  Thank you Rory D.   Rory was also very adamant about not supporting the next team, and to his credit, everything he said was right.  That team is.....

3. Arsenal -- I'll admit it, I was really attracted to this team right when we got to London.  When they're playing well, their style of play is great and they always have really good young players year in year out.  Samir Nasri is just about to wrestle my Favorite Player Title away from Drogba.  I think I watch his Youtube videos 4-5 times a week.  If I could form a starting 11 of my current favorite players in the Premier League, it would look like this:



Forwards - Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Mario Balotelli, Asamoah Gyan, Carlos Tevez
Midfielders - Samir Nasri, Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey, Ji-Sung Park
Defenders - Nemanja Vidic
GK - If the Premier League allowed me to play with a rush keeper, I would.  For now I'll pick Tim Howard.

(Yes, I'm quite aware that my dream team has 5 forwards but it's my dream team so I'll play a 1-4-5 if I want to.)  

As much as I like Nasri, I can't fall into the same trap here in liking a team for one player.  It also doesn't bode well for Arsenal that as much as I like Nasri, every time I see Fabregas I want to eye gouge him until he drops. 

If I could form a starting 11 of all the players I currently hate right now, it would look like this

Forwards - Fabregas, Fabregas, Van Persie
Midfielders - Fabregas, Nani, Nani
Defenders - Fabregas, Nani, Fabregas, Nani
GK - Mario Materazzi.  I couldn't think of a goalkeeper that I hate so I would import Materazzi in from Italy to get drilled by my team of heroes.

So if you're keeping score, I really don't like Fabregas and Van Persie for Arsenal or Nani for Manchester United.  Quite fitting that these guys and teams got eliminated together in Part III of The Indecision.  



One final point about Arsenal.  The snood.  I'm 100% against the snood.  What's next?  Earmuffs?  My college coach didn't want us wearing gloves or a t-shirt under our jersey and we once played a game in the snow at a school called "Frostburg State University."

Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger insists his players only wear the neck-warmers to help with injury prevention.

You know what also helps with injury prevention?  Growing a sack.  Take the snood off.  It's football.


Two teams left.  Who will it be?

Here's Part IV