Sports aren’t really a good topic to dedicate a tumblr post, but I can’t sleep because I can’t keep the words out of my head: Manchester City are the champions of England.
Context: I first became a City fan before the start of the 2004-05 season. This coincides with the time I first discovered a love for soccer. I went to Europe that summer for a music tour, and during my stay there the Euro 2004 tournament was going on. We watched the games because, well, it was sport, and we didn’t have to understand the language of the commentary to understand what was going on in the game. I loved watching this French guy play, he seemed to play with such grace and I had no idea how he did the things he did with a soccer ball. That guy’s name was Zinedine Zidane, only one of the best soccer players of all time (headbutt in the 06 WC Final not withstanding). This was the Euro tournament where lowly Greece, which had never won anything before, won the whole damned tournament. I still remember the reactions of all the people in the lobby of that Swiss hotel we were at when Greece scored the only goal of that final game.
Naturally, I needed a team to root for. And since I was a huge Oasis fan at the time, and the Gallaghers always talked about their love for their hometown team Manchester City, it seemed natural for me to adopt them. I could see all the parallels with my current fandoms, particularly my love for the Baltimore Orioles. City were the Orioles… they had last won the league in 1968 (Orioles: 1983… more recent, but still before I was born)… they had a hated rival who won everything all the time in Manchester United (Orioles: the Yankees)… they had fallen on rough times (Orioles: no winning seasons since 97)… passionate and fiercely dedicated fan bases.
I tried to follow City as much as I could. I saw their middle-of-the-road records every year and the sometimes excruciating losses. I saw whatever games they played on ESPN, which were admittedly not many.
I saw them get bought by an ownership group from Abu Dhabi and pour hundreds of millions of dollars into top flight talent. I had dreams of the Orioles undergoing the same miraculous turn of fate.
In one year, they made the turn to respectable. The next year, they nearly got themselves into the Champions League (excruciatingly losing their place on the last game of the season). The next year, I watched them beat Stoke City for the FA Cup, their first trophy since 1969, and finally qualify for the Champions League.
And this year, I saw them storm out of the gate and fumble away their lead over United. I despaired seeing them down 8 points with 6 games left. I saw them pull even with United. I saw them beat United to overtake them.
And on May 13th, 2012, I witnessed the most exhilarating sports game of my entire life.
When QPR scored their second goal to take the lead I was angry and melancholy. I believed that my personal sports experience would be defined by this. Only once have I ever seen my team win a championship, and that’s all I would ever see in my lifetime. The 2001 Ravens Super Bowl win would be the first and only time I got to feel the incredible high of winning the biggest game.
At the 90 minute mark, I was crushed.
At the 92nd minute, I saw Edin Dzeko score a goal. 2-2. I was given a glimmer of hope. My hopes were cynical, at best. Perhaps they would defy my past experiences and do it.
At the 94th minute, I was screaming at my television, in utter disbelief at what I had just seen. Sergio Aguero had just put in the game winner. I didn’t know what to do. I could’ve done just about anything at that moment. Run outside my back porch and just run around the backyard screaming. As it happened, I think I just screamed and had spasms on my couch.
Today, I saw Manchester City become the EPL champions. And today, I learned why sports are so important to so many people around the world. There are people that don’t understand why this is.
It seems so stupid to be so attached to a team playing a simple game. And to get all worked up when your team loses. It’s just a game, right?
It is just a game, and it is stupid to take it personally when your team loses. It’s also stupid to derive such a sense of complete and total euphoria when your team wins.
But that’s just the irrational nature of being a sports fan.
And after experiencing the irrational sadness day after day, year after year, since 2001, today I got to experience the total opposite.
And this is what will keep me a sports fan for the rest of my life.