I should get chided for doing this at such an opportune time as two of the professional sports teams I support are in the negatives. Regardless, the last few months, which have been difficult to bear, reminded me of what is commonly shouted, not chanted, at Chelsea Football Club supporters by opposing fans: “Where were you when you were shit?”
The question the opposing fans so eloquently put it is why all of a sudden does a club like Chelsea have so many backers when they used to be, well, “shit” (prior to the mid-nineties Chelsea was a mediocre team with some success during the 1960’s and early 1970’s). Now, a lot of this vitriol can be explained by the excessive number of people who don’t like Chelsea or other big clubs. Most teams aren’t as good as Chelsea and never will be. That’s pretty straightforward. (yeah, that’s right – never be scared to throw a punch when your back is against the wall).
These same insults can be flung at other teams that have accumulated a large fan base in recent years. The New England Patriots and Kansas City Royals come to mind. I’m aware of the blatantly obvious example of the Toronto Blue Jays of late, but I’m a Jays fan and have been since I was old enough to understand baseball so I don’t mind Toronto folks getting wired up for a playoff run that lasted as long as it did. Why the team celebrated like they did after winning one series is still beyond me.
People will offer as much effort in supporting a club, in whichever sport, as they feel and there’s no disputing that. However, the people that don’t participate at all, do the bare minimum at best, or totally hop on the Blue Jays bandwagon are missing out on days, nights, weeks, months, years of pain, excitement and, if you’re lucky, happiness. There are trade-offs around every god damn corner. These emotions ain’t no joke. When Chelsea beat your team from two goals down, away, you’ll certainly feel it. Anyway, what I’ve just mentioned is actually part of the contract you sign when you order your first kit from the UK or jersey from the United States. If you’re serious, this will be one of the most important purchases of your life. Only thing missing is your finger dipped in blood.
Too often people lose interest when their team can’t put the ball in the end zone or has their starting number one chased after two innings, or who can’t win a game in overtime, ever. Well the team sucks so I don’t care anymore. It’s so easy to do and on an emotional level it seems like the appropriate option. Why let some team that never wins bring you down or ruin your day. Well strap on your skates Gordie because I’ll tell you why.
There’s more to saying you’ll support a team. There’s a level of commitment that takes time to develop. If you throw on a Manchester United kit and they lose at home the next Saturday morning to Aston Villa over a dodgy pen you can’t take off the jersey and start cheering for Chelsea instead. You take the loss on the chin. It can be brutal. For instance, the final whistle after a Chelsea home defeat ignites a chorus of messages from friends and loved ones who decided to hit send on the text they’ve been planning for the last 45 minutes. I respond. Eventually. And I always will.
Warning. This level of support gets emotional at times, and there is a very real chance you will end up supporting a team that starts to lose. Penalties, cards, power plays, runners on the corners, these things suddenly matter a lot more. As difficult as it might be to pull for a team that’s in the dump and proudly show off your scarf, don’t quit. I’ve read that our habits show our character and dedicating yourself to supporting a team and not selling the farm after a bad stretch says a lot about someone. However, if you do decide to drop off your United or Liverpool jacket at Value Village and buy some Chelsea gear I won’t hold it against you … at first.
As of today, six different individuals have sent me their “condolences” over the past month. It’s been an educational experience since Chelsea has been so good for so long. I know it’s temporary and I’ve kept up my confidence (as you can see). We are constantly tasked with things that test our resolve. Relationships can fall apart and we move on. People change careers or tire from doing daily habits. If you do it right, the support you have for your team may be the only thing that lasts your entire life. Think about it and keep your phone close by. I’ll be in touch.