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Scene Beat Abroad

Chris McGrady | Monday, September 4, 2006

In the center of London roved four Americans: three of my best friends and myself. Armed with a pint, a camera and a pocket full of hopes and dreams, my mates and I sought an English experience that was quintessential in its identity, superior in its “English-ness” and, perhaps most importantly of all, cheap.

Loathsome of the touristy nature of Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey, we set out in search of a real-English experience, something to really write home about. A place where maybe for a moment, we could set ourselves apart from our American identities and thrive in a culture so very different from our own.

OK. Fat chance.

Vehemently seeking to lose ourselves in a throng of English-types, we arrived at Craven Cottage, the stadium for the Fulham Football Club. Once there, it was painfully obvious to every one that we were the token Americans. In fact, the idiocy of Americans (or perceived idiocy) may be no more evident than at a football match.

Everyone in the stadium immediately knew we were American, no matter how hard we tried. First of all, just take into account the fact that Americans most definitely do not speak English. We speak – well – American.

For example, translate the following sentence: “The Gaffer made a cheeky move in extra-time, sending off the left striker, so adept at selling the dummy, in favor of another middy who, despite a productive Cup, couldn’t seem to finish the sitter. You have to wonder if he is match-fit.”

Yes, this is just one example of the typical English jargon that my friends and I were left to interpret. Needless to say, it didn’t go well.

The sentence translates to this: “The coach made an intriguing move in over-time, substituting the left forward, who is very good at faking people out, in favor of a midfielder, who despite playing well in the World Cup, couldn’t even score with the ball sitting on the goal line just waiting to be put in. You have to question if he is in shape.” But it is about more than the language – it is about the very level to which these fans take their fanaticism.

Only America has truly failed to embrace the sport of football – or soccer. However, in England and around the world, it is not only fervently adored, but is even more so a way of life. To them, sport isn’t a facet of life, it is life. For my friends and me, this was truly something to behold.

Utmost importance is placed on football and the cheers and events surrounding it. We sat near a group of hooligans who could teach even the most hardcore Notre Dame fans a bit about dedication. So deep are the roots of Fulham fans that included in the programs sold during the match – alongside rosters, biographies and statistics – are obituaries. These people literally live and die for their teams.

Almost every person has a team that is “theirs,” and year in and year out, rain or shine, these people eat, sleep and breathe football. But one thing struck me as Notre Dame prepared for kickoff this weekend against Georgia Tech and 100 Notre Dame students packed a bar until 5:30 a.m. to catch the game. I started to realize that maybe, despite a thousand things that set us apart, we aren’t so different after all.