Voice of America:How I got my buddies to choose Sunderland above Liverpool

Regular contributor Robert Simmons continues his mission to turn as many American citizens as possible into die hard Mackems.

I think it’s beginning to happen. I honestly never expected it to, and I certainly didn’t expect it to happen this quickly. I think American fans of European football are coming around to the idea that there is more to the beautiful game than supporting a team with a payroll the size of some small countries. I don’t think clubs like our beloved Sunderland are going to instantly have a huge following here in the USA, but I am beginning to notice a shift in the perspective of American fans. In the past few weeks two things have happened that have led me to this discovery.

First, when we played Liverpool two Saturdays ago I threw a party. A co-worker of mine is a big Liverpool supporter and we invited lots of friends and colleagues to watch the game with us. Each of us presented what we thought were persuasive arguments of why our team should be supported to the group of about 20 who showed to watch. After sitting through a rather dull 5 minute presentation by my co-worker I went on to wax eloquent about the city, the club, and the supporters of Sunderland. I know I am very new to the scene and know much less than I’d like to, but support swayed heavily in my direction and 15 of us sat on the Sunderland side of the room cheering and singing away. This got me thinking, I believe that most fans in America choose a team because they’ve heard of a player or seen them on TV, but they don’t put much thought into it. Once a half-decent argument is presented to them on the joys and suffering of a faithful mid-table team, most of the fans (who are all pretty knowledgable sports fans) sided with Sunderland. My persistence is paying off.
Secondly, last week there was an article written by Jonathan Wilson on the front page of foxsoccer.com. As usual with Jonathan’s stuff, it was well written and thoroughly enjoyable. What was most interesting was that 8 of the 14 who joined in cheering on Sunderland with me against Liverpool emailed or texted me about the article. They are beginning to follow. Even more interesting than that, 3 friends who support Chelsea, Man United, and Arsenal respectively texted me saying how captivated they were by the article. None of them disowned their clubs and pledged allegiance to Sunderland (even if they damn well should have), but all of them acknowledged that supporting Sunderland offers something intangible and yet very attractive that supporting their clubs doesn’t.
Needless to say, I am walking around with an immense amount of pride as being one of the few but growing number of Sunderland fans in my part of the world. Even with a slightly slower start to the season than I was hoping for, I think the Sunderland revolution is beginning to grow here in the States. Hopefully we’ll pick up some points this weekend and the rest of the country can learn how to #PartywithMarty with me.
Robert’s site is http://onlysafc.blogspot.fr/

8 thoughts on “Voice of America:How I got my buddies to choose Sunderland above Liverpool”

  1. Let’s get past the love in here folks. Who really cares whether a load of Americans “support” Sunderland or not.

    Frankly my friends I could not care less. One way or the other. For them it’s like choosing white toast or rye. It does not matter to them one jot come the end of the day.

  2. There’s an element of “this is my gang and you can’t be in it” in discouraging those with no ties to the area from supporting a particular club. I think most of us have little or no truck with the plastic fans who choose to follow Manchester United because it is fashionable and a club which wins everything. In the 90s and 00s Arsenal and Chelsea became the clubs to follow for the same reasons. To an extent Liverpool also attract these types.

    But the same can’t be said for those who want to follow an English team and have no choice but to choose and then go with a team which is not fashionable and has only won one significant trophy in 74 years.

    When I lived in the Midlands and we regularly organised coaches to games, many of those travelling had been born in that area but had family ties in the North East. A few had picked Sunderland as their team for different reasons. One branch member, from the Home Counties had seen Don Kitchenbrand, Shack, Billy Bingham etc. and was still going to matches 50 years later. Another who moved from Oxford to East Anglia and had no ties to the North East still went to home games, flying from Stansted to Newcastle and losing money when TV changed the dates of the games at the last minute.

    Most of the regular contributors on this site had no choice, being born and raised in County Durham or Tyne and Wear and are steeped in the traditions of the club but I for one, think it is great that an American should choose our club.

    And as a final thought, the most fanatical Sunderland supporter I know was born in Leeds.

  3. If this was a Spanish or French person writing this then people would be all over it. Forget that Americans speak English (kind of) and appreciate Sunderland are being noticed by people who have a different culture to ourselves. It’s refreshing to get away from the norm. If this was a Spainish Sunderland fan speaking, for example, you would welcome it.

    Keep going Rob

  4. The whole concept is flawed though…as a die-hard Sunderland supporter would you really want the sort of fans who are easily persuaded to swop allegiances over a party or BBQ?

    Those types of vacuous fans you can keep my friend…

  5. I’m with you Eric. When I started to take an interest in American Football in the 80s, when Channel 4 started to show a game every week, I adopted the Seattle Seahawks as “my team” because they seemed to lose almost every week. They weren’t as bad as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but they played in orange and Seattle had a cool blue/green kit (or uniform for our US readers).

  6. I don’t care how anyone comes to be a Sunderland fan. All that matters is that they do. I’m wondering if I’ll spot any Yank Ryder Cup followers wearing the colours. Good on yer Robert, keep up the good work.

  7. Hard to “wax eloquent” about the city. With the best will in the world, Sunderland’s a bit of a dump – about on a par with Middlesbrough.
    I suppose it’s as valid to form an attachment to the Black Cats as it is to one of the big-money clubs. Given the team’s history of mixed fortunes, I guess it’s harder and thus more laudable to stick with Sunderland than, say, Chelski or Brandchester United when you don’t have the early commitment that BB speaks of.
    I’m trying to imagine engaging in a pre-game debate to persuade a group of non-partisan friends which side to cheer for. I suppose it depends largely on who is the more persuasive speaker. I’m sure a good time was had by all but I wonder how many will bother even to look up Sunderland’s results in the future. I’m also wondering what songs they sang…

  8. I must admit to being really totally puzzled by this. As someone who has followed the club for all of my life, in which time we have won precious little, I find it puzzling that anyone outside the north east, or those that don’t have some family connection would forge any interest whatsoever in Sunderland AFC.

    Why would you? Perhaps more importantly, why would you have any interest in encouraging others to do so? I really don’t understand this at all.

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