Unprofessional Foul


February 18, 2010

Letter from London: How Craven is your Cottage?

Oh, so Whites Only then?

ButchHuskey returns to this space, with a new diary. Last we heard from him, he had emerged largely unscathed, physically, from 80 minutes of Roma calcio. This past weekend, Butch made for the more genteel environs of English football. And not only that, he would enjoy the world’s greatest domestic cup tournament. On Sunday, he travelled to London, and Fulham’s Craven Cottage to see the Whites showdown with Sol Campbell’s Sven Goran Eriksson’s League Two’s Notts County. Here is his account.

Unlike the riot disguised as a football match I saw in Rome two weeks ago, Sunday’s Fulham-Notts County FA Cup showdown at Craven Cottage was a real sporting event. No fires in the crowd. No Ritz cracker-selling vendors. No threat of imminent death.

As the day progressed I began noticing the similarities between attending an English football match and a sporting event in the United States. Beyond those parallels though lay subtle and often explicit differences. And that’s where we’ll head with Part II of my “Unplanned But When Convenient I’ll Attend a Football Match In Europe Tour.”

(As The Likely Lad so, umm, kindly stated last time, I “barely speak football.” Of course, unlike him, I at least try to discuss it on this web site [Ed. Note: Zing!] So just bear with me through any ignorant flashes or misstatements.)

2.10pm – I hop on the District Line westbound from Westminster to Earl’s Court. There, I am forced to transfer. At this point the DL branches out in four directions (or so it seemed on the map). Miraculously, I pick the one that heads towards Putney Bridge.

To say the tube was packed would be an understatement. We were so tightly boxed in that I did not have to hold onto a bar to keep my balance. There was nowhere to fall. And the guy standing next to me had no teeth, was coughing, and yelling.

American Equivalent: That’s easy. Going to a Mets game, taking the 7 train from Grand Central to Citi Field during rush hour. And what makes it worse is that’s in the middle of a hot, humid New York summer. Everyone smells, everyone’s tired, everyone knows they’re going to see Mike Pelfrey pitch. It’s miserable. (John Rocker is nodding his head somewhere…)

2.45pm - Exiting the tube station I am surrounded by thousands of Fulham supporters and the brave but eternally cursed Notts County fan. The walk to the stadium is long but enjoyable. The river flowing alongside you is a nice touch. The smell of fresh barbeque tickles. And the folks watching Spurs trailing at Bolton in the pubs that line the walk puts a smile on most people’s faces. [Ed. Note: See how they’re smiling after Spurs dispatch of SFB next week, then lay the dickstomp on their beloved Whites in the quarterfinal.]

Ravens fans: Like MK Dons, but stupider

American Equivalent: Raven’s Walk in Baltimore…only because the band creates a cool atmosphere, though. The purple jerseys are very unoriginal (the Vikings are the only purple football team). They stole the Browns from Cleveland (after they lost the Colts to Indianapolis), making Ravens fans the biggest hypocrites in sports history.

3.00pm - The best part of a sports road trip, namely when you make a maiden voyage to an historic site, is the moment you walk up the stairs, raise your eyes, and see the glorious green pasture that had only previously existed on television. For a person who really likes sports, there’s nothing better.

That’s the feeling I had when my dried-out contact lenses allowed me to see the Craven Cottage pitch on Sunday afternoon. And what doubled the beauty of the moment was finding my seat and realizing that I was close enough to the field where if I ripped one, there’s a chance the goalie would smell it. That, my friends is a great seat.

No bad seats at the Cottage

American Equivalent: Ugh. This pains me to say it, but when you would take the 4 train to the old Yankee Stadium, and you’d get that one second glance of the field as the subway car raced past the opening between the right field stands and the center field bleachers—that was pretty fackin’ awesome. (The image was shown in the movie Sugar as the protagonist, Sugar, arrives in the Bronx.)

3.30pm - Fulham leads 1-0 on a Simon Davies goal in the 22nd minute. Despite the early lead, Notts County is hanging tough and has had applied pressure at the attacking end. Naturally, this does not sit well with the 20-something-year old Fulham supporter behind me. I’ve never heard a human being curse so much. In the space of roughly 30 seconds, he howled the word “c***” at least five times. By the fifth time even I was offended. And keep in mind there were women and very small children nearby. I looked around hoping for an incredulous face. Nothing.

American Equivalent: None. I understand American sports fans have a very low IQ on average, but compared to the chaps that were in my block, they are as respectful human beings as you’ll ever meet. I really don’t understand why Red, White, and Blue sports fanatics get such a bad rap. Yeah, they loudly and obnoxiously root for their teams, but it’s largely innocent banter. At least in the modern, corporatized arena.

It's a goal… but the natives want more!

3.43pm – Bobby Zamora gives Fulham the comfort of a 2-0 lead and all but secures the Cottagers passage to the FA Cup quarterfinals. The highlight of the goal is not to the goal, but the Fulham supporters musical response, a song in admiration of their goal-scorer. To the tune of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” the Fulham supporters sing “Bah-ah-bee Zuh-morrr-uh!” This may not seem overly important or mind-blowing but…

American Equivalent: If you’ve ever attended a Penn State football game, you’d know that following a big play (a rare occurrence in meaningful games), Beaver Stadium yells to the tune of “Seven Nation Army.” While hearing 108,000 people scream clad in their finest white is cool, the Bobby Zamora jingle is much better because his name melds into the rhythm of the song, If you’re totally and utterly confused by this, here’s a YouTube clip.

3.49pm - I’m cold, tired and hungry. I walk to the concession stand where any cooked, non-living animal would seem appetizing. I get a five pound (price, not weight) razor-thin burger, a two pound water, and a three pound “pouch” of Starbursts. (I hadn’t seen Starbursts in three weeks, all right?! I got caught up in the moment!) After eating and drinking all of the above, I realized I was another 45 minutes away from catching pneumonia. I return to the concessions area and order a watered down hot chocolate for another two pounds. Now I’m ready for football.

American Equivalent: A seven dollar burger, four dollar water, five dollar bag of Starbursts, three dollar hot chocolate…at every stadium in the United States.

4.22pm – Our first substitution of the day. Notts County replaces Jamie Clapham with Luke Rodgers. Lil’ Luke (I just made that up) is listed at 5’ 7”, but he is no taller than Mini-Me. If his diminutive status is not enough to get the Insult Wheel spinning for Fulham supporters, Lil’ Luke is being marked by 6’ 5” Norwegian defender Brede Hangeland.

To Lil’ Luke’s credit, he isn’t intimidated. He plays the behemoth of a back very physically. Their incessant jostling and fighting for position climaxes in the 82nd minute when Rodgers violently throws down Hangeland in a race for the ball down the right sideline. Had the foul been committed by Hangeland, he likely would have been carded, but the referee, also of a small stature, was too shocked to book his wee brethren.

The vicious foul prompted the Fulham faithful to start chanting, “You F**k Midget!” Uh, guys, it should be “You F**king Midget!” At least be grammatically correct if you’re going to taunt the little bugger.

American Equivalent: The ongoing feud between Boston Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara (6’ 9”) and Montreal Canadiens forward Brian Gionta (5’ 7”; formerly of the New Jersey Devils).

4.30pm – After Stefano Okaka Chuka (he followed me from Rome to Fulham [Ed. Note: Butch is mistaken here, as Stefano left from Roma well in advance of this past weekend. Butch is the stalker.]) secures the final score line at 4-0, the Fulham fans sing their way to the final whistle. No one seems to care they just beat up on a fourth division team at home. Singing at a football match cannot be stopped.

American Equivalent for Songs:

“I want to be in that number…When The Whites come marching in!”

Did you watch the Super Bowl?

“We’re going to Wembley!”

Umm, it is only the fifth round and they are in reality a middle of the pack Premiership team so we’ll say…Chicago Blackhawks fans chanting, “We Want the (Stanley) Cup!” after beating the Detroit Red Wings 3-0, on Dec. 20. It was the team’s 34th game of an 82-game schedule.

My favorite: “Cheeeer-io, Cheeeer-io, Cheeeeer-io…”

That’s easy. After every time a team exits its opponent from the playoffs its fans chant…

Na, Na, Na, Na…Na, Na, Na, Na…Hey, Hey, Hey…Gooooood-bye!

(Until next time!)

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About the Author

The Likely Lad