I got to go to my second Premiership match this past Saturday, West Ham vs. Fulham. I was beside myself to begin with, because I would get to see former New England Revolution great and full-time stud Clint Dempsey play against some REAL competition. There are four other Americans on Fulham-Eddie Johnson, Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra and Kasey Keller-for a total of five, more than any other team in the league. So it's no wonder Fulham is near the bottom of EPL standings. BA-DA-CHHHH!
But seriously, I was looking forward to seeing these guys, to test my knowledge. I've gotten to the point where I can sit and legitimately appreciate a match, proven by watching a 6-1 Everton victory in the UEFA Cup over some Scandinavian team or something. I guess it helps when a guy with an awesome name like Yakubu nets three goals.
It didn't have the novelty of this one, but I still had a ball. Both experiences were very different. A few highlights...
- Craven Cottage is sooooooooooooo small, no bigger than your average college arena. There's a shingled roof over a large portion of the stands, and the actual Craven Cottage is situated in one of the corners. The whole place has a very old-school, cottage-y feel to it. Very intimate and very cool. Completely different from Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea is, which is this gleaming, modern monstrosity lambasted with Adidas signs.
- I said I was looking forward to seeing these guys...I didn't think I would be able to actually SEE them. Our seats were five rows up from the pitch in the end for Fulham fans, behind the goal. I would get some gratuitous Clint viewing. And because they're two London teams, West Ham had an entire end filled with their own fans.
- The beginning was absolutely unreal. I got to the first match a little late, so I didn't get the introductions, but I got to this match plenty early. I don't know what music it is, but I'm sure you've all heard it before...there's an opera, and it's almost as if they're yelling, and it's so intense. And the players just walk, don't run, onto the pitch. It's a very forceful walk, and then everyone goes nuts when they reach the center. And then there's this one Fulham guy, I can't even describe it...he leaps into the air and thrusts his chest out. This probably sounds really boring, but it was so facking cool.
- I'm sure you're all familiar with the Clap, Clap, ClapClapClap, ClapClapClapClap (insert two syllables here) cheer. This version was so loud, so determined, so powerful...CLAP, CLAP, CLAPCLAPCLAP, CLAPCLAPCLAPCLAP, FULL-UM! Fantastic. It's the little things I love about sports.
- The match itself kinda sucked. I could tell that Fulham wasn't very good, and I don't know much about soccer. Clint had a chance to score right in front of me, and he kicked it right to the West Ham goalkeeper. He got subbed in the 76th minute for Eddie Johnson. No one scored until with about 5 minutes in regulation, West Ham made it 1-0. That's how it would end. Bollocks.
Remember how I said it's the little things I love about sports? File mascots under that category. Baldwin the BC Eagle will always have my heart, but I'll always remember Fulham's Billy the Badger. Number one, I thought he was a skunk, which is so fitting to Fulham's current state. Number two, he was both happy and frustrated throughout the match; he was pissed that Fulham was so crappy. Number three, he breakdances. Number four, he makes for an awesome YouTube video...Unfortunately, I will be missing out on the home match against ManU and my chance to gaggle at Cristiano Ronaldo. Fortunately, I am missing out because I will be going sea kayaking and cliff-jumping off the coast of Wales. I smell a photo essay... Besides, why do I need Ronaldo when I can just drop my jaw whenever Beckham's Emporio Armani ad rolls by on a bus?