The Book of the Week is “Bloody Confused!” by Chuck Culpepper, published in 2007. An American smartass sportswriter wrote this ebook after becoming jaded by covering baseball, football, basketball, etc. for a couple of decades in his own country. He decided to acquaint himself with the cultural quirks of professional English soccer.
In 2006, Culpepper moved to England in order to wholeheartedly throw himself into the lifestyle of a “supporter,” which involved a gluttony for spending time (on transportation) and money (on transportation, tickets, drinks and food) before, during and after the matches, not to mention choosing an underdog team to root for, so as to invite emotional trauma.
While conducting research before attending his first Premiership, the author learned of the concepts “promotion” and “relegation.” Unlike a United States baseball or football league, each season, an English soccer league determines team-places based on a point system, which allows upward mobility of teams and consequently, downgrading of its worst three clubs that will play in a lower-tier system the following season.
On more than one occasion, Culpepper was prohibited from purchasing a ticket to a match because he had never purchased a ticket before, to see a particular team. He had to watch the match in a pub instead. One time, he got lucky and bought a ticket from a supporter whose father was unable to go to the game.
Once the author started attending games, he noticed the beefed-up security at the stadiums– separate seating for fans of say, two teams with a history of hatred toward the other. This, due to deaths and serious injuries from stampedes of people (!) in recent decades. America has its team rivalries too, but rarely does the belligerent, drunk behavior of fans get more serious than trash-talking.
If an English soccer player scores a goal, which might happen only three or four times during ninety minutes of play, unlike in America– fans engage in hugging each other, though they are strangers. On the other hand, American spectators who are strangers will chat with each other throughout an entire professional sports game; the English, instead of gabbing, will sing the same one or two lines of parodies of well-known tunes, repeatedly. Possibly with gratuitous expletives. English parents explain to their children that raunchy language is okay at a soccer game, but hardly anywhere else.
Another cultural difference the author noted is that all aspects of American professional sports are profit-driven. Culpepper was surprised that English soccer action is not paused every other minute for commercial purposes. He was appalled by the English teams’ shabby locker rooms and disgusting stadium food. Yet, the beer served at American stadiums is less than refined. Also, Culpepper writes that in America, “…people play for one title. They give trophies and junk for conference titles and division titles, sure, but there’s only one champion.” In England, “Premiership clubs play for up to three championships.” There are “cups” to compete for, galore.
Read the book to learn about Culpepper’s encounters with a blue bear, his other observations of English soccer fandom, whether English athletes stack up to their American counterparts in terms of behavior off the field, their salaries, their mobility between teams, and team diversity.