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Pity The Ex-patriot Sports Fan

No, this post has nothing to do with our buddies up in chowder-land. Today, I hope to give you all a bit of a look into what’s it’s like to be a huge sports fan, but live outside the good ol’ USA. I’ve mentioned from time to time some of the things that I do to stay connected to the world of balls and bats while living in South America. Paying a little extra for DirecTV and making sure that I have the highest speed internet available have helped me keep me more up to date than a lot of people stateside.
Right now, however, I’m staying with friends while we arrange for permanent housing here in Argentina. This means that I’m forced to live ‘down’ to the level of most sports fans who live overseas. What is it like? Well…
Most US sports fans abroad are probably lucky enough to live in a country that likes at least one of the big three sports. Europe loves basketball; Asia and the Caribbean love baseball. That helps. You might pick up a local telecast of a game, but at least can depend on ESPN’s international wing to bring you a game or two week on basic cable. That’s not bad, but unless you are a Yankees or Lakers fan, you aren’t ever going to see your favorite team but once or twice a season. Me? I live in Argentina which means I get some Spurs games, but no baseball or NFL.
If you don’t spring for 1 MB or better internet (which can be pricey), even watching highlight clips on NFL.com or ESPN is a chore. Fast internet also means streaming events. The NFL now streams some games for free (though often content is blocked if they detect you are outside the States), and the $15 for MLBs audio package is money well spent. If you have friends and family back home, you can always set up a Slingbox. This is a nifty device that plugs into your friend’s cable and internet and allows you to watch their TV from anywhere in the world. I have a buddy who has given me access to his, but this doesn’t do me much good on a 256K connection. I watched some NFL on it last Sunday, and at this speed…it’s rough. The audio works though, so it’s better than nothing.
If you don’t have good highspeed internet or a great cable system, you are probably reduced to just getting scores and reading your local paper from back home online once in a while. Maybe you find a blog that covers your team well, but largely you are reduced to following local sports. For most of us who live overseas, that means Football (which means Soccer).
Here’s the thing to realize about soccer if you don’t live in the USA: it’s pretty freaking cool. In the States there are two kinds of soccer snobs; the first consists of people who hate soccer and say it sucks and mock everyone who likes it. I used to be this kind of soccer snob, so I understand the mentality. Most soccer that exisits in the USA does suck. MLS is impossible to watch. Team USA is ok, but really is a third tier power right now. The second kind of soccer snob is scarf wearing elitest guy who looks down on the great unwashed who don’t take off work to watch every UEFA match. This guy probably studied abroad in France for 6 months, and now thinks he’s better than you becuase he follows some obscure Dutch team like Ajax (or if he’s really a poser…Man U). I get how annoying that guy is, and don’t blame you for hating him.
The thing you have to understand about most of us who become soccer fans is that it starts out as a necessity. If you want to have friends and fit in, in most countries you’d best follow soccer. And when played at full speed by experts…it really is a beautiful game. Most everyone in the States sort of gets that now, which is why the Euro Cup and the World Cup get huge ratings. Soccer, when played by men who know what they are doing, is amazing. If you don’t dig it, that’s fine. I’m not going to go all Soccer Snob #2 on you. Just understand, that it helps the ex-pat sports fan survive. Remember to pity those of us who grew up playing baseball and now have to play pick-up soccer. It isn’t pretty. I pretty much head to the goal keeper spot right away. It’s basically the right field of pick up soccer.
So pity the ex-pat sports fan. When he comes home, he’s often ill-informed and ignorant of the ‘big issues’ going on in the sporting world. Some friends in Africa used to love to get video tapes of the Super Bowl (one month late). It’s tough to be that guy. He used to hold his own at the barber shop, but now is on par with slightly effiminate guy who listens to too much Belle and Sebastian.
On the other hand, if he goes the distance and stays connected to US sports, he’ll always have a wealth of information he can’t bring up in any conversation he’ll ever have with friends in his new country. That guy might just exhaust his poor wife by constantly talking about sports anecdotes and observations that she cares nothing for. He’ll wear out his other US friends in country (who don’t follow sports nearly as closely) with endless descriptions of games he watched or listened to on line. He might get so desperate to talk about sports that he does the absolutely unthinkable…
He’ll start a blog.
Pity the expatriate sports fan.
This is what passes as a positive review for Pacers fans these days.