By Josh Ellis
From where I am sitting right now, I am more than 3,500 miles away from Emirates Stadium. I have never been to Europe, I have never been to London and I have never had an order of fish and chips. I am an American and I am a Gooner ‘til I die. This is my story.
Growing up in a suburb of Philadelphia in the 90s and early 2000s, I was short on options for watching the game we know as soccer, although I did attend many games for the Kixx, Philadelphia’s indoor league team. During my high school years, I was a huge fan of the United States Men’s National Team; I even bought a Freddy Adu jersey when he was 13 years old.
But I longed to support a club team. The 2002 World Cup brought me a new favorite player, DaMarcus Beasley and I lightly followed the Chicago Fire since Philadelphia did not have an MLS team at the time. But I felt no connection to the team, I wanted something more.
During the World Cup, despite their poor performance, I enjoyed watching France, and of course fell in love with the way that Thierry Henry played the game. Come my freshman year in college, I began my fanhood with Arsenal.
Despite attending Ohio State University, located in (American) football crazed Columbus, OH, one night in particular was the turning point for me and Arsenal. Leading up to the 2005 FA Cup Final, I had been more of a passive fan than a fanatic. The night before the match, I and others from my freshman dorm floor went out to a party and there was someone there in a full Manchester United David Beckham kit – shorts and socks included. Naturally, I ragged on him knowing that the Cup Final was the next morning. Despite that, and the fact that we had just met, he invited me and my United-supporting friend to his house at 7:30 the next morning to watch Arsenal prevail on penalty kicks and win their most recent trophy.
People who know me consider me the biggest sports fan they know. That may be due to a strong mentality that I hold with my sports teams. It has always been my belief that if you follow a team and want to take pride and joy in their successes you must feel the pain of failure. When I decide to commit to a team, it becomes my responsibility to follow their every move, watch every game and take the bad with the good. With Arsenal, despite my current location in Pennsylvania, job responsibilities or sleep patterns I rarely if ever miss a match.
Some of my quirks:
» During my college career, it was common place to take my computer to class to watch a mid-week match. When Arsenal faced Liverpool in the Champions League in 2008, I was on cloud nine after the fantastic Walcott-to-Adebayor goal only to be shattered moments later when Arsenal conceded the penalty and lost the match on aggregate goals. I slammed my computer shut and had to leave class.
» I consider my blue Nicklas Bendtner jersey to be formal wear because it has a collar.
» I refuse to sleep over my girlfriend’s house when Arsenal plays the next morning because she does not have any soccer channels.
» For a 1990s themed party, I wore my 1999 Arsenal jersey.
» I recorded the famous 4-4 Arsenal match at Anfield and had the result spoiled for me on Facebook. I defriended that person and from now on shut myself off from the world when I watch a match on delay.
My story is probably similar to many others who support Arsenal in America. We are loyal fans, and largely, we are alone in our passion because no one understands how someone could be so close to something so far away.
After graduating from Ohio State, Philadelphia native Josh Ellis began working in professional baseball, most recently as Director of Media Relations and play-by-play broadcaster for the Single-A Kannapolis Intimidators. You can read more of his thoughts on Twitter.
The views above do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband Ltd.Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source