As I stood starry-eyed taking in the Texas A&M college gameday experience, I was often asked how it compared to what I was used to back home.
Back in England, we are nuts about a different type of football.
I will start off by saying that there are a few comparisons between the two. Heavy consumption of alcohol being one. But on the whole, they probably couldn’t be more different.
Which is fitting really. After all, the two sports are like chalk and cheese.
I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you know what a college football experience is like.
So, what is a soccer gameday like? Well, you’re about to find out.
Firstly, a visit to the local ‘greasy spoon’ is mandatory. This is a place that serves one purpose: lining your stomach so you can consume as much beer as possible. The food will often be close to inedible and in some cases may result in days of stomach pain, but you chomp it down regardless. Struggling to picture of it? Think of a run-down Denny’s.
Now that I’ve put that less than pleasant image in your mind, it’s time to rectify it.
Imagine a beautiful traditional pub. Lots of genuine ales on draught, some happy old chaps sat in the corner doing a crossword, cricket on the TV and a gentle landlady with a heart of gold behind the bar.
That is what a pub looks like six days a week. On a football matchday though? Carnage.
There will be fifty times more people in the place than it can legally hold and it will genuinely look like a bomb has gone off. Broken glass, stained carpet and a combined smell of beer, cigarettes and urine will dominate.
Songs will be sang at volumes that almost burst your eardrums. And when I mean songs, people aren’t singing about farmers fighting or urging their team to ‘beat the hell outta’ their opposition that they are playing that day. Oh no. These songs will involve all the swear and cuss words under the sun. For example, if you’re an away fan that is silly enough to breach a ‘home only’ pub, you will get a song such as ‘You’re going home in a f***** ambulance’ sung at you. Oh, and then you probably will end up in an ambulance.
Football fans in England are strange creatures. All week they will be upstanding members of society (well most of them anyway), but on a Saturday, football day, the gloves come off. It’s the one day people just let loose, drink as much as they physically can, have a laugh and if someone looks at them funny, have a fight.
It’s exactly the same inside the stadium. If you didn’t know, all soccer stadiums use segregation between home and away fans. The away fans will usually be penned into the corner of a ground and surrounded by hundreds of police.
Some home supporters actually get season tickets right next to the away section just so they can volley abuse at them for ninety minutes. They don’t even watch the game. How sad is that? Coins are tossed at fans, on one occasion, I even saw someone get so mad that he ripped his seat off its hinges and then throw it in the direction of the opposition’s fans! It’s completely bonkers.
All game, the fans of either team will sing at each other in an attempt to belittle and get a one up. I’ll admit they are usually pretty amusing but if your child is in attendance, you probably want to make sure they are wearing some industrial sized ear protectors.
When I was a kid, did I have any? Nope. I went to football with my dad every week from the age of six. A couple of weeks after my first game, we were watching a game on the TV. The referee made a terrible call and I stood to my feet and started singing an extremely rude song. I will never forget the look my mother gave me. Likewise, a few months later at my school’s parents evening, the teachers complained about their son’s ‘bad language’. F*** them (the teachers, not my parents).
There is absolutely no love between teams. Since being in America, I’ve had a beer with a couple of people from other colleges that we’ve played and even had to sit amongst the Bama fans. I’d chuckle to myself and think how ridiculously strange this would seem to everyone back home.
That’s the culture though. Believe me, about 20-30 years ago things were far worse. You’d get deaths and stuff. Things have calmed down a lot since then but it’s still a world away from tailgating under a marquee, chatting to people from the other team and generally just having a good time. There’s no red mist in Texas and if there was, someone would just tell the person to grow up.
And that’s yer lot. Yes I realize that I’ve done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help tourism in my country with that account of events. In fact, I fully expect some people to burst through my door five minutes after posting this demanding that I take it down because it paints the UK in a bad light.
In reality, do I consider it bad? Not really. That’s what I’m used to and what I’ve grown up on. Do I prefer the college football way? Probably. Even so, I wouldn’t want ‘our football’ to change.
Plus, it’s too cold and grim to tailgate in England anyway.