Soccer Fans and Hockey Fans: A Match Made in Passion
On The Fire is well pleased to bring you the musings and thoughtful prose of our honored guest, one of Chicago’s finest sports bloggers, Mr. Sam Fels.
It seems the perfect symbol of how weird my life is that Scott asked me to contribute a post about why hockey fans should be soccer fans and vice versa. Usually, I spend (too?) much of my time writing about the NHL and my beloved Chicago Blackhawks. Otherwise, I weigh in from time to time on my other team, Chicago Fire, and the goings on in soccer – both on Twitter and as a blog commenter.
Anyway, I know what you’re thinking: “What’s hockey?” That’s completely understandable. You haven’t seen anything like it in a while; that is, if you paid attention in the first place. It’s this thing played on ice Canadians love that every few years must go away so some thumb-dick rich old white men can make a few million more. It’s how they do. We’ve gotten used to it, because trying to comprehend their stupidity is beyond any scientist or historian – anywhere.
Right. So hockey and soccer. They do share many similarities on the pitch/ice and in the stands. Let’s start with the games themselves. Literally, the goals in the sport are the same. The idea of the game is to get something into a goal. Not into a basket, or not a human body into an area or on a surface. And the ways teams go about that is kind of the same idea. You want to pull defenders out of position and open up space. You want to exploit that space. If you watch the two games, they look a lot alike in the movement of the players, either greatly sped up or slowed down, depending on what world you come from.
There are many ways to accomplish that. Watching Jonathan Toews slalom through two or three defenders to score is not all that different from watching Ronaldo or Messi do so. Watching Patrick Kane feather a pass through a lane that you couldn’t see to a wide open player on the other side of the ice touches the same nerves as watching Xabi Alonso thread a through-ball that takes out three defenders and leaves a teammate clean through at an angle you didn’t see on your TV. What I’m saying is that the genius that exhibits itself in both sports at their best moments are quite alike. There’s a unique joy in watching professionals at their sport being completely dominated by another in these ways. It’s rare.
It’s on the other end too. If you’ll allow me a more Hawks-centric comparison, when Brent Seabrook rubs out an attacker along the boards, it arouses joy in the same way as watching Carles Puyol cleanly tackle the ball away to end a scoring threat. It’s terror snuffed out. It’s instant. It’s authoritative. It’s satisfying.
But let’s dig deeper and get to more raw nerve stuff. Isn’t there something truly fulfilling about seeing the net bulge? That arrogant twine and space just sits there pompously, untouched for the overwhelming majority of the game. It sees furious action around it, it’s everyone’s center of attention, and yet it remains undisturbed for most of the game, almost laughing at fans and players who long to see it ruffled.
But then there’s that moment when the ball or puck crashes in, and the twine almost vomits out and ripples. It’s almost sexual isn’t it? Maybe some goals merely caress the back of the net, and maybe some don’t even get there. But once that space is violated, the peacefulness and conceited stillness is pierced – and everyone goes nuts. It’s the greatest revenge at something that grinned at you contemptuously for too long.
But let’s get to the real stuff: the off-ice or off-pitch factor. As I eluded to, it’s that explosion of emotion in soccer and hockey that binds us fans. Everything builds up to one or two moments in an entire game, as well as the disappointment of progressing to close to that moment but not getting it. We groan at the misses, marvel at the saves, and exult in the goals. Now that is definitely sexual. The collection of small moments and progress and work to the ultimate release. Unless of course the score is 5-4 in either sport, but that’s just multiple orgasms. And are you going to argue with multiple orgasms?
But more than that, one thing binds hockey and soccer supporters, and it all boils down to this: The Passion.
The faux-machoness of NFL fans and the straight-out looniness of college football fans turns us off. Basketball doesn’t have the signature moments, and baseball’s are wiped out in the avalanche of so many games.
But hockey and soccer? In both arenas you the fan are sure you’re capable of taking a human life. You rise and fall and ebb and flow with the game. There’s an element of danger in the stands (at least in European and Latin American soccer and before the NHL wipes it out here at home). It is raucous chaos at its best, and you’re exhausted when it’s over. And you didn’t even play.
But most of all, in both of these games, to be a fan is to be a passionate one. It’s still kind of a cult thing. I’m sure there are fans who are half in and half out in each. But it’s more likely that when I wear a Liverpool jersey out, someone will engage me in an in-depth discussion about soccer – just as it is when I wear Hawks stuff. Everyone wears Cubs or Bears or Bulls stuff. But finding a fellow hockey or soccer fan randomly? That’s not an occasion to be passed up. After all, we have to discuss what system the Fire should be playing or whether Kane should be at center or not. Moreover, the U.S. is always underdogs in both, so we’ve got that going for us too.
But in the end, it’s soccer and hockey fans’ emotional highs and low and unyielding passion that match. And that’s why we should be together.