I love all this Spanish football stuff: unnecessary insights into the edge of Spanish football experience as an American

Written by Jordan Harrison.

In the United States, the World Cup final never comes close to evoking the same kind of excitement or atmosphere as the Super Bowl. Regardless of the fact that the World Cup is held once every four years, the annual Super Bowl still reigns much more prominently. Not only important, it’s the TV event of the year. Everyone is looking at him. As a result, I’ve always struggled to understand why American sports fandom is often viewed as somewhat inferior or “weaker” than football fans around the world.

Obviously, the claim that the American sports fandom is somehow inferior to the global football fandom is purely a subjective matter and not everyone buys it. But it’s a notion I’ve heard countless times throughout my life, so I’ve always attached some degree of validity to it. In other words, the fact that Americans might be considered lame, or at least not as strong among sports fans in general has always baffled me, given the huge turnouts that the Super Bowl, the finals of the NBA or any other big American game have. Of course, every country in the world has its own football culture, but there is definitely a tradition about Spain. So Spain seems like a good place to settle this confusion. And after 6 months in Seville, I think the puzzle is falling into place. And the key element is so cliché it hurts me to say it, but it all comes down to passion. Truly a revolutionary discovery, I know. But in case you care how I came to this unoriginal conclusion, I’ll be happy to share my thoughts and experience with you.

I would certainly never say that American sports fans lack passion. I myself have shed my fair share of tears (happy and sad) after football, baseball or hockey games (thanks to the Colorado Avalanche for recently producing tears of joy). But I wouldn’t consider a level of highly emotional fandom to be quite standard in the United States. It’s certainly not uncommon to really care either; one can easily see by attending or watching a professional sporting event in the United States, that the sporting match is merely a contribution to an overall program of entertainment. I have never attended a baseball game without feeling that the vast majority of the crowd was just there soaking up the sun, enjoying the festivities at every break, and hanging out with their friends. Likewise, the Super Bowl is just as famous for having fun commercials and extravagant halftime shows as it is for having a championship game. Quite a stark contrast to watching Real Betis compete for the Copa del Rey in an overflowing bar, located a few hundred meters across the Guadalquivir river from the big event itself.

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I remember rolling my eyes when my friend told me to show up three hours before kick-off. It seemed absurdly early just to grab a seat in a usually quiet bar, but it was barely early enough to catch the Copa del Rey final. Throughout the game, there were dozens of people standing outside the bar, looking inside, to watch the game intently. There was a collective, audible reaction to almost every touch of the ball. There was a level of focus on the sport itself that I have yet to see in any other large group. To be fair, comparing any American sporting event to this one is comparing apples to oranges, and Real Betis playing for their first Copa in nearly two decades, in their hometown, was a circumstance. unique in which to find myself. That being said, my exposure to the Spanish football fandom was not limited to this experience alone. And as chaotic and fun as it is to celebrate the Copa victory with a seemingly endless number of people in the Plaza Nueva, any fan base in the world would celebrate a big trophy. But even then, the collective mental database of clever chants that this party crowd possessed is something I’ve never seen in the United States.

Anyway, what strikes me the most was the old man from Granada who, after spotting my Betis hat, insisted on taking a photo of me and his wife Betica in front of the Alhambra. Naturally, there’s also the man who insulted me with a disgusted look in his eyes moments before. But the fact is simply that I was impressed by the emotion of some of the responses at the sight of the Betis badge. Not many days go by with this hat on that I don’t make a new friend or foe. Sure, I may get a comment or two wearing my favorite American football jersey in the States, but nothing as emotionally charged as what I experienced in Spain.

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Perhaps the most ignorant question I’ve asked recently was, “How did you become a Betis fan?” In fact, I was naive enough to keep asking people that, replacing Betis with anyone’s favorite team at will, expecting a logical reason to be given to back his team. . I’ve always chosen my teams for clear reasons (like their location, their athletes or, when I was younger, their color scheme). Hence my thought that Spanish football fans would also have reasons. But I feel like the Spanish football fandom is less of a choice. On the contrary, it is something much more intuitive. It seems that the inhabitants of Seville were born Betico or Sevillista. No one gave me a reason for either, they just laughed at my question before continuing to explain that their fandom needs no explanation. It’s neither a difference of location nor a political difference that separates these bitter rivals (Sevilla FC and Real Betis), it’s just a matter of sentiment. People enjoy watching sports because they embody the human experience of feeling. A ninety-minute match can be enough to feel the purest joy and the deepest despair. Ultimately, I think the massive emotional investment exhibited by countless Spanish football fans is what gives Spanish football a sort of mystical allure for the rest of the sports world.

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