The Joys of Being an American Sports Fan in England
Tonight marks the beginning of a month long slog – staying up until the early hours of the morning watching both the NHL and NBA playoffs, before rising several hours later and going through a long day of work and completing the cycle over again.
For an English fan of American sports, this is simply par for the course; As a passionate fan of both Boxing and MMA, I’m now used to being wide awake in the twilight hours and not closing my eyes until some are heading out to work – all for a garbage undercard of journeymen being knocked over and a sub-par main event (but that’s another issue altogether). This all sounds like a complaint, but really I wouldn’t have it any other way.
These events can often feel like somewhat of a bonus – having spent the evening watching Champions League football tonight, I’ll then have a short break and then be tuning in to watch my Pittsburgh Penguins kick-off what will hopefully be a successful playoff run against the New York Islanders. With no worry of a clash, there is no need to pick and choose and I’ll be able to manoeuvre my way around the biggest events on both sides of the pond and reap the enjoyment of each event.
There is something intensifying about watching a game at an ungodly hour, you’ve endured all of the build-up and now there is the reward at the end. Well, in all cases it doesn’t feel like a reward I suppose – to cast back to the 2018 NBA Finals, Lebron was hoping to lead his Cavaliers team to an against-the-odds victory over the goliath Golden State Warriors for the second consecutive year and appeared to have things off to a fantastic start with a potential victory in Game 1 when JR Smith forgot what the score was and allowed the Warriors to head to OT and later emerge victorious. If you think that would have been gutting at 10pm, I can assure you that it’s even worse at 5am and somehow worse again when you drag yourself out of bed at 6.30am.
In stark contrast, back in 2016 when Lebron carried the Cavs to game 7 and got the job done (with help from Uncle Drew) it felt even sweeter having stayed up, fought off the tired eyes, sunk a few red bulls and had the reward at the end.
I remember when I was younger and part of the thrill of Hatton going over to try and conquer America was simply the time that it was taking place at. It made it an occasion for people to gather together and watch it; it was out of the ordinary and gave it a feel that it likely wouldn’t have had if it had taken place at a time more convenient for a UK audience.
I think for some UK fans, staying up to watch a contest is almost a way of quantifying their support for a team that they have no geographical ties to, but instead have garnered an emotional attachment for. On the other end of the stick, I see some others looking down on foreign fans that have come to the Emirates Stadium to watch Arsenal, and I’ve heard others utter that they wish ‘real fans’ could have those same tickets, as if a real fan wouldn’t travel halfway across the World in some instances to watch a 3pm kick off against Burnley.
The feeling of watching live sport is something that can’t be replicated – and in this era of social media, it’s almost impossible to avoid a result and watch a game later. Can you imagine watching a boring football match for 90 minutes and then seeing your team score in extra time, suddenly making it all worth it? Now, if you were to watch the highlights in the morning and see that, it wouldn’t feel the same and if you intend to watch the full game, then you’re probably going to fast forward at least some of the dull moments and take away that awful low, before the incredible high at the end.
There are two types of people – the ones that have a nap and get up, or the ones that are in it for the long haul. For me personally, I feel far worse if I only have a little nap and so I’m far more inclined to stock up on Red Bull beforehand and hopefully have company to war with on FIFA to keep me occupied and avoid drifting off. For others they may be disciplined enough to squeeze in a 10pm til 1am snooze, or for the older folk, it may simply be a 3.30am alarm to just catch the main event (though I think that applies more for the boxing fans than the MMA fandom). Everyone will have their own routine that works for them.
American fans are probably sick of hearing UK fans complain about the time’s they stay up til for UFC and Boxing on a weekend, but it’s a commitment that we all do, and as much as we complain, we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s often just the complaints of some fans on the other side of the pond that they may be in bed just after midnight that triggers it! This weekend we’ll all be up at 5.30am, doing it all over again to watch Max Holloway tackle Dustin Poirier, but these are simply the joys of being an American Sports fan in England.