Watching the Olympics as a child, I always felt that the US was a sports-mad country. The US always headed the medal tables. The US athletes broke world records. They all seemed like superstars. No matter what the sports discipline or event, the US would be in the hunt for the medals. Often time they would win all three medals in a competition. However, it seemed only the gold medal winners counted. In Ireland, the whole country celebrates when we win any Olympic medal. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find, sporting wise, when I came to California, but it was immediately evident that there were four sports in particular that captured the attention of Californians.
The major sports were clearly basketball, baseball, American Football, and ice hockey. Warrior vests, Giants hats, Niners’s Jackets, and Shark shirts were very visible on the street, at the mall, or in sports bars. However, I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the San Jose Earthquakes also had a substantial and growing following.
The fan experience is very different in the US. Although, at first, the chants of “Go (insert team)” or “defense” and having a DJ command the crowd to “make some noise” can seem very generic, contrived and lame it is far from that once you start to care about the team. The game is just one part of the entertainment on offer. The Americans bring a razzamatazz to sporting occasions. From the moment you arrive, there is something happening. There is music. Bars and food concessions inside the stadium. Cheerleaders. Competitions. Giveaways. Special guests are honored. Mascots. Half time entertainment. Fireworks. They often have skydivers bringing the ball to start the game or an Airforce flyover just as the National anthem ends. The National Anthem is always a moment of great patriotism for the vast majority of the supporters in the stadium.
I was also introduced to the concept of tailgating — a truly wonderful American tradition. Tailgating is when supporters hire two car parking spaces in the stadium parking lot — one space for the car or truck and one space for the BBQ. Typically there are a bunch of friends together. Someone will bring “DJ decks” and speakers. When the meat is on the grill, and the music fills the air, the cooler boxes are sprung open, and the drinking starts. As cannabis is legal in California, the parking lot is often full of its distinct smell.
In this section, I will track the progress of each of these teams as they progress through their perspective seasons and share my experience as a fan attending the games.