Friday, February 21, 2014

It's a Great Big Gooner World

I am a huge fan of two teams...the New York Mets of Major League Baseball and Arsenal of the English Premier League (football or soccer as us Americans call it).

Growing up on Long Island, it was pretty much pre-determined that I would be a Mets fan. With a mother that had previously supported the Brooklyn Dodgers, there was no other option but to support the National League's New York franchise. I had no choice....and so it was that I got used to supporting a team that were perennial losers and pretty much always expected to fail. Despite this, I have remained loyal and continue to root for the Mets year in and year out. Over the years there have been some great moments as a Mets fan, unfortunately, the bad times completely outweigh the good.

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
In addition to all the losing, another down side of being a New York Mets fan is the existence of the crosstown, win at all costs, Yankees. During the George Steinbrenner era, the Yankees spent money like drunken sailors (sort of like Chelsea and Man City of today) in order to win (or come close to winning) the baseball championship every year. They operated as if it was their god given right to win every season and that the other 29 teams in baseball were there solely for their amusement. The Yankees made being a Mets fan that much harder, as they constantly grabbed the headlines in the city the two teams share. The Mets were and have always been second fiddle to the Yankees.

There is definitely a huge community of Mets fans in the metropolitan New York area. In fact there are a number of Mets supporters outside of the area but they're generally ex-New Yorkers (or perhaps delusional). I have surprisingly found a number of very cool overseas Mets fans on Twitter (@uk_mets_fan - England, @Bobba50 - Norway, @AaronHoney - Australia), but once you leave the U.S. it's generally a vast wasteland for Mets fans.

Outside of the U.S. baseball is barely recognized and if it is, it's the Yankees that are the name that people mention. It's hard enough to always see the Yankees get top billing in your own city, but when the Yankees are the team that make people think baseball in London, Rio, Shanghai or Johannesburg it's obvious you're supporting a team without a lot of brand name recognition.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
As for the other team that I support religiously, Arsenal, it's an entirely different story. Despite what the average American sports fan thinks, football or soccer, is the most followed and popular sport in the world.

When I first began following Arsenal and the English Premier League in the late 90's it required a lot of work and dedication to follow the game on a regular basis here in New York. The games were not broadcast on regular television and were only shown at several Irish bars around the city where you'd have to show up at 7 a.m.on a Saturday morning and at times you'd have to pay an admission charge. Then came Fox Soccer Channel which really changed the landscape for English (and even Italian) soccer. These days NBC Sports shows every single EPL game live allowing the American audience the opportunity to watch games that even my friends that live in the UK and Ireland don't get to view.

Since the advent of social media, I have come to realize the difference of being a Mets fan versus being an Arsenal fan. Supporting the New York Mets is the equivalent of being in a support group or a 12 step program. On a daily basis, I feel as if I have to start every conversation with fellow Mets fans by saying "Hello, my name is Jocelyn and I am a Mets fan". It truly is an addiction that only fellow Mets addicts can understand. It makes no sense, but that's what addictions are all about. It's a habit that we know is bad for us, but we just can't stop. I just have to accept the fact that I have a lifelong disease and that disease is being a Mets fan.

Meanwhile, social media has opened my eyes to an entirely different set of fans and a group of supporters that show their pride openly and don't lurk in the shadows like us Mets fans often do. They are fellow Arsenal fans and they can be found all over the world.

I wrote about the Gooner Family in an earlier blog post entitled The Power of Twitter and the Gooner Family in the fall of 2012 when I obtained tickets to see two Arsenal matches from fellow Gooners that I initially only knew from Twitter (now they are actual friends).

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
There is a saying that nothing brings people together more than a common enemy. While I can't speak for how that works in global politics, I can say that I truly believe this is the case in the world of sports. For us Arsenal fans that is particularly true. The hatred of Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, The Mirror, Ca$hley Cole, Samir Na$ri and Judas van Persie (among other negative forces) unites us even further.

First of all, we are living in an age where the world is more connected than it's ever been. Social media has made it possible for people all over the globe to connect, interact and at times even form relationships. As a marketing professional, I have followed the growth of various social media platforms with a lot of interest and have come to the conclusion that Twitter is the social media channel that truly has the ability to connect people from all corners of the globe. I'm not sure who said it, but I once heard the saying, "I have more in common with the people I don't know on Twitter than those I know on Facebook."

Courtesy of Quaid Kocur
I COMPLETELY AGREE. I find Facebook a joke. My "friends" post insipid photographs, jokes and other assorted crap that has no interest to me and at times is a bit ostentatious. As someone who has been adversely affected by the economy, photos of my relatives eating lobster dinners on golden beaches or acquaintances standing in front of their new condos are not particularly interesting or inspiring to me.

Instead, I have connected with some of the most amazing and interesting people on Twitter simply because we have a common love for Arsenal. The hashtag #GoonerFamily is widely used among Arsenal fans on Twitter and I have come to believe that there really is a Gooner Family.

It's crazy, but I enjoy conversing and interacting with these fellow Arsenal fans from all corners of the globe more than the supposed "friends" I am connected with on Facebook. I can relate more to people that I probably never would have met in my lifetime from countries all over the world simply through our love of Arsenal.
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
It may sound a bit corny or overly dramatic, but I have come to the conclusion that if everyone in the world was a Gooner, we'd live in a more peaceful world. Perhaps the UN should adopt Arsenal as the worlds' team.

To prove my point how being an Arsenal fan brings different walks of life together, I went through all my fellow Arsenal connections on Twitter and counted. I am currently connected with Gooners from 104 different countries. Considering that the UN currently recognizes 193 nations, that is pretty amazing. It has made me that more determined to find an Arsenal fan in North Korea, Greenland or Djibouti.

by John Cross
So without further ado, I present the "United Nations of Arsenal":
  1. Albania
  2. Algeria
  3. Argentina
  4. Australia
  5. Austria
  6. Bahamas
  7. Bahrain
  8. Bangladesh
  9. Belarus
  10. Belgium
  11. Bosniaand Herzegovenia
  12. Botswana
  13. Brazil
  14. Brunei
  15. Bulgaria
  16. Burundi
  17. Cameroon
  18. Canada
  19. Chile
  20. China
  21. Colombia
  22. Costa Rica
  23. Croatia
  24. Cyprus
  25. CzechRepublic
  26. Denmark
  27. Dominica
  28. Egypt
  29. El Salvador
  30. England
  31. Estonia
  32. Ethiopia
  33. Finland
  34. France
  35. Germany
  36. Ghana
  37. Greece
  38. Haiti
  39. Holland
  40. Honduras
  41. Hungary
  42. Iceland
  43. India
  44. Indonesia
  45. Iran
  46. Ireland
  47. Israel
  48. Italy
  49. Jamaica
  50. Japan
  51. Kenya
  52. Kuwait
  53. Lebanon
  54. Liberia
  55. Luxembourg
  56. Macedonia
  57. Malawi
  58. Malaysia
  59. Maldives
  60. Malta
  61. Mauritius
  62. Mexico
  63. Montenegro
  64. Mynamar
  65. Namibia
  66. Nepal
  67. NewZealand
  68. Nigeria
  69. NorthernIreland
  70. Norway
  71. Oman
  72. Pakistan
  73. Paraguay
  74. Peru
  75. Philippines
  76. Poland
  77. Portugal
  78. Qatar
  79. Romania
  80. Russia
  81. Rwanda
  82. Saudi Arabia
  83. Scotland
  84. Serbia
  85. Sierra Leone
  86. Singapore
  87. Slovenia
  88. SouthAfrica
  89. Spain
  90. Sri Lanka
  91. Sudan
  92. Swaziland
  93. Sweden
  94. Tajikistan
  95. Tanzania
  96. Thailand
  97. Trinidad and Tobago
  98. Ukraine
  99. UAE
  100. US
  101. Venezuela
  102. Vietnam
  103. Wales
  104. Zambia
Up the Arsenal!

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