It’s funny, here in the United States you aren’t born with a club. Something I’ve noticed over the years is that it’s pretty customary in England to cheer for the club your father supports. My dad, along with about 95% of other Nebraska dads, have never really cared for soccer. Much of his sporting attention is directed toward college football, specifically the University of Nebraska’s football team. The only times he’d shown a glimmer of curiosity in the football where you use your feet is when it had to do with one of my jobs or while he read the paper as I watched the Premier League early in the morning. So when I fell absolutely in love with the sport in high school, I had to find a club myself. Meanwhile, I hadn’t shown much interest in Leeds either. On my own I decided to follow West Ham United and still do.
However, this spring while living in Chicago and working for U.S. Soccer, a friend of mine had been bugging me to watch the Leeds doc on Amazon and I finally gave in.
Needless to say I was enamored. The storylines, the players, the history, the passion and of course, the coach. I have to give it to Amazon, the way they told the narratives of last season was superb, but then again, just about anyone could tell you that story and it would give you goosebumps. I remember distinctly watching it for a second time with my girlfriend in our apartment right when quarantine began. I had already seen it and knew how it ended just from casually following the Championship results the year before. Still, it was hard to keep my eyes dry after Derby County ended everything in the playoffs. She felt the same and we laughed at how wild it was a second division team in England could make us feel this way.
In the end, quarantine proved to be the end of some major things in my life. I lost my job at the federation due to COVID. It was a strange feeling going from what felt like the continuation of a solid career arch, to having to start over. At the same time, things unfortunately weren’t working out with my girlfriend either, and we decided to end things after two and a half years. There’s not much to say about it, it was tough. I moved back in with my parents, single and unemployed. I think it’s important to point out that I was incredibly fortunate to have a safety net and that many others have had it so much more difficult than me during COVID. Still, I was feeling pretty low.
The Leeds bug didn’t go away though. I figured I’d throw a hail-mary and see if my dad wanted to watch the documentary with me. I wasn’t doing much anyway and figured I’d give it one last try to get him onboard with the sport I centered my entire career/life around. It would be fair to say that I also probably just wanted to feel something again.
He loved it. We had made it a goal to complete the series before the Championship restarted, and finished well before. I could tell from the beginning this was different. From the minute Russell Crowe started his gruff introduction, he put away the paper and watched intently. He asked the usual questions, like what is promotion and relegation, the offside rule and the difference between the Championship and the Champions League. I happily explained and would sneak comparisons between Leeds and Nebraska football to help build the bridge. By the time it finished, there was no question he was waking up at 6 a.m. to watch Leeds take on Cardiff City for the first match of the restart.
We ended up watching just about every one of Leeds’ last nine games together. He even went so far that when the Swansea City game wasn’t being shown in the States, he paid for the LUTV stream so we could watch it. Might not seem like much but trust me, it was. When Pablo scored that game winning goal just before the 90’ minute, the house erupted like Nebraska had just won the Big 10.
I get it. It might seem a bit cheap for a couple of Americans who haven’t gone through the pain of 16 years in the Championship to finally jump on board just before promotion, due to the help of an Amazon documentary no less. Here’s what I can say. It means the absolute world to me to finally be able to share all the passion and love I’ve poured into this game with my dad.
To Radz, Bielsa, Kalvin, Patty, Ben, Luke and all the rest of the boys, thanks to you I can finally say in the most unconventional, American, but still genuine way, that I support the same club as my dad. MOT