First, I have some things you should know. I've only been a fan since December, 29 2012, and I'm American.
Are you still reading? Good.
Let's back up a little bit. I grew up in an industrial area of Michigan that didn't support or follow soccer at all.
Fast forward through multiple moves, job changes, and marriage, and I moved to Seattle in 2008. That year, Seattle was awarded an MLS team called the Sounders. I still can't place why it happened, but I started following the team and it quickly became my favorite team and sport. My wife and I became season ticket holders and she will tell you that I talk about it way too much.
In 2012, my brother in law was in the US Air Force and stationed in the UK at Mildenhall. They were living in Bury St Edmunds. The whole family decided to visit for Christmas. My only request for the whole trip was that we go to an Premier League match.
As luck would have it, we were planning to go to Edinburgh as part of the trip, and Spurs with Clint Dempsey were going to be at Sunderland when we could stop there on the way back to Bury.
I'm not going to lie. I went to see an Premier League match and to cheer for Clint. That's about it.
However, we got into town around noon for the three o'clock kick off. We went to a pub across the street from the Stadium of Light. My wife and I were both wearing bright green Sounders scarves. For a good twenty minutes we drew some strange looks but we kind of kept to ourselves.
Finally, this nice man started talking to us. He introduced us to his entire family. His dad, brother, daughter who came back from college just for the match, everyone. They were so nice. I have to be honest that we didn't necessarily understand everything they said with that lovely Mackem accent. But the warmth was so obvious.
(As an aside: the guy's brother told us "we go to the pub, we get there just in time for the match, and then we go back to the pub. We don't have any of that razzmatazz like you Americans." I still laugh about that.)
Before we headed in for the match, I exchanged scarves with the nice man. I never got his name or contact info and if anyone could possibly connect us, I'd love to send him a Christmas card or Sounders kit or something.
We headed into the Stadium of Light. What a fantastic venue. We found our seats and took in the atmosphere and prepared ourselves for the match.
Of course, Sunderland came up on the short end 1-0. I have to admit I cheered a little when Dempsey came on as a sub. But by the end of the match, something happened that I wasn't expecting. I was a Sunderland supporter. I was mad we didn't win.
So that started my life as a Sunderland supporter. Here on the west coast of the US, three o'clock matches come on at seven in the morning. The early match is 4:45am, and yes, I drag myself out of bed for almost all of them.
If I may, being a Sunderland supporter for an incredible length of three years, I'd rather like to give my thoughts on what it means, and I completely understand I'm a stupid American that has followed the club for an entirety of three years. Sunderland have an incredible spirit. It reminds me of where I grew up and went to college. On one hand, the results don't matter. The feeling for the club and the community are so much more important. On the other hand, how could anything be more important than results? A loss ruins my entire week!
I love Sunderland. No one understands it but me. Not even my wife. Amongst my Sounders friends, they all support the like of Arsenal and Manchester United, but I'm so glad I've found this community and I look forward to supporting for years to come.