As a United States based fan of Manchester City, I have become conditioned to waking up at 6:15am central time in order to watch Manchester City play live in the U.K. I experience countless emotions, have breakfast, and at least 2 cups of coffee before many Americans even get out of their beds.
An insult hurled at me being an American who watches the Premier League is, “You aren’t a real fan until you go to a match.” I always felt that was unfair considering a growing sentiment from the average English football fan is the growing price of game tickets. If the extra £20 for a ticket is a problem, why do I have to spend close to $2000 in order to see the best team in the land and in the world? I am aware that’s mostly a gatekeeping mindset based in the fear of America’s Capitalist mindset destroying the old-fashioned game of football. The irony is that the English joined the Capitalism Committee on February 20, 1992, when the Premier League was born. I cannot say I’ve seen the Etihad with my own eyes, but because of the Manchester City US Tour that happened in late July, I can now say I have seen Manchester City play football in person. In fact, because of my time in Houston, I’ve had experiences the typical Mancunian have yet to see with their own eyes.
Manchester City vs Club America was a birthday gift, as my birthday was on the same day as the pre-season match. Throw in the fact that Manchester City haven’t been to the US in 3 years. Nothing short of a dying breath would keep me from a trip to Houston, Texas. Scrambling for a ticket in the Manchester City fan section 322 was a perilous journey and prices for plane tickets were spiking, but the saving grace was my Airbnb was a 5-minute walk from where the pre-season match would be. All there was left to do was wait the 2 months until July 19th when I would make the 3-hour drive to O’Hare Airport, take a 3-hour plane ride to Houston, a 15-minute shuttle ride to the car rental, and another 30 minutes to get to the Airbnb.
If a gatekeeping fan attempts to call me “plastic” I will harken back to the time I spent nearly 7 hours traveling in order to see Manchester City play in person. I had no time to rest because the closed practice was happening 90 minutes after I got to my room. I don’t know about you, but my first action when I’m in Texas is finding a taco joint. Luckily, a great taco truck was only 3 blocks away. $8 and 4 Al pastor tacos later, I had the proper fuel to mentally absorb the fact that I was about to watch a Manchester City practice. While eating those tacos, which were everything I had hoped for, I had a eureka moment! The catalyst of my anxiety and the thrill I felt about the Manchester City experience I was about to have reminded me that Houston represented limitless opportunity.
As the Creator & ⅕ of “Shades of Blue: A Manchester City Podcast,” We are a new show being only 6 months old and not even 30 episodes out. Houston was my chance to spread the gospel of Shades of Blue. This was a chance to meet the guys of City podcast mainstays, “Noisy Neighbors” and “Maine Road Ramble.” Houston meant putting faces and actual names to all the admins of MCFC Membership clubs and twitter accounts I have shared digital laughs with. Houston represented evolution, truly belonging to the Manchester City community. I would no longer be just a voice people have heard or that guy from those tweets. I am plenty aware that you as a reader could be thinking, “Crunk sure is making a meal out of a pre-season match.” I wouldn’t disagree, but what I would say is I’ve spent almost 2 decades waking up at 6:30 am to root for a team that doesn’t know I exist in the United States.
I live in SE Iowa where there’s no fun bar to go and watch games with a group of other fans. I had to go to watch games at a breakfast spot that has televisions. The best part is they serve alcohol early for 3rd shift workers, so that means whiskey in my coffee, while eating a traditional American breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast. Every week I would annoy a random server to change the tv to Fox Soccer Plus, which changed to NBC Sports, then became NBC Gold for two dark years, and now we are at Peacock. I have seen many football shirts in my city but never another City shirt until last June. I was at a minor league baseball game, enjoying $2 beer day and a worker tapped me on the shoulder to show me their phone. There was a City logo as their wallpaper. I was wearing a De Bruyne shirt and we talked about how we became fans of Man City. 12 minutes of talking and I needed more $2 beers! Solitude is a feeling I had to learn to relish or else it could have jaded my past experiences. Going to Houston was my chance to make up for years of missing out on a proper footballing experience and making up for lost time.
In Houston, I was able to meet the Podfathers, connect with the social media team of Man City US on Twitter, and go to a closed practice, meaning I saw Haaland, Alvarez, Phillips, and Ortega in person before the City fans in Europe. I was interviewed by Natalie Pike, got photos with the Premier League trophy, and I got a photo with Moonchester that makes me want to make a music album just so I can make that photo the album cover. I was on BBC Radio Manchester to talk about my experience in Houston. Not to mention all the people I put faces to names, the new relationships that bloomed, and all this happened on my birthday.
The match was great, but everything leading up to the match made all the money, the traveling, and the well-sprung of anxiety an afterthought. In hindsight, I chuckle at how scared I was that my flight might get pushed or when I got back to Chicago I would find my car had been towed. All that comes to mind when I think about my birthday excursion is lots of laughter, too many Topo Chico Seltzers, tons of photos with people who moments before were strangers, and how I almost lost my voice watching Manchester City play Club America with 61,223 other people, most of them being Cityzens. I am thankful for Manchester City for coming to the U.S. and making sure they gave unprecedented access to players. I am thankful for all the Manchester City staff who were the nicest, yet snarkiest group of people I’ve met in a long time. I am thankful for all the people who made sure I enjoyed myself and took the time to tell me happy birthday.
Lastly, I can say I am thankful to each person who has taken the time to read about my experience and my journey to finding myself in Houston.