Tuesday, August 4, 2009


For most of my life, August has represented the month when the Cubs are definitively out of the playoff hunt and I start obsessively reading about minute details regarding the Bears' training camp. But not this year. And not because the Cubs are flirting with first place. And not because the Bears' prospects are poor or that they are uninteresting (Cutler is the best quarterback Chicago's ever had and he has yet to play a game).

What is different this year is that visions of La Liga fixtures featuring either Barcelona or Real Madrid are dancing in my head (Alonso too? Really?). I can't wait to see Jozy Altidore play in a match for Hull City. I want to see what Clint Dempsey can do at Craven Cottage and whether Kevin Doyle can keep Wolverhampton in the top tier.

And for the first year ever, I want to watch the Bundesliga; more specifically, I want to see how Borussia Monchengladbach in its second consecutive season back in the German top flight. Now, some would rightfully ask, why would anyone want to see Monchengladbach play, particularly when you have no hope of being able to pronounce it. And the answer is that Monchengladbach is awesome. In addition to featuring Michael Bradley, Monchengladbach won promotion back to the Bundesliga.1 just two seasons ago and narrowly avoided relegation back to Bundesliga.2 the following season. Their top scorer last season was Rob Friend, a Canadian international who played soccer for the University of Western Michigan and the UCSB. Another Canadian international, Paul Stalteri, anchors their defense. The Venezuelan international Juan Arango was recently purchased from Mallorca and is having a great preseason as the squad's principle center attacking mid. Two Israeli internationals -- Gal Alberman and Argentinian born Roberto Colautti -- are also on the team and play alongside the Algerian international Karim Matmour. I don't know anything about this team, but I love them.

My interest in Monchengladbach has already allowed me to reap the tangential benefit of this great piece/confessional on The Phoenix Pub. Because being interested in Monchengladbach means needing to own a Monchengladbach shirt. And needing to own a Monchengladbach shirt means having to find where one can find such a jersey. And that makes me incredibly jealous of the post's author (thefuseproject) as he has a Monchengladbach jersey and I do not and have no immediate prospects of possessing one.

But the bigger point is that this kindred spirit has helped to provide me with a spirited defense of the hundreds of soccer shirts (many of them, because I am an idiot, are "match worn") that clutter my closet. But while others might describe an obsession, I carry abject insanity in this regard. For example, I own three Barcelona shirts... not the current UEFA Cup champions, but Barcelona of Ecuador. I own 20 Grimsby Town shirts. I am writing this pointless drivel while watching the Barcelona-Sounders friendly in a fiftieth anniversary Gozo Football Club (currently of the Maltese Second Division) shirt. When friends visit from out of town, I will generally insist that they leave with a shirt from a football club in Myanmar. When a college friend visited last year from his current home in Dushanbe, I presented him with a shirt from the Tajik national team (this, to me, was so absurd that it simply had to be done). No sane person would waste as much time, money, and space on such a useless hobby.

Nevertheless, I am disturbingly proud of the wardrobe options presented -- who else at a Maryland Renaissance Festival would be wearing a Sheffield Wednesday top featuring Chupa Chups as the sponsor? (The better question, perhaps, is why anyone would go to a Renaissance Festival at all, let alone in a soccer jersey). Which takes me to another stunning realization: I might be excited about the upcoming season as much for the football and the drama as I am for the chance to show off my shirt collection at local bars watching games on television with friends. God help me.

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