The Brit’s Guide to Being an American Sports Fan

No, Brits, you don't need the full regalia and facepaint like this particularly enthusiastic Seattle Seahawks follower. But there are a few differences between fandoms in America and Britain. (Photo: (AP/John Froschauer)

No, Brits, you don’t need the full regalia and facepaint like this particularly enthusiastic Seattle Seahawks follower. But there are a few differences between fandoms in America and Britain. (Photo: (AP/John Froschauer)

So, you wanna be an American sports fan, huh? Way to go, kid. Here’s the lowdown on how to make it in the major leagues.

Pick a sport
First things first. You’ll need to decide which game takes your fancy. What follows is a U.K. to U.S. pastime conversion chart to help you decide.

Rugby = American football
If you’re partial to the rough and tumble nature of rugger then American football is the sport for you. However, if you’re easily upset by excessive padding, then stay well away.

Cricket = baseball*
Like cricket, baseball is a casual spectator sport where you can turn up an hour late and not have missed much. *Also recommended for rounders fans.

Soccer = ice hockey
Imagine soccer on ice but with sticks and more fights.

Going to a nightclub in Doncaster = basketball
It’s very easy to score.

Pick a team
Now you’ve chosen a sport, you’re ready to pick a side. The good news is that in America you’re not obligated to support the crappy local outfit. You can choose whichever team from whatever city, no questions asked. You don’t have to have lived there, gone to school there, or even ever been there—it’s basically the same rules that apply to supporting Manchester United.

Get your paraphernalia
So, you went with the Utah Unicorns, huh? Atta boy/girl. The next step is to get a giant Unicorns foam hand to wave around at the games like a crazy person. Some teams have their own quirky memorabilia. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, have the Terrible Towel, but seeing as though you chose the Unicorns, you’ll have to purchase a 12-inch horn to attach to your forehead.

Get to the games early
Prior to games, fans can be found gathering outside the stadium to eat, drink and be merry. This practice is known as “tailgating,” and it’s just about the most fun you can have in a parking lot. In agreeable conditions tailgate parties are often accompanied by lawn games, but even in colder weather it seems nothing can stop the revelry. During the polar vortex earlier this year Green Bay Packers fans braved single-digit temperatures (we’re talking Fahrenheit here people) to tailgate before their playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. On this occasion the grills were used both for hamburgers and to thaw out frozen Bud Lights.

No need to bring your singing voice
Terrace culture in America is quite different to that of Britain. The first thing you’ll notice when attending a game in the U.S. is the distinct lack of singing in the stands. Every so often cheerleaders or an electronic scoreboard will rally the fans into a round or two of generic chants like “Let’s Go (Enter team name here)” or “I Believe That We Will Win,” but for the most part your mouth will only be required to eat hot dogs and slurp soda from a cup the size of a horse’s feedbag.

Don’t be sad if you lose
Even if your team loses by a million slamdowns every week, don’t worry. There’s no relegation in American sports so you can’t move down a division. In fact, the lower you finish, the higher your pick from the new draft of players. So being crap pays.

The only drawing you’ll be doing is in art class
You’re probably aware that in the U.S. “draws” are known as “ties,” but even if you’re not, it doesn’t matter, because you can’t tie in America. Okay, technically that’s not accurate—you can in the NFL, but there have only been 7 ties since the 1989 season. In hockey and basketball games cannot end in a tie, and, in baseball, a game can only end in a tie if it’s dark, raining, and a dragon lands on second base and starts breathing fire.

Don’t get excited if your team wins the league
Yay! The Utah Unicorns won the division! But hold up there a minute buddy boy, because it means NOTHING! Well, maybe not nothing; the team will be seeded going into the knockout stage, but the history books will only show who won the Stanley Cup, not who finished first in the Pacific Western Conference. Nobody cares about that.

Finally, don’t be surprised if your team relocates to a different city or state
You might wake up one morning to discover that your beloved Unicorns have moved to Milwaukee. How could this happen? I’ll tell you. In America, professional sports clubs are known as “franchises”—private businesses driven by profit and run at the mercy of their owners. Maybe there was a bigger gap in the market for a team in Milwaukee? Or perhaps the franchise was sold to a new owner who lives in Milwaukee? Either way, it’s time to eBay that 12-inch horn.

See more:
Do Brits Play Ice Hockey? An Englishman’s Appreciation of the Sport
Britain’s Long-Distance Affair with the NFL
Downs and Tight Ends: A Confused Brit’s View Of American Football