An expatriate sportswriter finds comfort, entertainment and perplexity in the big business of British soccer.
After witnessing everything from the congressional baseball steroid hearings to Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, two-time Pulitzer nominee Culpepper had become quite cynical about his livelihood. In 2006, relocating to London “for the oldest reason in the book—love,” he left behind the corruption and blatant narcissism of American sports, as well as his privileged media observation post, to become an ordinary soccer fan. England’s Premier League provoked culture shock. Shabby, unadorned locker rooms were the rule, Culpepper found, even for superstar teams like Manchester United. Severely restricted media access to the facilities for pre- and post-game interviews enshrouded British teams in a certain mystery. Fan-seating segregation in stadiums, the unspoken understanding that closely seated spectators did not fraternize and the blatant overuse of expletives also proved head-turning. After much deliberation and attending months of games and related events, the author chose to align himself with an underdog team, Portsmouth. Though it held a dismal 19th place in the rankings, he watched the team improve steadily over the course of the season and observed its devoted, good-natured fans. Culpepper diligently makes comparisons between American and English sports ethics, but he also finds commonalities in the players’ hubris as well as their monetary greed. His love of soccer comes through as he navigates England’s complex, multitiered competition. What’s lacking, however, is sufficient material on the personal side of his experience. Culpepper’s staunch, unwavering focus on the sport itself may be honorable, but the result is an aloof chronicle marinated in factoids and lingo.
For fans only.