Fancy enjoying a Guinness at 7 in the morning on any given Saturday?
Well, in the eyes of most people, you could be an alcoholic who drinks as much as your heart desires, or at least how much your liver allows.
But that isn’t what most of these early-bird football fans are addicted to.
They’re addicted to the rush of watching they’re favorite English football team, albeit from across the pond.
English football is known for the absurd passion of the fans, they chant like no other league in Europe, or any other league in the world for that matter.
Creative chants are a staple of their game, with catchy jingles made for any player who has touched their hearts as fans.
“6 foot 5, hard as fuck, he gets the Reds excited,” the fans chanted at the Olde Ship pub in Santa Ana, California. “Stick your city up your ass because we are Man United.”
This chant was for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had just scored his first of two goals in the English Football League Cup.
Patrick Corcoran deals with this chanting often throughout his weekends, as he is part of the board for OC Gooners, an American supporters group of Arsenal Football Club.
The Olde Ship is home to three groups that represent Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as Manchester United.
“We have a little bit of history with the Chelsea supporters… differences of opinion of how football should be played, club culture, things like that just make it a little bit of a more toxic environment,” said Corcoran, who has been part of OC Gooners for six years.
This toxic environment is driven by the passion of the fans.
“On days that it’s good, it’s great, on days where it’s bad, it’s the worst thing… football is just a high emotion game,” said Corcoran.
People become addicted to a sport or team through many different ways, Corcoran’s experience is particularly unorthodox.
It was his friend, Dan Palmer, that first introduced him to Arsenal.
It was around 6 a.m. in 2006, and 17-year-old Corcoran was planning to sleep in like he would most Saturdays.
“He literally threw rocks at my window, like you would think in a movie,” he said.
But Palmer, a young man from London, was going to introduce Corcoran to what would become a big part of his life in the future.
He enjoyed breakfast and the game with Palmer’s family, and was instantly addicted.
For a few years he wasn’t able to watch a lot of Arsenal, as most games weren’t shown in the United States back then.
But he says his fandom really kicked in during 2012, when he first attended the Olde Ship.
Then 22 years old, Corcoran and his roommate did not have cable at their apartment, so they decided to go to the nearby pub they had heard so much about.
“We drove over, walked in and there was a sea of people, I had never seen that many Arsenal supporters in one room,” he said.
It was the North London Derby, Arsenal were taking on Tottenham, and Arsenal came up with the victory on an Olivier Giroud goal.
That’s where he had his first experience with the OC Gooners, and since then, he’s consistently been a part of the group.
Now 28 years old, Corcoran reminisces on the opportunities that being a part of OC Gooners has provided, and how it’s changed his life completely.
Being a part of this California contingent of fans, he’s travelled with Arsenal America, which OC Gooners is a part of, to New York and San Jose, California, where he has been able to connect with so many people he otherwise would never have met.
All his experiences have lead to his understanding of fan culture, and his appreciation for it.
Corcoran understands how alcohol is part of the fan culture, he explained how in England, its normal to have some pints before the game, at half-time, and after the game, while simultaneously talking football with friends.
“Who doesn’t want to have a beer at 7 a.m. while watching a sport? Sports and beer go hand in hand in my opinion,” he said.
Nonetheless, drinking isn’t the only thing American fans mimic from English supporters.
As mentioned before, the supporters that gather at the Olde Ship love to chant as much as those in attendance at the stadium.
As an example of their passion, the Olde Ship used to open their doors at 4 a.m. to show the really early Premier League games, but had to stop as the nearby homes complained that the fans were to rowdy that early in the morning.
They now have to open at 6 a.m., which is probably still annoying to many in the neighborhood.
This is what fandom is all about, losing oneself to the emotions in the game and giving in to the nail-biting drama on the screen as ones favorite team plays.
These nail-biting moments are difficult to go through, according to Corcoran.
“Those are the matches you love to wake up for, but hate to live through,” he said. “Whether you’re winning or losing, you’re on edge for one hour, or two hours.”
This can of course become difficult to deal with if your team is losing.
“If people want to take liberties with you or anything like that, it can turn into something that’s not the greatest environment,” he added.
Trash talking is an essential part of any sport, and as fans, people love to participate in the banter that comes with winning a match.
With football starting to grow in the United States, this type of passionate fandom displayed by American supporters should only continue to grow.
Signs of it is starting to show in places like Portland and Seattle, where fans have started attending MLS matches by the droves.
This should be seen as an amazing example of the continuous growth of football fandom in the U.S.
“I got to see it for myself,” said Corcoran of the fans in Seattle.
They all march together throughout the streets before entering the stadium for the beginning of the match, which Corcoran described as an amazing thing to watch and be a part of.
All in all, the beautiful game brings out the passion in fans and allows them to escape from their lives for 90 minutes, and creates an environment where people can gather around a television in an English pub and enjoy a game of good ol’ fashion football together.
Check out this short collection of clips from celebrations at the Olde Ship:
*All photos taken by Francisco Valladares