I came to Aston Villa in 2010, and since then this club has endured perhaps their worst decade in their existence. But luckily, I was prepared. If you think that seven years of bad football are tough to stomach, I came here because of a team who have given me sixteen years of terrible sports memories.
You see, it all started because of the Seattle Mariners. For those of you who don’t know, the Mariners are Seattle’s baseball team. Founded in 1977, they are one of two teams (out of thirty) who have never even been to the World Series. They are currently celebrating their fortieth anniversary season, and in that time they have made the playoffs four times. The last came in 2001 when they won 116 games (out of 162), which tied them for the most all-time. They lost in the league championship round of the playoffs, because theirs is a sport that says “Yes, 162 games is a HUGE sample size, but what if we determined our champion on a trio of 5- and 7-game series instead?”
The Mariners have not made the playoffs since that ill-fated 2001 season. I left Washington state in 2004 to live in Washington, DC and since then I have seen the Mariners play in person something like fourteen times. I have not seen them win in person since 2003. On Tuesday night they were here in DC, so I went to see them. They lost 10-1. That was an improvement over the game they played on Saturday that they lost 16-1.
They are very bad.
And they are probably one of the core parts of me being, well, me. Despite the fact that they are terrible, I still follow them all the time. And for a while, the best place to follow them was on SB Nation’s own blog Lookout Landing. In the mid-2000s, this was perhaps the greatest blog that ever existed. The articles were amazing. The comments were hilarious. And the sense of community was unmatched. You knew people there that you had never met in real life. People like the founders of 7500 to Holte Kirsten Schlewitz and Aaron Campeau.
So when, in 2010, Kirsten and Aaron announced that they were bringing their Aston Villa blog to SB Nation, I thought “Well, there we go. Now I have a Premier League team that I can follow with friends.” So I came here. Back when our logo looked like this:
The X is on Seattle. 7500 is the number of kilometers between there and the Holte End. This was a blog that was created by a bunch of Mariners fans who happened to like some mid-tier Premier League side. I started writing fanposts, and quickly enough Kirsten and Aaron asked me to actually be a writer for the site.
So it went from “Hey, I follow this team” to “Hey, I write about this team, and I had damn well better know what I’m talking about.” So I watched everything. I read everything. And I fell madly in love with this pathetic excuse for a football club. One who would fight (and succumb to) relegation. One that would kick me in the nether regions far more often than they would lift me up. And one that, despite their troubles, connected me to some of the best people I’ve ever gotten to meet.
See, there’s the parallel. The Mariners were bad, and we created a Lookout Landing community out of it. Aston Villa are terrible, and I gained countless new friends. I grew to admire Kirsten and Aaron. I got to meet Jack Grimse, my far-more-talented podcast co-host. I got to read Matt Ferenchick’s endlessly witty ridiculous posts. I became friends with Chris Nee and Steven Green, the hosts of the erstwhile Aston Villa Review. I got to meet James Rushton, who has become one of my closest friends despite an ocean of separation. All of this fails to mention people like Adam Clark, Elis Sandford, Herbert Crowther (A FREAKING HIGH SCHOOLER WHO WRITES SO FREAKING WELL), and the countless other people I’ve gotten to work with here.
That’s why I’m an Aston Villa fan. God knows it’s not because I like sporting glory. Hell, Villa have made me look forward to Mariners season lately. But I love this team and I love the community around it. Once you’re a Villa fan, you’re in for life. It doesn’t matter why you’re a fan. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the states or born a block from Villa Park. We’re all claret and blue and we all ride this team’s ups and downs like it’s the best thing in the world.
And that’s probably because it is.