The challenges of being a BVB fan in the US
Being a European football fan in LA, let alone the USA...it's really weird sometimes, man.
That might be a statement of slight (or extreme) valley girl dimensions, but it is true. As I say all the time, I never INTENDED to have a fußball mannschaft in my heart. I'd LIKE to have a team, sure. But you don't just HAVE a team. The team must find you. So while I knew the sport and followed casually, my life path put me in Dortmund and it was impossible to deny that BVB is something special. At the most, I was in Dortmund five times per year. Now it's one or two. I spend most of my life outside of Dortmund.
Forget about game times. As a member of BVBtotal, it's entirely practical that I can avoid social media and all news and watch the games at night or later in the morning and pretend I'm watching it for the first time. I can watch live streams if I am simply too anxious about a result.
No, friends, it's all about culture. Los Angeles is the best example of a cultural and geographical identity crisis where almost everyone I know is from somewhere else. People are always referencing where they grew up in the fondest ways, yet none of them want to live there. I live in a place that physically, geologically, historically and hydrologically should not exist. Yet...it does exist. And you know what? Life isn't bad here. It's very easy to just exist here for a few years and it's very easy to pretend you love this city, even though deep inside, you're not happy and wandering aimlessly in a life that at least has sunshine 300 days every year. Worst case scenario, you can fake it until you make it real and find happiness here.
This creates an unusual phenomenon, specifically related to sports. First, you have literally every single team represented in fandom cultures here, whether permanent transplants or people just living here for a short period of time. A friend of mine is a diehard Syracuse basketball fan and found a bar in Hollywood that has lines out the door when Syracuse plays. COLLEGE BASKETBALL. There are numerous Buffalo Bills bars, and Packers bars and Yankees bars and so on. Transplants have reconvened and formed little bar-focused communities around their sports teams from around the country, and even teams from around the world. The side effect of this is that it's totally natural that someone says "I'm a huge fan of x" and no one even flinches. We're so used to everyone liking everything and not being from here. It's not unusual to find someone who is a huge Boca Juniors or a Boston Red Sox fan.
Being a Dortmund supporter in Los Angeles is awfully challenging. Whether it's geography, an effect of no real footballing culture here, or just a poor import of German marketing or a language barrier that kills people off when they try to master the Accusative and Dative cases, it's a lonely endeavor when I'm not in Dortmund. I'm just a weird guy with a bright yellow shirt walking around on match days.
I stepped out and used Twitter. Maybe THERE I can find Americans, specifically southern Californians who will meet for matches on Saturdays. I've had the team retweet my messages. Nothing except Eric in Orange County who drove 60 miles to watch the Champions' League final with me at a bar because I was the only other BVB fan trying to organize a watching party outside of London or Germany (Hello, Eric!). I met a guy when watching Arsenal/BVB (at an Arsenal bar) who was wearing a Mkhitaryan jersey. While this was a high-fiveable common ground we shared (in his mind, at least), he then high fived a woman wearing a Chelsea jersey....in an Arsenal bar and said the toxic words I hate to hear..."THAT'S MY OTHER TEAM!!!!" Sorry, but that is going to kill our relationship immediately, buddy. I watched BVB/Malaga at a restaurant with students from Heidelberg...all Bayern fans. While they were gracious enough to invite me to watch Bayern's match the next day, that's what life is here. Real Madrid, Juve, Everton and the LA Galaxy had a friendly tournament in LA this summer. I rolled out in my Dortmund jersey, and saw ONE other person wearing one. I emphatically walked up and said hi. He was wearing the jersey because his friend had it and "wanted to wear something soccer" to the match. There just aren't that many schwatzgelben that I've found and that is how life is most of the time. I would love for it to change, but when German restaurants show Real Madrid and Galatasaray mid-day instead of Borussia, we have a long way to go.
Perhaps I'm looking for something that doesn't exist and maybe watching a match in a bar at 6:30AM on a Saturday is so depressing that I wouldn't want to do that after a match or two. American sports culture does not have anything that comes close to a typical match at the Westfalenstadion. I've been to pointless baseball games. I've been to basketball games that have no impact on the end of the season. There is a special feeling watching Borussia defeat lowly Fürth. Watching a Pokal match against Dresden on a Tuesday? Magnetic. Captivating. I could never explain this to Germans who are accustomed to that experience. I could never explain it to Americans who have never been there. I was taken in like family amongst some of the most hospitable folks I've met when they realized that I was, in fact, completely crazy for this little team from the Ruhr. I heard Arsenal fans singing some gibberish and I was envious because no one was there to sing "Unser Ganzes Leben" at the end of a rousing 2-1 victory. I know that Los Angeles will not ever be able to replicate a Rote Erde, but you have to start somewhere and I have hope that it will happen.