Saturday, May 16, 2009

Swedish-American Football in Stockholm

Last night I saw history. Swedish-American football history. And being a Swedish-American, I thought it appropriate to write about my experience.

I have no affinity towards any of the teams in Stockholm. I am not an ardent supporter of Djurgården or AIK or even Hammarby. I just can’t get into it. I really think that growing up with a sports team is what develops the sort of loyalty all good sports fans have. And I don’t have that. And am hesitant to try to mimic that for fear of being that guy. No one likes that guy.

So instead I go to games when I get the opportunity, hockey mostly, but basketball too of course. Although, in basketball I do have loyalties.

Anyway, last night, I watched Djurgården Amerikansk Fotboll make history. DIFAF (as they are so lovingly known) moved up to the highest series of American football in Sweden. Superserien. The Super Series. And they won. For the first time ever.

The team pulled off a 17-14 win in the closing minutes of the game in front of a lively crowd. Of course, that lively crowd was only made up of about 200 people, but it was lively none the less.

Swedish-American football is played by a bunch of guys who love the sport. As well as a couple of Americans who manage to get paid a little bit and needed an adventure and a place to play. Some of these guys played at a pretty high level in the US, others did not. But overall, the level of play seems to be Division III-ish. It’s not bad, but it is by no means USC-Oklahoma.

The crowd was something to see as well. Imagine a high school crowd. A small high school crowd. But not one of those small town schools where the only thing going on Friday night is the football game. This was a small town with a bad team. Friends and family filled the arena. And by filled I mean speckled the stands.

Being the observant fellow that I am, I couldn’t help but notice that a Swedish-American football game is not the place to be if you want to pick up girls. Sweden is known to have some good looking women. CBCC and I have decided that the real difference between Sweden and the US in terms of girls is not that there are more hot girls, just that the average girl is better looking. That was not the case here. Unfortunately.

What was the case, and seems to always be the case, is the late high school, early college, aged guys who managed to somehow, despite the ban on alcohol, get drunk. So much so that it was kind of entertaining. Especially the larger guy. I guess it’s not easy getting that drunk, carrying that much weight, and trying to navigate some pretty steep stadium steps.

But come on, I was there to watch football, not girls and fat drunk guys. And watch football I did. DIFAF struggled early on, down 14-3 at halftime. Slowly, but surely they started pulling it together. With just a couple of minutes left they were threatening. And they fumbled on the first play. Seemed like there was too much adrenaline and nerves. Or maybe the center was just really sweaty. Think about it…

But the defense held. DIFAF got the ball back and drove down within the red zone. The clock was running out and DIFAF went for the end zone. Back right corner. Placed perfectly over the receiver’s right shoulder. A pretty little fade right into the end zone.

It wasn’t Elway to Smith back in the day. But it was the best pass I had seen in a long time. Whether that means I really miss football, I’ve been in Sweden too long, or the level of play was better than expected, I don’t know. Probably all three.

But for only 50 SEK, it was a hell of a deal. Next game is May 30th against the Arlanda Jets. Yup. Arlanda is the name of the airport. And they are called the Jets. It’s cute really.

Welcome to Sweden. And Swedish-American football.

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  1. I've got just a smal question about soccer in the States. How big is the sport over there? Is it like a smal sport that noone really cares about? Or is it one of the larger sports, but after Basketball, Baseball, hockey and American football. Are the sport more popular in some states, I can imagine California for example, but I dont know...

  2. it really isn't. It seems to be getting a bit more popular and the MLS has managed to do a halfway decent job but it is nowhere near the big sports, and not even close to hockey.

    I would be hesitant to generalize so much as to say it is popular in a state, maybe certain cities.

  3. As a native Californian, I completely agree with Hairy. In the US, soccer is not even on the map compared to other professional sports. Nope.

    Children in school play a lot of it, mostly after school, hence the term "soccer moms". Mothers take their little players all over the place in minivans.

    Latinos in L.A. are known to be fanatical and rabid followers... they even booed the US National Anthem (in LA!) a while back.

    No style points there.

  4. thats a good point. I dont know many people who didnt play soccer when they were young. but once football and baseball and basketball come around, most boys move over to those sports.

  5. Hairy, your choice of words above, "most boys", speaks volumes.

    I wonder if Sverige has anything like our "Title IX" gender-equality sports funding rule. This basically channels many girls into sports like soccer, field hockey, etc.

    As for English football, I remember a very cold London evening (1980) where Arsenal were playing Gothenburg.

    People decked out in blue and white, cheering "blåvitt, blåvitt, blåvitt" were not treated with much British hospitality.

    Nope. Not at all... and that's a huge understatement.

    We all lived, though.

  6. You need to blog about Eurovision. It's a classic (pardon my usage) show to watch while in Sweden. ;-)

  7. @forutanvind - I dont think Sweden has any sort of Title IX program.

    That being said, you don't see a whole lot of women sports on tv over here either. or the sports that are usually considered male (like hockey for example).

    @gayathri - I actually have written a few times about eurovision and melodifestivalen. but not this year. I actually didnt even watch the finals this year. I had a fancy dinner to go to instead which seemed a bit more exciting than watching really bad music. Although it is entertaining just because it is so bad.

  8. If you think that Arlanda Jets is a cute name, then just listen to the baseball team from Sundsvall:

    Sundsvall Mosquitoes.

    Yeah.. True story

  9. oh wow... I didnt even know Sundsvall had a baseball team. but that is ridiculous.

    the mosquitoes. I suppose there are quite a few of them up there during the summer.

  10. Hello Hairy,

    I discovered your blog today through my father Ed Soubiea (He started the Arlanda Jets in 1988). As a fellow Swedish American I am really enjoying reading what you have to say about Sweden. I read about your Swedish football game experience and thought it would be really cool for you to come check out baseball here in Sweden... if you have not yet. I play with Sundbyberg Heat and we play every weekend. I look forward to reading more.

  11. Very cool, I had heard rumors about baseball in Sweden but never really much more than that.

    I might have to check it out. Especially since we're smack dab in the middle of baseball season.