Commandment I: Thou Shalt Pick a Team and Love Thy Team Over All Others
In my experience, the fastest way to become deeply integrated into sports is to have a team to call your own. Yes, there are players you might like on other teams. And some teams you might like more than others. But everyone needs a team to call their own.
Commandment II: Thou Shalt Learn the Players Names
Yes, even the players who aren’t on the national team. Even the bench players. Even that one player who got 15 minutes all season. Learn the names, learn their numbers, and learn what they look like. Make an effort to know who you’re rooting for.
Commandment III: Thou Shalt Not Overlook Consistency
Goals are nice. Flashy goals are nice. But do not turn your attention to flashy goal scorers who manage a good game every three or four matches over that holding midfielder who does their job consistently well every game. You might even find you enjoy watching consistent excellence over momentary brilliance.
Commandment IV: Thou Shalt Not Forget the Importance of Good Defense
Defenders are a needed part of the game. Don’t forget that without at least a semi-solid defense there to keep your team in the game, no amount of goals will save them. And defenders who save goals off the line? That’s about as good as it gets.
Commandment V: Thou Shalt Learn the History
This goes for team and player history. Learn about the team you have pledged your loyalty to. Learn about the players who wear the team colors. Learn about the history of women’s soccer, both local and national. Learn about the past leagues. It’s important to know how much work it’s taken to get here to fully appreciate what you’re seeing now.
Commandment VI: Thou Shalt Remember Time Is a Tricky Thing
Players can have a moment so good that the effects of time on your perception of that player are rendered null and void. That player who did that amazing thing for your team in 2013 might not be the same player in 2017. Just be aware time has tricked many of us.
Commandment VII: Thou Shalt Take Opponent into Account
Beating a last place team by two early in the season when they have all given up by the 60th minute should not be spoken about with the same pride as beating the first place team with two to go when they are fighting for the Shield. Remember to take all of these factors into account when talking about your team both positively and negatively.
Commandment VIII: Thou Shalt Not Forget the NWSL Is Sports
As family friendly, as geared toward being role models, as sanitized as the atmosphere may sometimes be, never forget that women’s soccer is sports. The fan culture needs to grow out of a place of sports first. That means some sections maybe aren’t meant for kids. It means there might be rude language. It means that this should be treated as sports even when the marketing from the league or teams themselves doesn’t always point in that direction.
Commandment IX: Thou Shalt Remember to Be Respectful
Number 8 being said just remember to not cross the line. When talking about players, or other fans, don’t bring up the big 5 subjects to avoid: race, gender, sexuality, family, personal life. You can still give a player shit, just remember to be respectful and to focus on the playing, not the personal lives, of players and you should be safe in the minds of most sports fans.
Commandment X: Thou Shalt Remember This Is Someone’s Job
Something that can get lost in all of the noise of role models and doing it for the next generation is the fact this is the player’s job. They are paid, in some cases far too little, to be on the field. If media writers write critically about a player they aren’t doing it to be a “hater” they are doing it because it is part of their job to look critically at the how a player is doing at their own work. Have enough respect for the players to treat them like professionals.
Commandment XI: Thou Shalt Be Open Minded ... Without Letting Thy Brain Fall Out.
Be open minded when someone is speaking to you about a player they are passionate about. Maybe they are seeing something you don’t. But don’t be so open minded that you take everything people say about a player they dislike the style of as gospel. Stick up for your positions as long as the supporting evidence is there. Have respectful discussions with people you disagree with. Learn from as many people as you can.