Musician Duff McKagan's column runs every Wednesday on Playbook Sounds.
In August 1987, I was headed out to play my first-ever arena tour. The Cult gave GN’R the opening slot for a tour that would cross Canada, come down the West Coast, and then shoot across to the Southwest and finally end in New Orleans.
I met Cult guitarist especial Billy Duffy on that first night in Halifax, Nova Scotia -- that was nearly 25 years ago now -- and even way back then, his soccer team Manchester City was on an epic losing streak of 20 or so years.
I could empathize. I am, after all, from Seattle.
You can’t mess around when talking or writing about English football. If you are an American, and don’t know much about that whole scene over there, be careful about saying such throwaway things as “I think I’ll pull for Liverpool this year.” I did that once in an interview with some UK magazine. I mean, why not? The Beatles are from Liverpool, and I thought it was a fairly innocuous and tame thing to state. No. I caught a whole rash of crap from each city I went to in England after that.
Manchester, England, is a city about the same size as Seattle or, say, Cleveland. Imagine if Cleveland had the Browns and the Steelers both hailing from the same city? Or if Seattle had the Seahawks and the Raiders? And both teams had originated from different sides of town, and had somehow split the fandom somewhere right down the middle of town.
I went to a friendly between the Seattle Sounders and Manchester United last summer and was quickly made aware of just how huge and dominant, worldwide, Man U was. The merchandise factor alone for that team is that of the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers combined. Being the underdog fan that I have become from being a Seattle fan, I had a decidedly angled mistrust of that Manchester United machine. But they had all of the appearance and strut of a machine that expected to win.
Billy Duffy and I have remained good pals over these years. We just did a trip together to South America. When you are together with dudes for a long period of time, the topic will inevitably lead to sports. This where I started to get the full (albeit slanted) story of what was going on in the Premier League this season. Manchester City was then eight points out of the lead against Manchester United, but City had a real chance at last, after 44 years of sucking pretty valiantly.
A lot has been made in the Premier League this year of how Manchester City “bought” an all-star team. This kind of stuff happens, of course, all the time here in America. It has worked out for some (’97 Florida Marlins, for example), and hasn’t worked for others (the yet-unproven Miami Heat). You do still have to win the games, and a team -- all-star or not -- has to learn how to play and win over a full season.
As this Premier League season came to an end, Man City won the games that they had to, and Man U lost the games that they should have won, and those two teams were neck-and-neck coming in to last weekend. Do-or-die time. A good sports story. If City (basically) won on Sunday, they would win the Premiership for the first time in 44 years.
Last week, the Los Angeles-based Mancunian Billy Duffy could take it no more. He had to get back home and see this last game for himself. I got a call from him. He asked if I thought he’d be jinxing his team. He told me about all of the games he went to with his dad when he was a little kid. He told me about the horrible fields that City had to play on when they were relegated down two whole leagues (Relegation would be a whole other topic to write about, eh?). I have seen first-hand how Billy Duffy has suffered year after year for that team. “Dude. You should go!” was my answer.
Whether Man City was a team put together by large amounts of cash or not, they still had to win. That is perhaps a harder thing to do when you are just not at all used to the upside.
So, to Chelsea, and Man United, and Everton, and Liverpool, Arsenal (best team name in all of sports), Newcastle, Aston Villa, Stoke, and all of the rest: Good luck for next year, and at least you didn’t suffer the fate of poor old Wolverhampton ... a relegated team this year.
Congratulations to all of you fans of Manchester City. It is a great story for your lot.
Now, if only the Seattle Mariners could get Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Stephen Strasburg, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay on the team for next year.