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The Milk House: We are Huddersfield

Ryan Dennis for Progressive Dairyman Published on 04 May 2018

My Irish housemates, Kieran and Tommy, were sick of me trying to explain American sports to them. In retaliation, they forced me to choose an English Premier League soccer team to follow. I was already prejudiced against a sport that didn’t have cheerleaders and could end in a 0-0 draw, but I played along.

I looked over the list of teams that would be in the Premier League this year. As with most European leagues, the bottom three teams drop into the lower division next season, and the top three from the league below it move up. I asked a few questions about some of the squads – a few I had heard of and many I hadn’t. I didn’t take very long, nor did I put much thought into coming up with a team.

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“Huddersfield Town?” Kieran and Tommy exclaimed. They explained that the Huddersfield Terroirs don’t have any stars and had just got promoted into the Premier League. They were going to lose most of their matches. Most of the Irish went for Liverpool or Everton, or a bandwagon team like Manchester City. Huddersfield Town was going to struggle to avoid getting relegated back down. No one even knew where Huddersfield was.

“Here’s to being original,” I said.

Perhaps ironically, we put the Huddersfield match on the television if we happened to be in the house. This occurred once when Joe, another former housemate, had dropped by for a cup of tea. Joe was a good man we lost to engagement, moving out to get a house with his fiancée. Or so I joked, too, until I also would move into another place to live with my girlfriend.

The men of 15 Rian Oisin had been divided and conquered. For all the benefits of living with a woman, one drawback is a reduction in man-time. I knew what Joe was up to when he messaged me and asked if I wanted to come over and watch the Huddersfield match. I wasn’t surprised a man who previously also had no interest in soccer could suddenly list all the players.

For Christmas, I knew what to ask for. When I got back to Ireland, I told them the news. “Hey lads, my mom got us Huddersfield shirts.”

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Suddenly, all the old housemates of 15 Rian Oisin were getting together every Saturday afternoon to watch a bottom-table Premier League team whose only notable fan in the world was Patrick Stewart from Star Trek (because he was born there). We were hanging out more than when we had all lived together, getting strangely involved in a team few had heard of before.

It was a good endorsement for the nature of sports, demonstrating how it can bring people together (or so I tried to explain to my girlfriend, sneaking away yet another Saturday afternoon). I’ll admit to being proud when someone would look at my shirt and start laughing, or say “Huddersfield? Why?” I didn’t care. We were beautiful and ironic and Huddersfield fans. There was only one thing left to do: go to an actual match.

So maybe I did expect to be congratulated for being an American Huddersfield supporter in Huddersfield Town itself. At night, the city was deserted because of a snowstorm – and generally looked like it would be empty anyway. When we found a pub to go into, the bouncer grabbed my arm and told me to take my hat off.

If I was as big as he was, I would have pointed out to him it was snowing outside, and as long as it wasn’t snowing inside the pub, I was going to take my hat off. He didn’t help resolve the stereotype of the arrogant English. Even worse, inside no one seemed eager to carry us around on their shoulders. No drunken soccer chants, no singing of team songs. Instead, all the English we talked to simply said, “Huddersfield? Why?”

We had chosen to see the match against Crystal Palace because they were one of the few teams below us in the table. Huddersfield lost 2-0, however, and were never really competitive in the game. Our striker blew a chance at a goal, and another shot had bounced off the post. I think the other three would agree, nonetheless, if I said that was all right.

It was fun to be in the stadium we saw on the television all those Saturdays and to watch the players in person we had studied on Wikipedia. It was about the getting there, and what that meant. On the highlight reel, you can zoom in behind the goals and find us standing there. Our faces would be blurry and out of focus but, if they weren’t, I think you could tell we were glad for the experience.

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For those who don’t know what Huddersfield is, I can now tell you this: It’s a rally cry. It’s a bottom-tier soccer team, and a state of mind, and a reason for men in their 30s to meet up. It’s proof the simplest causes can bring people together, and they don’t have to be ones that make sense.

Forget the English and their dress codes and the Man City fans who will celebrate winning the league this year. We might get relegated to the lower division by the time the season ends. Maybe the Terroirs will be good in 30 years, maybe not. But I’ll say it again: We are beautiful and ironic and Huddersfield fans.  end mark

Ryan Dennis is the son of a former dairy farmer from western New York and a literary writer.

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