Game's on

Last week I found it easier to watch Chelsea than to make a phone call. If that’s not an indication of how far football has seeped into the fabric of America then I don’t know what is.

Sometimes I forget what a huge place this is and how much it can differ from region to region. My home country Northern Ireland is only around 100 miles wide, and I have a friend here in New Orleans who drives that far every day to go to work. In the USA, Miami and Seattle are about 3,300 miles apart, roughly the distance you would cover if you drove from London to Cairo.

In August, I drove from Louisiana to Illinois and stopped for the night in Memphis. I went to an English pub to watch us play Tottenham at Wembley in the Premier League. It was stiflingly humid and oppressive in Elvis’ adopted home which is 300 feet above sea level, and the night before the match we were attacked by mosquitoes in an open rooftop bar.

Fast-forward eight months to the return fixture against Spurs at the Bridge. I was staying near Cashiers in the North Carolina mountains close to 4,000 feet above sea level at a friend’s holiday home. We were so high there was still patches of snow on the ground even though the schools break for summer vacation in only seven weeks.

The tourist season does not start until after Memorial Day, the holiday at the end of May, so most restaurants and bars were shut or closed early. Our neighbourhood was deserted, we hardly saw another resident in five days, and we were so remote my cellphone only worked in certain parts of the house. With the match on a specialised digital sports channel I thought I would miss it.

However, even though my friend has no interest in sport and has never watched a football game in her life, her standard run-of-the-mill satellite package broadcast the contest. The reception meant it stuttered and flickered occasionally, but I was able to follow the action uninterrupted from the comfort of my bedroom.

Football / soccer is now so mainstream that you can go to a remote cabin in the woods on a mountain and still watch it. With plenty left to play for this season, I’ll be tuning in until the last ball is kicked.