My hometown here in TX is Lufkin, which is about 15 min south of Nacogdoches. So when I was watching the '06 WC and see this kid from Nac come on against Italy, attacking the net and playing like he did with the ball at his feet, I took notice. You don't see many pro athletes come out of that backwater part of East Texas, especially in a sport like soccer which is all but ignored there beyond the age of 8. So I was pulling for him. It wasn't enough for me to start following MLS or the Revs, but I did keep track with how he was doing there online.
That fall, we got Fox Soccer Channel here in San Antonio and I discovered the Prem. I was hooked immediately by the pace, the physicality, the lack of diving and faked injuries that are so prevalent in World Cups, and of course the goals (also few and far between in WC play). Plus I was burning out on US sports a bit b/c of the over-coverage, the endless commercials and the time commitment req'd to watch pretty much anything. So I figured I'd watch a full season, try to watch every team at least twice, and then pick one. If one picked me first, then so be it. I knew I didn't want to bandwagon, so that ruled out the Big 4 at the time (ManU, Liv, chel, Arse). Conversely, I was leery of teams that looked favorites to go down too b/c I didn't want to pick one only to find myself unable to watch them anymore.
Following that WC, the transfer rumors of Dempsey to the Prem started up. Initially it was Charlton, but that didn't happen (thank goodness). Then in January MLS sold him to Fulham. So Fulham moved to the favorites category for me. I liked the simple & classic white and black kits, the iconic, unique, Fenway-like character of the Cottage, and that fighting spirit they showed when I watched them. Plus it didn't hurt that they had Americans in the side. I was a little reticent to jump on board fully b/c of their relegation chances but then Clint scored that goal against Liverpool that helped keep us up and I had my team.
I came dangerously close to picking Newcastle early on. They played in the first match I watched and as a neutral, I fell into rooting for them that day. I did a little research on them though, saw they were a bit of a laughingstock, and decided to stick with giving every team a chance first. It's funny Heather mentioned Spurs, b/c that was my dad's team when he was stationed in England as well (in the 60's) and they were one of the teams high up my list as the season wore on. Ironically, they were managed by Jol at that time. Everton were the other one. Looking back, had Dempsey & their survival not pushed Fulham over the top for me, Everton probably would have nicked Tottenham for my support.
The following summer I found the original FulhamUSA and enjoyed pretty much everyone on the site. I met HatterDon since we live in the same city and we hit it off. Then when the 07-08 season kicked off, I discovered the Chat Room. Back then, FSC only carried maybe 4-5 Fulham matches a year. So a lot of the members of FUSA would all get online, look for an internet stream to watch or listen to the online FFC radio broadcast while we talked about the match (and numerous other things) in the chat room simultaneously. We really formed a sense of community doing that. And then to go through the Great Escape together that way, well it just galvanized Fulham in my heart forever. That match against Portsmouth was one of (if not the) most exhilarating moments I've ever experienced watching sports. Our Euro final was close, but that very real fear of losing my ability to follow this club I'd grown to love was probably the difference.
During that stretch run, we really were dead men walking and I was just about resigned to us going down and worrying about what I'd do. Wait a year and hope we come back up? Pick another team? Fortunately, it never came to that. We've come a long way since then, both as a club and in the coverage the Prem gets here in the States now. If we were to find ourselves in that spot again, I doubt I'd have that same level of fear b/c I can watch a couple of Championship matches per week on tv now. So in a sense it was a perfect storm of time and circumstance that brought me to the club and forged them as my club. Had any of those factors been different, I don't know that I would have wound up with the same result.
Regardless, it's been one heck of a ride and I wouldn't trade it for anything.