For many of you reading this, the prospect of taking a job or traveling for an extended period of time far from Chiefs nation mid-season is likely terrifying.
As an experienced expat fan, I am here to tell you that in the 21st century it is not only easy to keep up with your team, but that the process of being a remote fan can be uniquely enriching. If it looks like you will be out of country for part or all of this season, here are some guidelines to staying in touch with the red and gold.
1.) Pick your viewing locations with extreme discretion.
Chances are that if you are somewhere in Central America or Western Europe, there will be cable or satellite packages available that will get you most or all NFL games. But, if there’s no cheap way to pipe Arrowhead into your TV, you are likely going to have to find a place outside of your home away from home to watch the game. While there are inevitably plenty of places where games can be watched, finding a nice fit between you and your venue can be tricky. Basically, here are your options:
Unless you are in a remote village somewhere, chances are you are going to be somewhere near a pub that invariably hosts tons of expats jonesing for some of their home country sports. But, these places can be very hit-or-miss. In my experience, the most prevalent sports pubs are British-dominated joints where rugby and soccer take precedent over all else. If your NFL game of choice clashes with any major European sporting event, you are going to be out of luck. Even if it doesn’t, you will likely have to repeatedly explain to obnoxious rugby fans why “American footballers” wear “crash helmets,” why there are numbers painted on the “pitch” and why the “trainers” aren’t wearing fitted shirts and Prada glasses miming outrage on the side of the field, but are instead decked out in poorly fitting athletic gear mumbling stoically into headsets.
If you are in a country that allows gambling, you will probably be able to find the game on at your nearest casino, however, again, these places don’t always provide the best atmosphere. I watched Super Bowl XLII at a mafia-run casino in St. Petersburg, Russia and it was actually a memorable, if odd, good time. Due to the time difference, it was a 3 a.m. kickoff and the casino bar was full of Giants fans that had been loitering around drinking since the early evening. It was a good mix of displaced compatriots but I lost all of my beer money after spending halftime at the roulette tables.
If all else fails, befriend some civil servants working (in theory) to serve your interests in your country of residence. If not the diplomats themselves, the marines guarding the embassies almost always have the hookup for American sports channels in their quarters. Note: This will also expose you to AFN, the Armed Forces Network, a channel thrown together by the Pentagon to bring U.S. TV to American troops, primarily those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. AFN can be its own sort of absurd treat, because, instead of normal commercials, the breaks in the game are filled with comical public service announcements urging grunts not to traffic drugs, pillage the homes of locals, sniff paint, or shake their babies when home on leave.
NFL Game Pass
If for whatever reason these options don’t shake out, there is always NFL Game Pass (A.K.A. the best thing that ever happened to me). For $250, you basically get every NFL game live and on demand with DVR controls. It even throws in the NFL Network and games from the past two seasons, and has a “condensed viewing” setting that skips over all of the empty time in a game, meaning you can breeze through a typical match in about an hour. Plus, if the time difference is inhospitable, you can always watch the game after the fact with the commercials already removed. Best of all — no box. It’s all over the internet, meaning you can log in to your account wherever you have a strong internet connection and/or a big screen. Also, even if your internet is a bit weak or inconsistent, it automatically increases and decreases the resolution to suit your connection. At its strongest, it puts out pretty good HD.
2.) Try to start a Chiefs fan club in your country.
Because, why not? One of the nice things about being far away from Chiefs Nation is that it makes it much easier to be the biggest fans around. Trying to get KC fans together can be a great way to meet people and allows you to more easily overpower fans of less awesome sports in the pubs.
3.) Convert foreigners to the magic of football.
This is in some ways tied to #2, but actually one of the most rewarding things about being a fan abroad is the ability to proselytize and convert infidels. Over the past few years, I have gotten dozens of non-Americans to watch football, and even created another KC superfan – a German dude who now never misses a Chiefs game, despite the fact the games often come on at 1 a.m. or later Monday morning local time. In the same ways that people talk about parenting being magical, being someone’s gateway to the sport can be a lot of fun. All they know about it is what you tell them. They are like piles of wet clay. You can mold them to love who you love and hate who you hate. Due to my efforts, the Red Army is growing internationally and will soon sweep the world (please do not use this quote out of context).
4.) Being an expat fan further engrains your fandom into your identity.
Having lived out of the U.S. for most of the last seven years, my ties to the Chiefs have actually grown, to a large degree because it keeps me feeling American. When you are separated from your native culture for a long time, you realize how much it means to be a true fan, to be a part of a larger society. In order to keep my hold of my tomahawk roots, I have become the designated Chiefs Superfan for the ESPN Football Today podcast (the best NFL show around, btw) and write this column because doing so makes me feel like I always have one foot planted firmly in my homeland.