I get a fair number of emails and comments asking if I’ve watched “Sunderland Til I Die,” so I thought I should respond — even though the whole subject depresses me to no end.
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See, I first encountered the Sunderland faithful — and that’s really what they are — on one of their all-time greatest nights. I saw them beat Manchester United in the League Cup semifinals, I took a couple of videos that captured their legendary celebrations, and they made me an honorary “Mackem” for it. I had discovered a level of passion that was completely new to me, and I had Sunderland to thank.
Later, I sat amongst them at Stamford Bridge, when they snatched a late victory to all but ensure they would stay in the Premier League. It was utter magic to me.
I now realize that during that time they were imploding under a shitstorm of financial mismanagement, managerial dysfunction and toxicity that would — and still could — literally drive the club out of business.
Finding that out would be bad, and sad, enough. But having to watch it from the inside? I can hardly stand it. In fact, I only do so because so many people ask me about it, rather like how I forced myself through Cheryl Strayed’s Wild because I also wrote a guidebook about the Pacific Crest Trail. But that’s another subject.
The people running Sunderland appear to have no idea what the hell they are doing. And the accumulated baggage and damage is such that it’s hard to see how they get out of it. I am aware that there are former FA Cup (and even league) champions languishing in the lower tiers of English football, but I’ve never seen it happen in real time, much less known people whose faith and hope are wrapped up in the club this is happening to.
I also am aware that the people who own and operate football clubs are human beings, and that these clubs are businesses. But my gosh — can’t somebody who is up to the task please take over Sunderland and save us all, most of all their supporters, from this ongoing train wreck? Honestly, I watch the show and I think, “This is the idiot/asshole in charge of Sunderland?”
That’s what I think of “Sunderland Til I Die” — that it might actually kill us, or that it should perhaps be called “Sunderland Til It Dies.”
All I can say is, please, somebody, fix this. And please don’t make another season of this damned show, lest I (and we) be condemned to watch it.