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To a jogger passing by my window, I was just another American male screaming at his TV on a Sunday. Football does that to me. Not American football. The English game. Especially when Americans are playing it overseas.

The flickering images in front of me were not the helmeted NFL behemoths of Philadelphia versus Dallas on CBS. It was Fulham against Chelsea on Fox Soccer Channel in late December. Clint Dempsey, an American playing for Fulham, had just headed home the equaliser in the 90th minute, setting the team's Craven Cottage stadium alight. At last, an American from Texas was spreading goodwill and cheer overseas (and being yellow-carded by the referee for removing his shirt in celebration). Dempsey scored both goals in that 2-2 draw, and as he stood tall that afternoon in London I felt an unusual swell of pride many miles away.

I also recalled how I'd begun 2008 at Craven Cottage, watching the same south-west London derby with a New Year's Day fog rising beyond the stands from the shores of the Thames. London cops had laughed at my efforts to secure a last-minute ticket, saying the game had been sold out for weeks. Ticketless but determined, I was not about to halt my mission as hordes of fans marched towards the Cottage. A Japanese couple, in sparse English, said their third party had been stranded at Heathrow and sold me an excellent seat in the Johnny Haynes stand for just above face value.

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