Hipster culture is very much in vogue these days. From the fashion world, where skinny ties and skinnier jeans are the choice of dress to the music world, where artists such as The National (who are absolutely wonderful) and Janelle Monae offer something different from the usual dreck that Top 40 and Mainstream Rock radio have to offer, hipsters like to be one step ahead of the rest.
The sports world is not immune to hipster culture either. It especially exists in soccer, where German club Borussia Dortmund provided an alternative to the corporate elitist clubs that exist in the highly exposed English Premier League. Dortmund have a unique relationship with their supporters, in which the club is publicly traded on the German stock market. The supporters who in turn are shareholders, vote on the board of directors and have plenty of say in the direction of the club. Playing a free-flowing, attacking style, Borussia Dortmund have become the darlings of hipsters throughout the world. It doesn’t hurt that manager Jurgen Klopp dons the hipster look, with his tussled hair, the unshaven frizzy beard and designer glasses, while he patrols the sidelines.
But what about North American sports? Where are the teams that perhaps don’t get the national attention, but have a certain “je ne sais quoi” about them that makes them entertaining to watch? Here’s a list of teams both in North America, with a couple of soccer teams in Europe that represent club and country that could very well be cool before they really are cool.
NHL: New York Islanders
There was a time when the Islanders were one of the headline teams in the NHL. The early 1980s saw the Isles capture 4 consecutive Stanley Cups, playing with a mixture of skill and toughness. The Islanders went through some very difficult times in the 1990s and 2000s, thanks to horrendous management, (I’m looking at you Mike Milbury) and even worse ownership. (I’m looking at you John Spano) But now, the Islanders are trending upwards, thanks to unknown superstar John Tavares. Trust me, if Tavares were playing for the cross-town Rangers, or a Canadian based team, his face would be plastered on every TV screen across North America. But he’s stuck in Long Island where most people don’t care. Hipsters tend to have a penchant for off the beaten track fads, and the Islanders fit the bill perfectly. When the team moves to the hipster capital of the world, Brooklyn in 2015, the Islanders could very well be the hipsters hockey team.
NBA: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors started to make some noise in last season’s NBA playoffs, eliminating Denver in a very entertaining first round series, then pushing favoured San Antonio to six games before eventually succumbing to the veteran Spurs. Head coach Mark Jackson likes his team to play an up-tempo style and he has the athletes to do just that. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are a dynamic backcourt duo that can shoot the lights out of the building. Andre Iguodala is a high-flyer on the wing. Jermaine O’Neal and Andrew Bogut are skilled, athletic big men who aren’t afraid of doing the dirty work in the paint. Add to the fact, the team resides in the laid back West Coast where hipsters are aplenty, (granted Oakland will never be considered a hipster city, but neighbouring San Francisco has hipsters to spare) the Warriors are the team for Bohemians that love to live in the Bay Area.
MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates
First and foremost, Pittsburgh is not a hipster city. Everyone knows Pittsburgh is a blue-collar, hard-working city based on the steel industry. So why do I have the Pirates as a “hipster team?” Well, it’s based on attitude. Hipsters tend to shun the overhyped, mainstream ideals and is there anything more mainstream and overhyped in baseball than the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox? The Pittsburgh Pirates, on the other hand, have been one of the most obscure teams in the last 20 years, despite having a rich history dating back to Honus Wagner at the turn of the 20th century. Granted, the Pirates fielded terrible teams in the last 20 years, so there was very little reason to get excited about them. But 2013 was an entirely different story. The Pirates made their first postseason appearance since 1992, even winning the one game wildcard playoff against Cincinnati. Rising stars such as Andrew McCutcheon, Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte provided punch and power in the batting lineup. Pitcher Francisco Lirano had an incredible comeback season, and is a candidate for the NL Cy Young award. Closer Jason Grilli posted 33 saves, and sports a beard that the hipster crowd would be proud of. Add to the fact the Pirates play their home games at beautiful PNC Park, considered one of the best stadiums in baseball, the Pirates are a hipsters dream.
NFL: Seattle Seahawks
Admittedly, it is very difficult to pick a hipster team in the NFL. The biggest sports league in North America would probably be considered to mainstream for the ultra-cool, sophisticators. But if any team can break through the milieu, the Seahawks just might be that team. Seattle uses the trendy read-option offense, led by Russell Wilson who doesn’t look like the prototypical quarterback. Standing only 5-11 and weighing 205 pounds, Wilson is a lightweight in the NFL, but possesses a rocket arm and smarts to run the complicated read-option. Pete Carroll is not a conventional head coach. Unlike his dictatorial counterparts such as Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin, Carroll is a cheery fellow who encourages his troops with positive thinking, and rah-rah enthusiasm. Then there is the city of Seattle itself. With more Starbucks than nightclubs, Seattle is a hipsters dream with foaming lattes on every street corner. The Seahawks are getting more national attention, but still lag behind the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears in terms of media attention. A Super Bowl win would change that but for now, the Seahawks are going to have to be content with being the hipsters heroes.
NCAA Football: Oregon Ducks
Another West Coast team that feels they don’t get the attention they deserve. Oregon does lag behind most schools in the SEC in terms of national attention. Even in the PAC 12, Oregon often has to play second fiddle to USC for love in the press. While there definitely is an East Coast bias in terms of coverage, Oregon is ready to kick the door down and announce their permanent arrival on the national scene. The one thing hipsters won’t like about Oregon is the school’s ties to corporate giant Nike and their endless sponsorship of the football program. However, the flashy style of the team on the field along with the even flashier uniforms offset the corporate image. Oregon are anything but conventional and hipsters like that. This isn’t old-time college football where three yards and a cloud of dust was the offensive scheme. Let’s not forget Oregon is quite liberal in terms of political and social issues. This is where hipsters would go to school.
English Premier League: Southampton
For most hipsters, the English Premier League is seen as a dour, corporate entity, with profit being the only end game for most clubs. (Hello Arsenal) The English way is the correct way, and any other way of playing the world’s most popular sport is deemed laughable by the old guard. But one club is out to change that. Southampton have fancied themselves as an exciting team, playing with an attacking flair unheard of in the Old Country. While most English sides use a 4-4-2 formation, with defending being the most vital aspect of the game, Southampton have decided that attacking the opposition goal, while playing the same 4-4-2 formation is the best way. The result is an exciting young team that is challenging for a European spot. Rickie Lambert leads the club with 3 goals and is the club’s most thrilling player, using pace and élan to foil defenders. This type of football is pleasing to watch, and it is catching on with the hipsters. Southampton aren’t a big side, being recently promoted to the EPL in 2011, and they don’t have huge corporate support. But this plucky side from southwest England is a joy to watch and have proven themselves to be giant-killers so far this season. A win at Liverpool followed by a draw at Manchester United have raised hopes for the Southampton supporters. A spot in Europe will please the hipsters who loathe the big English sides. Stay tuned.
World Soccer: Belgium
With the World Cup coming this summer, people will be looking for teams to support, if their native homeland doesn’t qualify. Here in Canada, where the World Cup is a pipe dream at best, the soccer fans here tend to jump on bandwagons of nations of heritage or style of play. England, Germany, Italy and Holland are well-supported as many immigrants from those countries now live in North America. Brazil and Argentina play an attractive brand of football that is pleasing to the eye, hence support is high for those two South American nations. Since hipsters don’t like to follow trends, they will look for someone else to support, and Belgium is the early trendsetter amongst the “cool kids.” This will be Belgium’s first trip to the most watched sporting event on the planet since 2002, which in itself is an accomplishment. Belgium have slowly become a darling amongst the hipster crowd, with their free-flowing style and precision play. The likes of Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin De Bruyne in the midfield give Belgium a force of power. All three play in the English Premier League, Hazard and De Bruyne for Chelsea, Fellaini for Manchester United. Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Daniel Van Buyten defend with sturdiness and structure. Kompany and Vertonghen are also in the EPL, representing Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs respectively. Van Buyten is a key member of the defending Champions League title holders Bayern Munich. Belgium isn’t a big nation, and doesn’t have the pedigree of some of its European counterparts. Which is why the hipster nation will support them come World Cup 2014.
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