Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer

( 14 )


Chuck Culpepper was a veteran sports journalist edging toward burnout . . . then he went to London and discovered the high-octane, fanatical (and bloody confusing!) world of English soccer.

After covering the American sports scene for fifteen years, Chuck Culpepper suffered from a profound case of Common Sportswriter Malaise. He was fed up with self-righteous proclamations, steroid scandals, and the deluge of in-your-face PR that saturated the NFL, the NBA, and MLB. Then in ...

See more details below
$11.12 price
(Save 25%)$14.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (68) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $8.25   
  • Used (60) from $1.99   
Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99 price


Chuck Culpepper was a veteran sports journalist edging toward burnout . . . then he went to London and discovered the high-octane, fanatical (and bloody confusing!) world of English soccer.

After covering the American sports scene for fifteen years, Chuck Culpepper suffered from a profound case of Common Sportswriter Malaise. He was fed up with self-righteous proclamations, steroid scandals, and the deluge of in-your-face PR that saturated the NFL, the NBA, and MLB. Then in 2006, he moved to London and discovered a new and baffling world—the renowned Premiership soccer league. Culpepper pledged his loyalty to Portsmouth, a gutsy, small-market team at the bottom of the standings. As he puts it, “It was like childhood, with beer.”

Writing in the vein of perennial bestsellers such as Fever Pitch and Among the Thugs, Chuck Culpepper brings penetrating insight to the vibrant landscape of English soccer—visiting such storied franchises as Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool . . . and an equally celebrated assortment of pubs. Bloody Confused! will put a smile on the face of any sports fan who has ever questioned what makes us love sports in the first place.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A bracing (and funny) antidote to the cynicism infecting modern sports, Chuck Culpepper's Bloody Confused is a love letter to fandom.”
—Jeffrey Toobin

“The American sporting landscape is littered with bad trades; consider this the latest: We get Beckham, but they get Culpepper. Thankfully, with Bloody Confused! we get our man back on loan, if only for a couple hundred of the most splendid pages you’ll have the pleasure of reading all year.”
—Mike Vaccaro, author of 1941: The Greatest Year in Sports

“Chuck Culpepper is the best, most perceptive sportswriter on two continents.”
—Sally Jenkins

“What a joy this book is. Chuck Culpepper's wonderful touch brings every page alive with laughter and the delight of discovery.”
—Dave Kindred, author of Sound and Fury

"I'm still not sure I love soccer, but I love this book."
–Pat Forde, ESPN

Publishers Weekly

In the throes of becoming jaded and cynical about the American sportswriting scene, Culpepper, a London-based Los Angeles Times journalist covering European sporting events, writes about the internationally known Premiership soccer league and its overzealous fans. The rough-and tumble British soccer sport quickly captivates Culpepper, who wrote on American sports for 15 years, as he learns the rivalries between the fans and teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Portsmouth. A humorist of sorts, he can't help making snide comparisons between the rowdy, cheering British fans and their more somber American brethren, while touting the emotional high of regional pride over big team profits. He falls under the spell of the struggling Portsmouth squad, realizing that the die-hard fans live and die with the fortunes of their players and teams, describing vivid action scenes as thrilling as any in American hockey or football. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
An expatriate sportswriter finds comfort, entertainment and perplexity in the big business of British soccer. After witnessing everything from the congressional baseball steroid hearings to Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, two-time Pulitzer nominee Culpepper had become quite cynical about his livelihood. In 2006, relocating to London "for the oldest reason in the book-love," he left behind the corruption and blatant narcissism of American sports, as well as his privileged media observation post, to become an ordinary soccer fan. England's Premier League provoked culture shock. Shabby, unadorned locker rooms were the rule, Culpepper found, even for superstar teams like Manchester United. Severely restricted media access to the facilities for pre- and post-game interviews enshrouded British teams in a certain mystery. Fan-seating segregation in stadiums, the unspoken understanding that closely seated spectators did not fraternize and the blatant overuse of expletives also proved head-turning. After much deliberation and attending months of games and related events, the author chose to align himself with an underdog team, Portsmouth. Though it held a dismal 19th place in the rankings, he watched the team improve steadily over the course of the season and observed its devoted, good-natured fans. Culpepper diligently makes comparisons between American and English sports ethics, but he also finds commonalities in the players' hubris as well as their monetary greed. His love of soccer comes through as he navigates England's complex, multitiered competition. What's lacking, however, is sufficient material on the personal side of his experience. Culpepper's staunch, unwavering focus on thesport itself may be honorable, but the result is an aloof chronicle marinated in factoids and lingo. For fans only.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767928083
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 8/5/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 237,727
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

CHUCK CULPEPPER writes for the Los Angeles Times and has written for Newsday and ESPN Books, among other publications.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

I came down with a dogged strain of common sportswriter malaise on the morning of Tuesday, January 23, 2001. It broadsided me in Tampa, on the floor of Raymond James Stadium, an edifice named for an investment firm and set amid boulevards of soul-murdering strip malls. It struck during my tenth Super Bowl Media Day, an annual event that persists despite both reporters and athletes finding it loathsome.
As about 2,300 reporters surrounded two football teams—one, then a break, then the other—it dawned on me in a howling rush that I had spent a fourteen-year career immersed in a vat of drivel, banality, and corruption, but especially drivel. I had taken the only brain Mother Nature had granted, and I had exposed it to almost fifteen years of listening to stale and preposterous utterances from managers, athletes, and sports-talk radio. It felt as if my brain had stored, as fluid, all the cliches and the fibs and the grotesque marketing and the extravagant nonsense, until one day the organ simply overflowed.
Woozy, I fled up the stadium steps toward the free breakfast buffet.
I cannot recall the precise rote utterance by an athlete or coach or reporter that wrought this cranial convulsion. I wish I could, but I believe the human mind has a mechanism that represses things that aim to turn it into mulch. At Super Bowl Media Day, some reporters seek insight. Some seek piffle. All receive piffle. There's such a debilitating barrage of piffle that it'd be yeoman to pinpoint particular piffle.
I know it wasn't when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis compared his double-murder charge and obstruction-of-justice guilty plea to the plight of Jesus Christ, because I weathered that session dutifully. I doubt it was New York Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn chatting with reporters about his marriage proposal to actress Angie Harmon on a late-night talk show, because I deeply feared that session and did not stray near. It could've been when, for the one thousandth time, across ten Super Bowls, I heard somebody ask a player whether his team could handle Super Bowl distractions, followed by the one thousandth identical answer of "Yes, we can because we understand why we're here." No one had ever said, "No, I don't think so, because some of the guys already have hired seven escort agencies and held three all-night orgies," which would've been mildly intriguing.
I just know that everything around me felt so hackneyed and so marketed, every conversation so artificial, that I could feel the last shreds of individual humanity draining from my system.
This malaise, epidemic among my colleagues, had beset me only in twinges before. For years I had stood in clusters of reporters listening to college basketball players recite the tired balderdash learned in sessions with college PR staffs, and every once in a while I'd feel a sudden flash commanding me to take my own pen and gouge out my own eyeballs. I'd heard almost fifteen years of athletes claiming they'd succeeded even though nobody respected them. That must've killed ten thousand brain cells. I'd heard almost fifteen years of coaches and athletes saying they took it one game at a time, as not a single contrarian in all that time ever dared to say he took it two games at a time. That must've killed a hundred thousand brain cells. I'd listened carefully to almost fifteen years of retired athletes doing TV commentary during games and studio shows or on talk radio, 97 percent sounding roughly like Dan Marino on The NFL Today.
That must've made me an idiot.
Athletes crediting a deity for a fleeting game outcome or extolling a deity once in legal trouble . . . commentators extolling purity because some places look pure, even amid the phantasmagorical corruption of American college athletics . . . athletes, managers, and commentators saying it's not about the money . . . American Ryder Cup players playing "for my country" . . . the preposterous refrain that the winner of a game "wanted it more" . . . "We just have to focus" . . . "They really have athleticism" . . . "A quarterback controversy" . . . "The people who criticize me don't know me" . . . "David and Goliath" . . . "Cinderella"  . . . or the post-arrest staple, invented by PR handlers: "I made a mistake." . . .
It just all crashed in.
Still, after some free-breakfast comfort food—eggs, sausage—the bug went into remission, and even after the dreary Super Bowl game itself—uninspiring Baltimore Ravens 34, uninspiring New York Giants 7—I hopscotched a huge country without complaint, even seeing some poignant things.
At the Daytona 500 that February, the great driver with the gleam in his eye, Dale Earnhardt, died on the final turn of the final lap, and I saw a vast track enveloped in a loving mourn while a gnarled mechanic sobbed into a pay phone. At the annual sixty-four-team university basketball tournament that grips us every March so much that we overlook the phantasmagorical corruption, I saw gorgeous San Diego, always a privilege. At the Masters in April, I saw a single golfer born to an African American Vietnam War veteran and a Thai mother ensure that his Orlando coffee table could hold all four major golf trophies at once, proof that humanity, through careful parenting and tutelage, could tame its own menacing and spiteful invention, golf.
Delights popped up as years galloped by. When the Boston Red Sox won the baseball World Series in 2004 to end an eighty-six-year drought that had become a national cliche, I got goose bumps at the amphibious parade that ran on streets plus the Charles River. At Athens 2004, I saw a female Korean archer score a mandatory 10 on the last chance in the threadbare 1896 Olympic stadium. In October 2005, I saw a football game between Southern California and Notre Dame that beat the best theater. I saw Roger Federer play tennis. I saw Tiger Woods play often.
It's just that the remissions began thinning.
At the very sporting events that filled the daydreams of my sunny Virginia childhood, I'd feel a fleeting and deadening sense of triviality, the sensation tripled during any NBA regular-season game. With access to the very athletes I once yearned to meet as a child, I'd find myself wishing such access unavailable, the feeling tripled at any Major League Baseball game. I grew so weary of Lance Armstrong's defensive preening that his face on the screen triggered a neuromuscular response wherein I'd reach involuntarily for a remote control, even in a bar.
And college sports. Since childhood, I'd loved college sports, that American oddity featuring gigantic TV audiences and filled stadiums with 60,000 or 80,000 or in some cases 100,000 seats. I'd always perceived it as a continent of fine athletic drama dotted with episodic sleaze. Only after about twenty years of learning about universities slipping illicit cash payments to coveted high school athletes, bribing the coaches of coveted high school athletes, treating high school athletes to weekends of lavish dinners and (sometimes) prostitution services on "official visits," fudging the academic records of college athletes to keep them eligible, having tutors do the schoolwork of college athletes to keep them eligible, using corporate sleaze to wring ever more money from the sweat of unsalaried college athletes, and so on, my thick skull awakened to the thought that maybe it was a continent of sleaze dotted with episodic honor.
It got tougher by the year.
In 2002 we Americans endured another tired baseball labor strife that clouded the season with potential cancellation. We had a former Most Valuable Player estimate that half the players took performance-enhancing drugs. We staged an Olympics in Salt Lake City in which a figure skating judge with a fur collar admitted trading scoring favors. At least she's French, we thought—you know, not like us.
In 2003 we had a row over the Augusta National Golf Club's boys-only membership policy, which is its right but also pitiable. We had a basketball player we liked very much, Kobe Bryant of Los Angeles, arrested on rape charges. The number-one sports star of the year? That would be THG, the performance-enhancing drug we learned about that year. To top it all, we had an American coup de grace in Texas: the shooting death of a college basketball player, followed by his coach's fear that past illicit payments to the player would get exposure, followed by the esteemed coach trying to persuade his assistants to brand the deceased as a drug dealer (thus explaining the good bank balance), replete with the coach saying, "Reasonable doubt is there's nobody right now who can say we paid Patrick Dennehy . . . because he's dead."
In 2004 we had a big, tired hissy fit over Janet Jackson's nearly exposed breast in the Super Bowl halftime show after decades upon decades of cheering cheerleaders with nearly exposed breasts. We had hockey player Todd Bertuzzi sucker-punching Steve Moore during a game, knocking him unconscious and fracturing a neck vertebra. The exhausted, drivelous, please-don't-tell-me-any-more story line of the Los Angeles Lakers finally reached preposterous denouement when the team had to trade the most awesome bloody force in the game, Shaquille O'Neal, because he and Bryant could not coexist. We had a brawl in Detroit during which a fan threw a projectile at a basketball player and basketball players took to the stands slugging fans. I went eagerly to the Athens Olympics and spent the first Saturday night camped outside a hospital with Greek reporters, awaiting in vain two Greek sprinters who may have faked a motorcycle accident in a feat of drug-test avoidance.
In 2005 we Americans spent an entire autumn hearing daily if not hourly about one narcissistic football receiver in Philadelphia. We spent our second straight summer in New York speculating about the intra-team compatibility of one profoundly dull third baseman. I'd begun to realize a twenty-first-century maxim that may have nagged at many fans: sports suck, but I'd hate to live without them.
Then came Friday, March 17, 2005, the nadir de nadirs, when I spent an entire day of this gift of a lifetime watching the congressional baseball steroid hearings.
There you had a daylong view of a committee in Congress. Nobody should ever have a daylong view of any aspect of Congress, where we send some of our most heinous citizens so that we don't have to live among them.
And there we also had a row of grotesquely coddled baseball players who should never speak on television for such duration in any culture concerned for its well-being. One wagged a finger at Congress and said he'd never taken steroids, when by July he would test positive for the steroid stanozolol even though it's remarkably hard to flunk such tests. Another, whose cartoonish muscles abetted his then-record seventy home runs in a summer of 1998 that unleashed poetry about baseball's return to national glory, kept saying he hadn't come to talk about the past. ("Steroids is bad," he said in his opening statement.) Another, invited for his alleged intellectualism and because he previously called steroids a problem in baseball, basically said he hadn't really meant steroids were a problem in baseball. Another claimed translation issues after spending years doing interviews in English. The most credible of all became the one on the end, the handsome former player everyone resented, the first-time author whose just-released book regaled a naive nation with touching steroid tales such as players shooting up each other in their rear ends in restroom stalls.
Then, every once in a while on another base day in Congress, there would come an unspeakable moment in which one congressman or another would, before our very eyes, morph into blubber and start fawning over the presence of the baseball players.
As the first edges of darkness clinched the day as spectacularly misspent, my Tampa malaise had set in again: Wow. I think I might detest sports.
From an upbringing decidedly anti-cynical, I had transmogrified into a threat to foist cynicism upon children in my circulation area plus any finding me by accident on the Internet. With no right to complain given all the crummy jobs in the world compared with mine, I figured I'd ride to retirement or death with flaring depression. On the plus side, I had drained some of my vast reservoir of gullibility and reduced the saccharine content in my copy. I'd begun to leave the house for sporting events fancying myself a chronicler of sin rather than of feat, and reassuring myself it's important to cover sin.
Then, in 2006, I happened upon a cure I'd never imagined and that my numerous ambivalent colleagues hadn't tried. I merely and unexpectedly moved to another country for the oldest reason in the book—love—and alighted an ocean away from SportsCenter playing morning highlights that recur until you want to primal-scream. When Virgin flight 46 from JFK to Heathrow landed, I would step out into not only another country but the country with the world's most popular sports league, soccer's English Premier League, or Premiership, a league so dynamic it compels Bulgaria and Burkina Faso, stokes the curiosity of half of China and big chunks of Colombia, and prompts young men from Mauritius to think up Manchester United songs that denigrate Liverpool.
I would inhabit London, the central nervous system of Planet Earth circa 2006.
After eighteen mostly wondrous years covering five Olympics, twenty-five major golf tournaments, four Wimbledons, eleven Super Bowls, ten Kentucky Derbys, one Sunday night romp up the Champs-Elysees in July 1998 with a bunch of French people who might've abhorred soccer but seemed to enjoy winning, seven baseball World Series, seven Rose Bowls, five Sugar Bowls, five Fiesta Bowls, three Orange Bowls, basketball from Hawaii to Alaska to Kentucky to Athens to Sydney, nine Indianapolis 500s, three Daytona 500s, and one tractor pull, among other events, I found myself purged of free media credentials, free media shuttle buses, and free media buffet lines. I bought tickets as do real people. I went to stadiums and sat as a fan among the completely irrational other fans. I breathed amid the wisest, savviest old fan culture on earth. I relearned arts forbidden in press boxes, including applauding, cheering, and even jumping up and down like a buffoon.
And crucially, I came upon a league chockablock with facts I didn't know, legacies that hadn't grown exhausted, and astounding fan noise I couldn't wait to comprehend.
I felt confounded at mysterious words such as "Hotspur" (that's the nickname for the North London club Tottenham Hotspur), "Everton" (that's an actual and first-rate club set in Liverpool), and "Sven-Goran Eriksson" (he's the dour Swedish former coach of England's national team). I pictured "West Ham" as some gumdrop village somewhere in the countryside, when it's a storied club in gritty East London. I feared I would mispronounce the words "Arsene Wenger" in public, for he's the revered Frenchman who manages Arsenal, the globally revered North London club. I could not for the life of me define "bung," but I felt relief when I learned that's an illicit and illegal payment, because illicit and illegal payments had a ring of familiarity from American college sports. I had only just learned the home city of the mystically titled "Aston Villa." (It's Birmingham.) Only after marveling at the sublime TV talent of soccer's foremost studio host, Gary Lineker, did I learn he'd actually played the game and played it for the national team, belying the habit of former players of becoming unenlightening cliche-spewers. I suddenly learned that in addition to the Premiership, the European Champions League, and the FA Cup, clubs played for a fourth annual trophy formerly called "League Cup" but by now named for a Canadian beer (the Carling Cup).

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Map     xii
Author's Note     xv
Common Sportswriter Malaise     1
Fumbling Around in Daylight     9
"F-ing Move!"     17
Is That Really Chelsea's Pitch?     24
A Twelve-Inch Digix in Camden     31
My Very Own Relegation Weekend     39
Sunday Contempt     47
Media-Inaccessible England     54
Two Months to Choose     61
Clueless     68
Knowing Too Much     74
Away Fan     80
The Best Goal in My Admittedly Limited Lifetime     86
I Hear My People     92
Europe     98
Away Fan Extraordinaire     105
The Distinct Horror of Rail Replacement     112
An FA Cup Debutant     119
Cheering for a Toilet-Seat Thief     125
"Have We Just ..."     130
Old Trafford     136
"We Were Mental"     142
Chimes and Mammals     150
Lonely Walks He Who Walks to Plainmoor     157
A Blackburn Fiasco     163
Never Miss a Chance to Hang Out in a Pub with a Blue Bear     170
Betraying a KindReading Fan     177
Just Disgusting     184
Rather Hopeless     191
You Have to Be Kidding Me     203
Not-Taken Roads     210
Adopted     217
It's Really the Heart of England     223
Elvis and the Beatles     230
One Goal from Europe     237
The Whole Meat Raffle of It All     244
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2008

    Not quite Fever Pitch

    Not nearly as good as fever pitch but still ok in my book. As a Yank, I did enjoy his confusion and learning curve about the world of EPL Football

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 15, 2009

    A good read for anyone getting started in the world of English premier soccer

    Provides a interesting persepective for a new fan interested in what it would be like to track, travel and visit the English teams on home soil.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)