If you were to guess where the highest concentration of White Sox fans are, you’d probably say Chicago, right? Well that would be correct. However White Sox fandom does exist beyond the second city and it so happens that Gothenburg, Sweden is home to a big fan in Magnus Olsson. Magnus follows the progress of the team everyday despite the over 4,000 miles that separates him from U.S. Cellular Field. How does a young man from Sweden come to love a team that doesn’t even own the lion’s share of the fan base in their own city? Read on!
Matt Adams: Getting right to it, how does one become a baseball fan in Sweden? Have you always had leagues there, were you able to play little league growing up?
Magnus Olsson: Baseball is very limited in Sweden, both in quality and quantity. There has been a Swedish league around since the 60′s but it’s very small and still today there is only about 20 teams competing in all leagues. It wasn’t until I actually got to see baseball on cable channel that I actually became interested in the sport. I’ve actually never played baseball although I’m considering starting next year.
MA: Did that cable channel happen to be playing the White Sox?
MO: Yeah, the funny thing is that I got cable-TV in 2005 moving to a new apartment, and that year had a great deal of White Sox games for some odd reason. I had already earlier settled (somewhat randomly) for White Sox as the team to support back in 2001 just to have a team in each of the big sports. That choice is one of the better ones I’ve ever made.
MA: I certainly can’t fault you for that choice. We folks in the Chicago area are either shoved into Cubs or Sox fandom by family or making a choice of our own and, well, I guess we won’t get into that.
You say somewhat random, so I assume something played into the decision to favor the White Sox at least a little bit?
MO: I only knew they names of a handful of teams. I knew there were two teams called Sox and I knew about Yankees, Marlins and Giants. Even without knowing anything about baseball back then Yankees was only team I knew I could never support. They were everywhere and I’ve always been sickened by teams of tons of annoying fans bragging about their success. I also wanted to support a team not too close to the coasts and that really only left me with one team. It helped that I liked the whole idea of a team named “Sox”
MA: Are there many folks in your neck of the woods you can talk baseball with?
MO: Well, I’ve gotten my brother interested in baseball (but not White Sox sadly), and I regularly attend the games of the local baseball team (Gothenburg Sharks) where I have a lot of people to discuss both local and MLB baseball with. I also run a baseball discussion forum online in Swedish to gather baseball fans from all over the country with the goal of making the sport bigger over here.
MA: I’m a typical American, my knowledge of things outside my own country are limited. I assume soccer is the main sport there; would that be a proper assumption?
MO: Soccer is huge, and during the winter season ice hockey is almost as big. A lot of people also play for the American unknown sports like bandy, floorball and handball during the winters. Baseball, being a summer sport like soccer, suffers a lot from needing a lot of space for a field. Gothenburg where I live has one baseball field and many hundreds of soccer fields. Cities are generally not very interested in giving away space for baseball when they believe a new soccer field would get more attention. If we would end up with a Major Leaguer in the future a lot of things could change.
MA: I know MLB teams have branched out into Europe with some of their training camps, are there any Swedish players currently playing with any MLB affiliation, in a camp or in a minor league system that you know of?
MO: There is one player, Bryan Berglund, who is part of the Marlins organization. He’s born in Stockholm but has lived most his life in the US so he does not have a background of playing in Sweden. There are several young players from the Swedish league who play baseball in college in the US today but none of them have been drafted yet. Last player to actually play in MLB was Eric Erickson for the Senators back in the 1920′s.
MA: Wow that’s a pretty big gap in representation. I hope Berglund is able to break through; I’m all about the spreading of the game.
How often are you able to watch the Sox play?
MO: As often as I possibly can. Anything that starts before CST 3:30pm (10:30pm my time), plus I sometimes watch a late game during the weekend. I guess three games/week on average. Will step it up if Sox are still in Contention by August! I hate watching reruns so the first thing I do when I wake up is checking At Bat on my cellphone if I didn’t watch the game on TV.
MA: Well I’ll stop complaining about when they play 9:00 starts on the west coast from now on. My dedication is usually pretty unchallenged but you’re making me look bad!
I’m sure the Sox world is dying to know, what are your feelings on Hawk Harrelson?
MO: I think Hawk is great most the time. There are always those long awkward moments of silence when White Sox are losing and I wish he would have more things to say but generally I love all the standard phrases. The best thing with Hawk however is his extreme rooting for the home team. As a White Sox fan I want the commentator to root for my team and I get that to the extreme with Hawk. It was horrible that Fox was in control of the commentary during Humber’s perfect game!
MA: Yeah I’ll never understand when people are upset that a team’s announcer is a fan of the team. Though I suppose Hawk takes it to a pretty extreme level.
Any plans to try and make it to the states and see your team play in person sometime?
MO: I hope to be able to catch a game in August next year. My wife is from Houston and we’re going there for a wedding so the idea is to spend a few days in Chicago in the way there. It would be absolutely amazing to see a White Sox game live, I live for baseball these days and I cannot pass on an opportunity like that.
MA: Isn’t it nice when things work out like that? And I can confirm, it is amazing, pretty much every time.
On the team now, you have any favorite players? Guys you especially like to watch?
MO: I’ve become more a fan of defense than offense (a result of watching my first full Sox season last year?) so I would say my favourite player is Alexei. Some of his plays to 1B are simply amazing to me and I love every bit of it. I obviously appreciate Paulie for everything he does for the team on all levels and when it comes to the pitching staff it’s hard not love the way Sale is pitching this year!
MA: I’m right there with you on that. I always say that watching Alexei take grounders is worth the price of admission in itself.
I don’t want to take up your whole evening here so I’ll let you go. You’re a great addition to the White Sox community and I don’t think I’m alone in saying one of my new favorite twitter activities is translating your Swedish tweets. Keep supporting the game, we hope to see you out here soon!
MO: Thanks, appreciate it.