It’s time to move past the limited debate between the so-called traditionalists and progressives on what type of fan owns the moral high ground. Reality is far more refracted. And interesting.
In the past two years, supporter unrest and protests (and not always peaceful) have been a defining Bundesliga story. The issues vary: an all out “war“ against the DFB (German football’s governing body), the promotion of RB Leipzig, the Martin Kind saga at Hannover 96, the possible death of the 50+1 rule (and resurrection!), police state-esque matchday security measures (e.g. Bavaria’s Polizeiaufgabengesetz) and heavy-handed violent police tactics, crack downs on pyrotechnics, troubles with right-wing ultra groups, the introduction of VAR technology, that failed China U20s experiment, disillusionment over the globalized marketing of the league, and especially Monday night matches.
What’s at stake here is the identity of German Fußball culture. And given all the lofty stuff (the beer! the supporters! the atmospherics! the 50+1 Rule! the whole bloody thing!) that’s been written about this culture the past decade, the stakes are indeed high. I would know. I’ve praised my beloved league to high heavens many a time. So in the context of the Bundesliga, supporter unrest is front page news.
Of course, supporter culture unrest didn’t just suddenly appear. As early as 2015, I began wondering if trouble was brewing. Nevertheless, these concerns certainly have escalated. And the stakes are clear now, as arguably, the biggest Bundesliga story since 2017 has been supporter unrest.
However, the public debate is stuck on issues raised in supporter protests. Our options for understanding and talking about the issues are increasingly limited. At this point, for better or worse, the debate is locked around two polarizing viewpoints, which I’ll call the traditionalists versus the progressives.
The traditionalists camp is represented by the likes of 11Freunde, some editorial writers in German newspapers (myself sometimes), and many ultra groups across Germany. My guess is that a large chunk of local supporters, who actually attend Bundesliga matches also belong in this camp.
This camp stands for something like what are now being called “traditional” supporter culture, such as maintaining the 50+1 Rule, matchday affordability, strong away support, local grassroots involvement. This camp tends to oppose the league’s increasing commercialization and globalization, especially decisions (like Monday matchdays or striking down the 50+1 rule) justified by these two seemingly taboo criteria.
On the other side, the progressives camp (perhaps not the best label) is represented by a hodge-podge of stake-holders. I’m making a huge generalization, but I would lump many foreign (i.e. outside Germany) commentators, writers, podcasters, international fans, along with some club and league officials, and some current players in this camp too.
Progressives tend to argue that change is inevitable, and that Germany’s clubs need to more fully embrace globalization and commercialization, or be left behind. Specifically, progressives would like, for example, to see the 50+1 rule struck down in order to tempt more foreign investors, who won’t settle for minority ownership stakes under the current rules. In progressives’ minds, the only way the Bundesliga catches up to the Premier League, or even La Liga, or breaks the Bayern Munich stranglehold on the top, is by attracting more private (and foreign!) investors, negotiating bigger and better TV deals, and perhaps even asking local supporters to pitch in a bit more financially.
These two camps become visible when there’s public debate around a variety of stories, such as the rise of RB Leipzig, the Martin Kind saga, Dieter Hopp’s Hoffenheim project, the new TV deal and Monday night matches, the policing of pyrotechnics, Bayern’s title-winning invincibility, or even the recent “failure” of Bundesliga clubs in the Champions League.
However, these debates don’t get anywhere. On one side, the progressives sometimes dismiss traditionalists, simply boiling them down as as ultras, characterized as emotional and thuggish teenagers (with right-wing politics). After all, these hormone-addled kids are the most vocal opponents of change and greater global fame for the Bundesliga; they just don’t get it, the critique runs. On the other side, traditionalists can dismiss progressives as consumers pigs, removed from football’s “real” roots and culture. These plastik fans only care about replica kits, sitting on their fat asses while scrolling through ein Handy during the match, getting the biggest TV packages, or merely cheering for the club during the good times. Oh, and not bothering about away trips. The capitalist tools!
Take the case of RB Leipzig—a compelling litmus test. Understandably, traditionalists are still uneasy about the club’s sudden success, purchasing power, ownership model, vampiric relationship with RB Salzburg, “insta-fanbase,” and the precedent this nakedly corporate venture sets for German football. For traditionalists, RB Leipzig is the consummate symbol of everything that could go wrong for German football.
However, on the other side, progressives see no problem; after all, commercialization and globalization are inexorable forces, and there ain’t no going back, Lieblings. In this light, RB Leipzig is simply a sign of the times, a sign of new ownership models, a sign of new strategies for staying competitive. Besides, RB Leipzig plays attractive football. Are you not entertained, you “trad’ hool,” you? Shut up, and let’s talk about tactics and ExG. Hopefully, you get the idea.
These debates devolve into status-signalling and name-calling, all while positing confining either-or dilemmas for the rest of us, as if there are only two types of Bundesliga fans: traditionalists (hooligan thugs!) or progressives (consumer pigs!).
However, an even passing glance at the academic literature on sports fandom suggests that reality is far more complicated than these two polarizing positions.
One important conceptual framework is offered by sport sociologist Richard Giulianotti (Loughborogh University in the UK) in his 2002 article “Supporters, Followers, Fans, and Flâneurs: a Taxonomy of Spectator Identities in Football.” Although this framework has since been debated and updated, I believe it still offers an indispensable foundation for articulating contemporary fandom. And in the case of the Bundesliga, simply articulating spectator possibilities could go a long way to revealing “the subject positions” and what’s at stake for whom.
Although Giulianott primarily analyzes England, the same observations can be applied to the Bundesliga, albeit with a slightly delayed time frame, given the league’s late acceptance of professionalization in 1963. In terms of the process of commodification, I’d argue that the current Bundesliga is approximately where the Premier League was at during its first decade (1993-2003).
Giulianotti explains that his original framework is an attempt to make sense of football’s increasing commodification (“that process by which an object or social practice acquires an exchange value or market-centered meaning”), especially in these four areas: 1) football’s “burgeoning popularity,” 2) its ties with corporate interests, 3) high-priced stadium seating, and 4) pay-per-view television. In commodification’s wake, Giulianotti argues, we see the “bourgeoisification” of fans, as well as the rise of the internationalization and professionalization of football. Consequently, the very nature of fandom has become more complex and varied than ever before.
In our post-commodification football world, fans are obviously no longer simply (romanticized) working class throngs. Instead, as Giulianotti’s tells the story, the contemporary array of fans (he calls it a “taxonomy”) is more diverse, and it’s difficult to draw absolute lines between types of fans.
Giulianotti’s solution to this complexity is a framework built around a four-fold matrix. His matrix contains four “contemporary spectator identities” arranged on both horizontal and vertical axes:
Giulianotti’s innovation is to arrange his four fan types on the two axes, which allow for greater flexibility in classifying contemporary fans. His horizontal traditional/consumer axis “measures the basis of the individual’s investment in a specific club” (emphasis mine), while his hot/cool axis “reflects the different degree to which the club is central to the individual’s project of self-formation.” To hot/cool, Giulianotti also incorporates sociologist Bryan Turner’s thick/thin distinction for classifying forms of solidarity to one’s club (e.g. thick goes with hot and thin goes with cool).
Giulianotti’s own version of this matrix also includes other key distinctions, like identity and cultural types, as well one’s geographical proximity to a club (“topophilic spaces”):
What does this mean for Bundesliga fandom? Well, we have four categories to fill out from Giulianotti’s matrix: 1) the supporter, 2) the follower, 3) the fan, and 4) the flâneur. Naturally, there is overlap between the four categories, as well as various tendencies within specific categories. My goal is not to pin down exact types of Bundesliga supporters, but rather to open a field of possibilities for thinking about discussing the meaning of fandom in our favorite football league.
This group grabs the traditional/hot corner of Giulianotti’s matrix. My guess is that many football either claim or hope to be in this category. Before you blurt out, that’s me damn straight, read on: “The classic supporter has a long-term personal and emotional investment in the club,” Giulianotti explains. Probably still sounds like you, right? I mean, you’ve been a fan of your club for years through good times and bad.
Furthermore, Giulianotti explains that this “thick personal solidarity” will never be supplanted by a “market-centered investment” in one’s beloved club; in fact, any money spent on the club stems from this enduring love as a form of obligatory commitment. (Perhaps this is fandom as most resembles marriage?) Still sound like you? I know you spent $90 on that new kit. It hurts–those damn things are expensive.
But here’s the kicker, Giulianotti establishes that supporters have an intensely topophilic relationship toward their club, usually in the form of attending home matches, and forming strong personal attachment to physical spaces associated with the club (e.g. the stadium, the home end terrace, a pub, a gathering place, etc.). In other words, Giulianotti’s supporter is a local, or at least someone who takes very frequent trips to the club’s home matches and surrounding environs.
Think of supporters, then, as spectators who live in or near places like Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Munich, Nürnberg, Kaiserslautern, Bochum, Magdeburg, or dare I say, Leipzig (yes, a number of RB Leipzig fans could qualify as full-blown Giulianottian supporters, sorry traditionalists!).
I know this typophilic qualification rules me out from BVB supporter status. Damnit. Does this disqualification sounds arbitrary? Well, Giulianotti’s point is not to claim that supporters are superior to all other spectators, but simply to account for the role of “the local” in fandom. After all, those stadium seats need filling.
Moreover, aside from geographical proximity, Giulianotti describes a strong “subcultural” element in supporters’ identity in that they’re steeped in the club’s history and culture, they read its fanzines, they stick through the hard (losing) times, they are socialized into the club usually by a parent, they embody the club’s supposed “values,” and they actively debate/discuss the club within this community. This subculture participation, Giulianotti notes, certainly means that one can’t become a supporter “simply by purchasing the latest club commodities.”
Although he doesn’t discuss ultras and official supporter groups, my guess is that Giulianotti would put these groups in this category, as especially “hot” (“hottest”!) supporters on the emotional attachment scale. Significantly, these “hard core” supporters might never wear trademarked club merchandise, preferring instead tifos, flares, DIY fashion or asserting that its their mere presence and participation at matches that matters most. To Giulianotti, such a distinction is significant, since ultras are consciously signalling their club loyalty in non-consumerist ways.
Moreover, Giulianotti describes a symbiotic relationship existing between supporters and the club: supporters give copious time, attention, money, and emotional support; while the club “gives back” occasional trophies, an attractive playing style, a totemic star player, inside access, or (in the case of Bundesliga clubs) representation in voting matters and even an ownership stake. In the Bundesliga’s context, the reciprocity between supporter and club is unparalleled in Europe, thanks to the 50+1 Rule and Jahreshauptversammlungen.
Finally, although many of us might claim to be supporters, Giulianotti’s category narrows this identification down to local people most actively involved with the club. Additionally, I would add that these local supporters are what most people seems to have in mind when discussing and depicting Bundesliga fans; e.g. see the Bundesliga’s English-language “Football as It’s Meant To Be” campaign, or heck, do a Google image search of “Bundesliga fans.”
This category is a bit tricky. These spectators skew traditional/cool in that they follow club(s), “but they are also followers of players, managers, and other football people.” The follower doesn’t have a “monogamous” relationship to one locally-defined club, but rather follows a plurality of football entities.
However, what distinguishes the follower from the supporter is the typophilic experience. The follower lacks the close, weekly, on-the-ground local connection to the football club. Additionally, the follower is distinguished by having a plurality of favorite clubs, as Giulianotti puts it, the follower has “a range of favored clubs and football people in different circumstances” (emphasis mine). For example, this spectator might have not only a nominally favorite Bundesliga club (which could change!), but also a second German club, a favorite Premier League club, a favorite La Liga club, a favorite Serie A club, even a favorite MLS club, not to mention favorite players and managers, whose narratives are followed at a distance (“via the cool medium of the electronic media”). Typically, according to Giulianotti, this spectator is well-informed about a wide array of footballing history, culture, trivia, and news. Moreover, this person will tend to favor the “old school” and relish clubs and grounds with strong local roots and color. As such, the follower tends to be well-informed and in the “know” about football culture.
I’m no different. Borussia Dortmund is the club I love above all others, but I also follow Tottenham Spurs, and even have “weak” rooting interest in 1.FC Nürnerg, Athletic Bilbao, AC Milan, Preston North End, and Xolos Tijuana. The only club I could actually claim supporter status of would my local Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Into this category, Giulianotti also sticks “friendship relationships” between fans from two different clubs (Fanfreundenschaft, a German phenomenon), like that between Schalke 04 and Nürnberg, Dortmund and Köln, or Bayern and Bochum. Or even clubs and fans who exchange football paraphernalia (e.g. my local USL side, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, did this with Schalke 04). Such exchanges are premised on a traditional understandings of culture and association, rather than on obvious consumerist market-driven goals.
In Giulianotti’s mind, this “follower” phenomenon is unavoidable: “The proliferation of televised football now means that, to sustain the traditional spectating habit of favoring a particular team, the viewers must become a follower of some clubs.” However, the follower astutely sticks to traditional conventions, such as never cheering for both Dortmund and Schalke, Bayern and 1860 Munich, or HSV and St. Pauli. God forbid. The follower is culturally competent.
You could argue that a “supporter” of one club could also be a “follower” of other clubs; perhaps a VfB Stuttgart supporter also fancies AC Milan and Valencia, but from a distance by watching some matches on TV occasionally, tracking highlights, or maybe even listening to a club podcast.
Finally, and significantly, “followers” skew away from the consumerist habits that will largely define the next two groups. Thus, we could imagine a “follower” who greatly respects the Bundesliga’s culture and also supports the Against Modern Football movement.
In this category, you will find the hot/consumer spectator, i.e. a loyal fan of a single club, who goes to great economic lengths to show support for this club; another way to put this is that a “fan” is a football club monogamist with a primarily “market-based” relationship to one’s club—i.e. an nonreciprocal relationship based heavily on consciously consumption. The “fan” forks over piles of money on replica kits, other club merchandise and baubles, buying (largely symbolic) club shares, TV packages, or even fundraising for the club. Obviously, such a relationship requires significant disposable income or the channeling of one’s income into fandom.
Typically, the fan doesn’t live within geographical proximity to the favorite club, but has a long distance and heavily mediated relationship with the club. However, this spectator has strong emotional attachment to the club (or even celebrity player), which is expressed through loyalty and dutifully watching the club’s matches. Yet, as Giulianotti cautions, in “thin” forms, fans’ loyalties will quickly poison if they sense a lack of “value for money.” In thicker forms, fans might channel their discontent into calls to sack the coach, fire the board, or other blanket solutions.
Given their abilities to generate numerous products, the world’s richest and biggest clubs (perhaps just Bayern and Dortmund from the Bundesliga) are the usually objects of this fan’s obsession. Clubs love these fans, who seem always willing to buy newest kit: “The brand loyalty and inelastic demand of fans for club shares and merchandise are consciously intended to provide the club with financial stability, typically to enable the purchase of better players.” That is, fans help pay the bills and never complain about rising costs. Yet fans aren’t fools and will happily take their fandom and wallets to a new club “in the deculturalized pursuit of ‘value for money.'” Is a Chicharito-less Leverkusen not giving you the bang for your buck? No, problem. Just buy yourself a Bayern or Dortmund kit. It’s time for a new favorite.
As a writer based in the U.S., I’m sensitive about category, especially to over-hastily applying it to any Bundesliga spectator watching the league outside Germany. I don’t think that geographical long-distance necessarily equates to being a “fan” in Giulianotti’s sense; conversely, I believe there are plenty of Bundesliga “fans” living in Germany, perhaps even in the same geographical area as their club. What Giulianotti’s “fan” category boils down to is consumerist side of his axis—specifically a consumerism underscoring one’s passive relationship to the club.
Giulianotti saves his subtle derision for this final category of spectators, who skew cool/consumer. A double-whammy. He summarizes this category as “a depersonalized set of market-dominated virtual relationships, particularly interactions with the cool media of television and the Internet.” Note Giulianotti’s language here: “depersonalized,” “virtual,” and “cool media.” These terms emphasize the flâneur’s chief characteristic: detachment. In Giulianotti’s framework, the flâneur lives to consume and collect various football experiences—from a distance.
The flâneur is a European cultural figure emerging from late 19th century Paris, often depicted as an urban street stroller and a kind of loafer. As a person of some means, the flâneur has the income and time to gaze upon city life in an ambivalent and detached fashion. The flâneur was popularized in the work of Charles Baudelaire, as well as the scholarship of Walter Benjamin. Baudelaire, Benjamin and others mostly praised the flâneur’s ability to observe the teeming vagaries of urban life; however, in a football context, Giulianotti has little positive to say about football flâneurs.
For Giulianotti, the flâneur’s ambivalent and detached perspective skews heavily toward mere consumption within the already hyper-commodified world of professional football, with its global and digital communications as well as market-centered goals driving the world’s biggest clubs, which increasingly resemble transnational corporations (TNCs) more than anything else.
Making matter worse, the flâneur is a football spectator who lacks the emotional “heat” of the “fan.” At least the fan has a favorite club. By contrast, the flâneur has are no favorite club; football is consumed as a constant flow of the new from a stream of mostly televised and online media (football talk shows, channel surfing on match days, football-related memes, social media posts by celebrity players and commentators, etc.). I imagine the flâneur consuming football through twitter, matching whatever matches might be on TV, possibly catching a match with friends at the pub, chuckling at the latest memes, and watching football videos during lunch breaks.
But nothing sticks. These consuming practices never cease. And why would they within the fire-hose nozzle world of online content? As Giulianotti explains, the flâneur is defined by “persistent motion … increasingly in virtual terms, through switching affiliations like television channels” (emphasis mine). The new in football is endless; consuming football is perpetual.
Giulianotti notes that the football flâneur is not gender specific, but needs economic means to collect and consume a variety of football experiences (what Giulianotti dubs “a multiplicity of football experiences”). At one point, Giulianotti calls the football flâneur a virtual window shopper, who adopts clubs, apparel, match tickets, and TV packages “in a disposable and cliché-like fashion.” Moreover, the football flâneur seems to be the default viewer imagined as the audience of televised football matches: “Television compresses time-space differences, distilling entire matches or tournaments into 100-second transmissions of blinding, aestheticized action, to an accompanying back beat that drifts between techno and opera.” Harsh stuff from Giulianotti, whose point seems to be that televised football is the perfect consumer product for a flâneur viewer with a detached and ambivalent gaze—a gaze needing constant stimulation.
In his analysis, Giulianotti especially points a finger at the world’s biggest clubs, who “have provided the flâneur with an increasingly welcoming shop window in which to gaze.” These giant clubs market themselves as a hip brand that the cool people consume, as long as the winning ways continue, lest god forbid that the football flâneur tries on for (fandom) size another giant club. Ad perpetuam.
I thought of what are typically, and derisively, labeled “football hipsters” when reading Giulianotti’s account of the football flâneur. Here, we typically mean a spectator chasing the latest, coolest, and newest that football offers. Yes, we have them in the Bundesliga too (11Freunde also has a list). For awhile Klopp’s BVB sides were the hipster favorite, but quickly became too mainstream as a consumable commodity; St. Pauli, however, will probably always pull in strong hipster cred as the ultimate status symbol commodity to flash around–at least for football hipsters of the “knowing” variety. You see Giulinotti’s notion of perpetual consumerist motion in the football hipster, who is ever-searching for the newest and coolest (and obscurist!) football bauble to show off.
A type of football flâneur I’ve personally observed is someone who starts watching the Bundesliga, because whatever (the German national team was just so soooo cool, or they saw Bayern or BVB that one time in the Champions League), only to drift from club to club with a vague awareness of how cool the Bundesliga is versus that god-forsaken and mammon-soaked Premier League. Once I even had a student trying to impress me that he was so cool that he had stopped watching the “too corporate” Premier League and had been watching the more “grassroots” Bundesliga. His new favorite team? Wait for it … Bayer Leverkusen. I didn’t have the heart to point out the “corporate” Bayer part to him. (What I’m trying to say is that football flâneurs seem to come in two varieties: those with a “knowing” sense of their football consuming or those with a naive sense.)
Rather than two (false) polarities between traditionalists and progressives, Giulianotti’s frameworks offers something richer, accounting for more nuanced understandings of Bundesliga fandom. First, Giulianotti moves geographically from the club and stadium outward to those who follow from afar. This move underscores something obvious, but oftentimes neglected: football clubs have locales, and the local meanings and stakes differ from clubs’ wider regional, national, or international reach and “brands.”
Using the language of stake-holders, it’s pretty obvious then that the stakes between the local and larger environs differ—and sometimes wildly. In the Bundesliga, I see this tension playing out in controversies about Monday night football, scheduling, and away support. In this light, it’s not so much that traditionalists and progressives clash, but it’s that local groups of fans are at variance with larger league plans for global TV exposure and brand awareness. Currently, German football seems most stuck on this nexus of issues.
Next, Giulianotti provides us with what I’ll call “participation models” thanks to his two axes (traditional vs. consumerist and hot vs cool). These axes scramble up our simplified conclusion about fans in the dominant traditionalists vs. progressives paradigm. For Giulianotti, one’s type of participation is what matters most. In his language, traditional could be coded as active participation, in which spectators attend matches, discuss the club with other spectators (probably locals!), attend gatherings, or even participate in club governance. Thus, we see that, technically, clubs like RB Leipzig, VfL Wolfsburg, or TSG Hoffenheim actually have numerous “traditional” supporters, despite the derisory Plastikklub label we usually slap on these clubs. If we insist on calling a club like Hoffenheim “plastik,” we should also insist on distinguishing between the “plastik” club itself (as a formal corporate entity) and its fans, many of whom are certainly not “plastik.” Perhaps the BVB ultras should have kept this distinction in mind before attacking RB Leipzig away supporters last season. If anything, it’s these away supporters that the hardcore BVB supporters would have the most common with from Leipzig. My point here is that participation models should help us distinguish between spectators and the club itself, as well as provide a metric to gauge the type of “active” participation that we all love and value about the Bundesliga. If anything, active participation remains the healthiest aspect of Bundesliga fan culture; and one certainly worth preserving, rather than us merely advocating for a blanket defense of “traditional values.” For this reason, I find it almost impossible to support a scenario in which the 50+1 rule is struck down. Sure, the rule is problematic and has been shown up as open to exploitation in the case of RB Leipzig, but it’s also an explicit affirmation of the active supporter culture that makes the Bundesliga unique.
Finally, Giulianotti’s framework points the finger squarely at the ways late capitalism and market logic has utterly flooded professional football. This reality colors all four corners of Giulianotti’s matrix, especially the categories of “fans” and “flâneurs.” Giulianotti also makes the compelling point that the “flâneur” is a sort of default spectator identity that domestic leagues, TV broadcasts, and media coverage have in mind when packaging and disseminating football content. This is a claim with frightening implications, as Giulianotti himself explains: “if supporters become flâneurs, then the spectacle that is created by the spectators themselves will be threatened. There will be no more curious displays of football tribalism past which to stroll or on which to gaze.” While this implication has increasingly become reality in the Premier League, the German Bundesliga is safe for now, as its grounds still contain many more active participants than flâneurs.
Although Giulianotti never states as much, his assumption seems to be that most football spectators fall into these two categories. The consumerist apparatus Giulianotti describes is so vast as to make any spectator engagement with big-time professional football impossible to escape. In fact, even Giulianotti’s “supporter” category isn’t free from consumerism, given the amounts of money these spectators have to spend on their club to maintain that fiercely loyal connection. And who’s to say that a “follower” of Bayern, in one context, isn’t also a “fan” of AC Milan in another context, or simply a “flâneur” of football in all other contexts? For questions like these, Giulianotti’s matrix offers explaining power.
However, it’s when considering scenarios like the Bayern-supporter-but-flâneur-in-all-other-settings that possibilities for revising and pushing Giulianotti’s framework deeper appear. For example, others have pointed out that Giulianotti’s matrix (published in 2002) has difficulty in accounting for the pervasive ways the internet and mobile devices have changed fandom experiences. Regardless of which corner of Giulianotti’s matrix you occupy, chances are extremely high that your football experiences are heavily mediated through the internet—whether you’re a supporter or flâneur. (I actually plan to explore some of other ways to theorize about Bundesliga fandom in future articles.)
Regardless, Giulianotti’s matrix could (and should!) become something like a foundational framework for orienting and guiding our way through Bundesliga supporter issues, especially emerging stories and trends. Moreover, the matrix helps clarify the various values and stake-holders at play in the currently contested ground of German domestic football. Part of this clarifying work is to decouple entities that until now we’ve lumped together, e.g. RB Leipzig (the club) and its supporters, or BVB’s local supporters and the club’s global marketing/merchandising/communications arms, or spectators attending matches and those watching from TV.
Contemporary football is complex. Breathtakingly so. Personally, this complexity is one of the aspects that keeps me enthusiastically engaged in our favorite sport and favorite league. The Bundesliga still remains quite unique in the panoply of big-time European football. And for me, better analytical tools only deepen my love for this league.
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