How being bad at FIFA led NFL lineman Tyrell Crosby to hard-core Bayern Munich fandom

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It all started because Tyrell Crosby was awful at a video game. Like, really bad. Didn’t know what he was doing bad. He needed help. He needed a defensive team.

Picking up the sticks between his sophomore and junior seasons as an offensive lineman at Oregon, partly because he wanted to know what he was seeing when Inter Milan played Paris Saint-Germain at Autzen Stadium in the International Champions Cup the summer of 2016, a passion was born while playing FIFA 16.

He knew nothing at the start, learning the rules of soccer from playing FIFA. It turned into a love of a sport, and an intense fandom of a team he found by circumstance.

“I was terrible, so I was like, 'Who has a good defense? Primarily a good keeper,'" Crosby said. “So it was trial and error and I ended up playing with Bayern Munich. And then, just started developing, because their defense is incredible, so I started playing with them more and more, started learning the players and started understanding soccer more and more.

“Through that I realized that I’m a huge Bayern fan.”

On Wednesday, when Bayern faces Lyon in the Champions League semifinals, Crosby will likely be in his suburban Detroit home, his computer plugged into his television. Wearing one of his seven Bayern jerseys, his eyes will be glued to the action.

For Bayern’s 8-2 win over Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, the third-year offensive lineman screamed after every goal. He’s pretty sure he was so loud it bothered his neighbors. He considered talking trash to his Lions teammate Marvin Jones., a Barcelona supporter, after the win -- but Jones had helped set up a tour of Camp Nou for him earlier this year. Crosby doesn’t mind Barcelona and found the people he met nice, so he decided against it.

Crosby’s fandom has opened new opportunities, too. In July, he appeared on the FC Bayern Live Show alongside midfielder Philippe Coutinho, where he got to ask Coutinho some questions -- including what language they use to communicate during practice.

The fandom has been steadily building. About a year after his soccer start with FIFA, he was watching Bayern matches live even with a nine-hour time difference from Eugene, Oregon, to Munich. He loved watching Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski and, up until his first retirement last July, Arjen Robben. As the years passed, he began talking often with Bayern’s United States social media team.

Earlier this year, he visited Bayern’s U.S. headquarters in New York. They gave him a custom jersey and even greeted him with Berni, the Bayern Munich mascot. He’s watched games and connected with Bayern supporters in Detroit, where he plays, and Las Vegas, where he grew up and spends offseasons.

It culminated in a trip last winter, a month before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports, when Crosby traveled to Europe on vacation. Part of the trip was to Munich to attend Bayern’s match against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the round of 16 of the DFB Cup. He had seen massive stadiums before, but only from the inside and only as a player.

He’d gone to Vegas Golden Knights games as a fan, but that arena holds 20,000 people. This was four times that size.

“The walk up to the stadium and how it’s set up, the entire outside is just a bright red and how many fans are just piling into the stadium, it was insane for me,” Crosby said. “Usually I’m inside the stadium at that time, so I don’t see much of the outside experience.

“So it was fun for me to be a fan and not a player and to go through that experience, getting out of the Uber and then walking up to the stadium.”

Crosby went on the pitch before the match, although pregame traffic caused him to be late and miss his initial plan of meeting Bayern players. He was in awe of the fan section behind the goal, with 50-foot-long flags and intense post-goal celebrations.

He sat in the third row and had his own confusing moment during the match. A ball came flying into the crowd, right into his hands. And he had no idea what to do with it. Could he keep it? Did he have to give it back?

“There’s a picture on my Twitter and everyone is screaming at me and I literally just froze,” Crosby said. “And I quickly tried to message the people at Bayern who helped set this all up for me. I’m like, 'What do I do with the ball? Do I keep it? Do I throw it back?'

“They were taking a little bit to respond, so I’m panicking. Eventually a security guard taps me on the shoulder and is pointing at the ball. I’m like, ‘Take it. I don’t want it.’ I just, I had no idea what to do with it.”

Crosby laughs about it now, a fun story and one of many cool moments on his soccer journey -- one started by chance and now turned into full-blown, hard-core fandom.

“I get pretty intense,” Crosby said. “Every game I’m wearing a jersey, even if I’m not watching it, if it’s game day I’m probably going to wear my jersey.

“And I’m pretty focused and glued into the TV.”