With the EPL (Or does Swansea make it the BPL?).
I started getting Fox Soccer Channel about a year ago, and I’m getting involved with soccer generally (I’m watching La Liga on BEIN as well, but that’s more of a FWB thing for now).
Amongst the EPL’s charms:
(1) Three different real championships to play for (The league, the Champions League, and the FA Cup. Then there’s the League Cup, which I don’t really understand but I gather is a sort of second-tier FA Cup). I’m trying to figure out the hierarchy among these: My sense is that the FA Cup is definitely third, but still a very big deal, while it’s hard to figure out whether a team’s “supporters” would prefer to win the premiership or the CL.
(2) Relegation. This is an awesome feature of soccer in general. No sitting back with a cheapo roster and enjoying your share of the national TV money: if you finish in the bottom three in any season, it’s off to the second division (due to linguistic inflation now called “The Championship”) for you. If only this sort of market discipline could have been imposed on the Detroit Lions over the past 40 years.
This also makes late-season contests between bottom tier teams in the EPL ferocious battles for temporary financial survival.
(3) The announcer argot. Forwards are “pacy” or “useful.” Midfielders “provide good service.” Bad play is “shambolic.” (This was very confusing at first, as I thought it was another adjectival form of shaman). A player getting lots of scoring chances is “finding joy.” Etc.
(4) No time outs! I watched a college basketball game the other night (Indiana-Minnesota) in which the last 1:33 took 23 minutes of astronomical time.
(5) Pure evil from the 8th dimension (Man U).
(6) A team owned by an insane Russian oligarch, who considers money no object to pursuing success (I think this is Chelsea, though it might be Man City. In any case the other one is owned by a sheik who consider money no object etc.)
(7) Many, many David v. Goliath matchups, especially in the FA Cup, some of which David wins, just like in the Bible, but so rarely in American sport.
(8) The singing.
(9) No replay, plus an officiating structure interacting with rules that guarantee plenty of dodgy calls, thus adding a very un-American flavor of fatalistic arbitrariness and chaos to the proceedings.
A question: At what level of English soccer do teams start to become semi-professional, i.e., the players have paid work besides being soccer players? There are something like 96 teams playing “League” football in England — many of them, from my viewing, at tiny grounds that can’t hold more than a a couple of thousand supporters even at capacity, and which I imagine must feature crowds numbering in the hundreds or dozens for all but the biggest games. How is this financially feasible if you’re paying your players more than nominal sums?