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I’m considering breaking up with the NFL because of an ongoing affair

[ 158 ] March 1, 2013 |

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?

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  1. cpinva says:

    i could be wrong, but i believe this is also know as masochism.

    • FourTen says:

      Doubly so if you are a Villa fan.

    • avoidswork says:

      No way, no how. More talent, athletes in amazing physical shape, and about 2 hrs needed to catch a game. If one is a La Liga freak, you’ve got lunchtime midweek games (PST). And with a batch of Big Games coming up (league, CL and EuroL), you get to watch amazing talent go at it! This week – two games of Real Madrid v FCBarcelona, meaning Messi and CRonaldo, watching some of the best of the best playing.

      Contrast with dudes encased in spandex and a billion time outs – football/futbol will suck you in with an appreciation. Whether watching legally at a pub or illegally streaming it woos you.

      Heck, Ibra(himovic) feats, alone, are stunning. Watching the speed/physicality of CR7 is surreal. Balotelli. The grace of Messi. The awesome in-form Bale. Soooo much more to offer than NFL.

      Come on! Join the cult. And more ladies than u would think love watching mid20 hotties with bad hair running around and flashing abs.

      • d says:

        abs, it’s all about the thighs! their thighs are huge.

        the thighs and the fast play make it the most tolerable of sports, imo, basketball being second.

  2. Auguste says:

    Huzzah! But don’t fucking call them Man U.

    If I remember correctly (never mind, went and checked Wikipedia, I do remember correctly), teams don’t start becoming semi-professional until level 6 of the pyramid (Conference North & Conference South), and even some level 6 clubs are professional. There are even a few semi-pro clubs below that.

  3. Bill Murray says:

    If anyone uses BPL they are referencing the Barclay’s Premier League.

    The hierarchy is generally Champions League, League and Cup, but most EPL teams have zero shot at the first two, so they focus more and staying up and having a good cup run.

    Relegation but no playoffs means that mid-table teams have nothing to play for toward the end of the season.

    Chelsea is indeed owned by a Russian Oligarch

    The play levels in English soccer are:

    EPL
    Championship
    1st Division
    2nd Division
    Conference National
    Conference North & Conference South
    and many more like Ryman’s Premier League

    Th division between the full professional and semi-professional is somewhere in the Conferences so 5th to 6th division. I believe most Conference National teams are fully professional, but most Conference North and South are not.

    Two other points

    The Football Manager game series is a great way to learn about the structure and overall rules (not necessarily play rules).

    and Fox Soccer World may not have the EPL after this year. I think I saw it was moving to the NBC Sports Channel

    • Auguste says:

      I think “mid-table teams have nothing to play for” is misleading. There may not be playoffs, but trying to get into a qualifying position for Europe is definitely analogous to jockeying for a playoff position; meanwhile, there’s often 6-7 teams fighting to stay out of relegation. Compared to an American sports league, I think the number of teams with nothing to play for at the end of the year is far reduced, even without playoffs.

      • Bill Murray says:

        well it’s 70% through the season and the #10-#15 teams are mostly out of relegation danger and won’t make Europe through league position and Swansea at 9th are already in Europe. That’s 40% of the league that are mostly out and 20% that could probably withstand a near epic collapse

    • wengler says:

      NBC beat FOX in bidding for the rights for the next three seasons last fall. Starting in the 2013-14 season, NBC will be airing the Premier League across its cable stations, with some games being shown on the network itself.

    • actor212 says:

      You guys are forgetting the Carling (Capital One) Cup and the Community Shield tourney, but the order is correct (these last two would succede the FA Cup in terms of importance).

      Paul, the pittance that is paid to BPL athletes for Cup wins…apart from UEFA Champions…is why lower division teams actually stand a chance of winning them.

      The FA Cup pays 2MM pounds per team if you win, in addition to the prize money won at each qualifying level below that.

      The Capital One Cup is even worse, like 9,000 pounds each player, but if you win that, you can advance to the Europa League tournament (consolation prize for being eliminated from UEFA, also)

      • Bill Murray says:

        Community Shield is a match to raise money for charity between the league and FA Cup winners. Or if a tea did the double, the second place league team

    • quercus says:

      So what you call the ’5th division’ is one below the ’2nd Division’, which is three below the top?

      Does this have anything to do with numbering stories in buildings?

      Also, on relegation, I’m not sure I like the way that it tends to turn professional leagues into haves and have-nots. But I think it’s the perfect solution to U.S. college big-time sports.

  4. Auguste says:

    Also, may I recommend the MLS for the off-season? You’ve got #1 covered(MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, Champions League, US Open Cup), #3 depending on the announcer, #4, #5 (Seattle Sounders), a dash of #7 (see Cal FC vs. Portland last year), #8 (Especially in Portland, cough cough) and #9.

    #2 will never happen, and neither will #6 because of the salary cap, but 7/9′s not bad.

    • Patrick says:

      I’ll second this, particularly if you’re close enough (Boulder>Denver?) to go see some games in person. The skill level may not be the same as the EPL, but seeing it live is an event unto itself.

    • actor212 says:

      I agree. The MLS tends to be a West Coast league (except when the DC United dominated), and the quality of play is far below any of the star European leagues, but you can actually see the games in prime time live and go to a fixture.

      • Domino says:

        It’s not so bad in the middle of America. My brother is a season ticket holder to Sporting KC, who have won the Eastern Conference 2 years in a row (and would’ve gotten to the championship if the refs called a blatant penalty in extra time in a game against Houston.)

        • actor212 says:

          I’ve got Red Bulls….grrrrr, how do you name a team after a corporate sponsor????…so I’m a bit biased, final appearance or not.

          • Chester Allman says:

            I’m holding out for a Queens-based team. Just can’t get behind a New Jersey team named after an energy drink. But I have a lot of respect for NYRB die-hards.

            • Ramon A. Clef says:

              Meanwhile, you’ve also got the NY Cosmos joining the NASL for the fall season. They’re playing at Hofstra this year but the rumor is that they’ll ultimately end up at a SSS in Queens.

              • Chester Allman says:

                That’s what I’m hoping. But they’re talking about a stadium in Long Island, which to me would defeat the whole purpose of having a team in the city.

    • Pooh says:

      I can second this. Especially the Portland bit. I’ve been to many matches in England, and the only atmosphere that came close to Jeld-Wynn (admittedly for a Sounders-Timbers clash, so it was heightened) was a UCL quarter final.

    • stenz says:

      Watching MLS is like watching AA baseball. If the players were any good they’d be playing internationally (Landon Donovan excepted). Also, MLS is the dumping ground for past-their prime international players who want to get a paycheck without doing any real work.

      MLS will never be taken seriously until their season matches the rest of the world’s.

  5. wengler says:

    Technically it is the BPL(Barclay’s Premier League), but that name is reserved strictly for corporate tools.

    The League Cup is strictly for the teams in the Football League(the first 5 divisions), while the FA Cup is competed for by all teams in the English Football pyramid.

    Also don’t forget about the second-tier European competition, the Europa League, which no one wants to play for until right about now in the final 16.

    I also suggest you watch the promotion playoffs, often billed as the biggest money games in the world. Four teams in the Championship(Second Division) play for a slice of the Premier League pie, worth about 70 million dollars in TV money.

    • The Neo-Confederate McCain says:

      The League Cup is strictly for the teams in the Football League(the first 5 divisions)

      First 4 divisions (EPL down to League 2). After that you’re into the Conference.

  6. wengler says:

    Also to promote sports that have multiple competitions, the World Baseball Classic starts tonight at 10.30pm CT.

  7. Monday Night Frotteur says:

    Euro professional soccer is designed wonderfully!

    -In addition to Manchester City and Chelsea, Paris Saint Germaine was bought by an oligarch who is spending large sums for on-field glory. Fun to root for those guys (if you loathe American-owner lassitude and entitlement) or against them (if you hate teams with small fanbases winning). Lots of Good v. Bad opportunities.

    -One other fascinating thing; there are teams who seem to exist mostly to make money by developing players and selling them to wealthier clubs, like Ajax. Like the 1980s-90s Expos, but even better.

    If only the play on the field weren’t so dull….

    • Vladimir says:

      I’d add Arsenal to your list.

    • Craigo says:

      I actually think the Bundesliga is the best designed – the clubs are rigorously regulated and audited, so it’s difficult to buy your way to success like the big English/Spanish/Italian clubs do.

      • howard says:

        one of the most-awaited events in soccer is to see what will happen when pep guardiola takes over the emerging powerhouse that is bayern munich’s current squad next season.

      • catamount says:

        Right, and thus the likes of Bayern Munich are able to remain at the top perpetually because the other teams are not allowed to match Bayern’s expenditures and move up.

        • Craigo says:

          Perpetually? Dortmund has won twice in a row. Five teams have won in the last decade, which are more champions than the EPL has had in twenty years.

          • catamount says:

            I’m speaking of long-term dominance, not short-term aberrations. And the BPL also has had 5 different champions over the past 20 years: Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, Blackburn and Man City.

            The point is that restriction of investment leaves the big clubs forever at the top levels and doesn’t allow lower clubs to jump up in status.

      • alexander von humbug says:

        Bundesliga’s ownership structure (fans own 50 percent plus one share of all teams) is awesome, and much of the play is a delight to watch. But I worry that it may be on its way to a Bayern dynasty that will be very difficult to overturn.

        (Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Hertha Berlin, which is poised to claw its way back into the top division. The universal pun hurled at my ilk is “Erste Liga hart, zweite Liga Hertha” — which sounds the same as “first division hard, second division harder”.)

    • wengler says:

      The best part is that unlike the sports cartels of North America, owning a football team isn’t a golden ticket to screw over fans and players.

      The season tickets are also very affordable compared to the NFL, and it’s a lot easier to find a local team to root for, and that team has an opportunity to face off against the big boys from time to time. The only North American sport structure that comes even close to this is baseball, through it’s 5-tiered domestic minor league affiliate system.

      • swearyanthony says:

        The smaller teams in the lower levels also have madly passionate fans. And the relegation/promotion system means they have a chance to move up to play in the top levels. It’s always fun to cheer for those clubs that make it to EPL for a year – they may be hopelessly outclassed, but it’s fun to watch. The amount of money in the game also means you end up seeing some absolutely sensational athletes playing.

        A common criticism is the low scoring – this, for me, is exactly wrong – a close match is *incredibly* tense. Just one defender mistake can lose it.

        And for all baseball has the Yankees to hate, EPL has Man United, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool… so many evil empires. It’s like a smorgasboard of horrible.

        Vaguely related: having just read Declan Hill’s “The Fix” (on gambling funded corruption of top level football) I do wonder how long before it destroys EPL &c.

    • Anonymous says:

      PSG was purchased by a Qatari soverign wealth fund. There’s good reason to suspect it was quid pro quo for the 2022 World Cup.

    • avoidswork says:

      And being a Manager at Chelsea, stuck having to fit poor Torres in while being a moment away from being sacked…no surprise Guardiola declined for Bayern. You don’t go from Messi to Torres if you don’t have to.

  8. Vladimir says:

    Am I wrong in suggesting that European sports are more commercialized than North American sports? It’s odd in a way, one would expect Americans to be looking to monetize an asset more aggressively. A second question, does the structure of European sports leagues, like the EPL indicate a greater acceptance of class hierarchy? The allure of the NFL is in large measure that Green Bay can compete with the Giants and the Bears……any given Sunday as they say. The draft, the fairly equitable revenue split exist to promote parity at least in the long run. Wigan fans seem happy to stay up in the EPL while the perennial middle of the table types like Everton hope to get into the Champion’s League.Fans are ok with there being only a few big clubs that have a chance to win the league each year.

    • Chester Allman says:

      Agreed – I’m pretty into soccer but to me the European league model seems broken, and I think promotion/relegation is actually part of that. I mean, how many teams have ever won the Premier League? And La Liga is even worse, of course.

      I also don’t see why the relegation competition is considered such a great thing. I prefer a model like the NFL, where every team is competing to win the league, to a model in which the great majority of teams are competing just to be in the league.

      • actor212 says:

        23 different clubs have won the league since 1992. 45 different clubs have been listed in the PL

        MLB can’t claim that many. The NFL can’t claim that many.

        • The Neo-Confederate McCain says:

          Wait, what? Only 5 teams have won the EPL: United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Blackburn.

        • Chester Allman says:

          What? I count five - of which, 12 by a single team. In the same time there have been 13 different Super Bowl winners.

          • Vladimir says:

            I think the NBA has less parity by that metric . I think the NBA has had less than 10 different franchises win the title in the last 30 years. Of course , the importance of one player probably distorts things.

            • Chester Allman says:

              Agreed, and one of the reasons why I just can’t get into the NBA.

            • Richard says:

              But they’ve had 8 different champions over the last 20 years (9 teams over the last 30 years since all the winners from 1982 to 1992 except one repeated later). Because of the small size of a NBA team, it has been easier to create a dynasty (Lakers, Bulls, Celtics) in basketball than football but eight different champions over 20 years isn’t quite a monopoly. Also, the seven game playoff series means that upsets are less likely to occur than in the single game playoff system in the NFL.

              This year, I see five teams with a chance of winning a championship (Heat, Thunder, Grizzlies, Clippers and Spurs) with three of those teams never having won before and three of those teams from very small markets.

        • actor212 says:

          Oops, wrong date: 1888. My bad. I was mixing apples and tangerines.

        • Bill Murray says:

          1992 isn’t even 23 years ago

      • Monday Night Frotteur says:

        On the other hand, the NFL (and NHL) are far too random for me to get very interested. Other than egregious mismanagement (Detroit, Cleveland) or teams with all-time greatest QBs (New England), everybody just sort of takes turns winning and losing. Franchises will go 3-13 one year, 10-6 the next, 4-12 the next, 7-9 after that. And that’s between seasons. It’s just as crazy within seasons; Baltimore finished the season this year going 1-4 and beating league punching bag SD in OT in the other game. They barely outscored their opponents on the season.

        All of a sudden they run off 4 straight wins against the best teams in football, including 2 road wins at NE and Denver.

        If it’s all just sort of random, who cares? It’s like rooting for coinflips.

        • Chester Allman says:

          Speaking as a Seattle Seahawks fan, I wish I could say it were random. Or least, I would have wished that up until this past year (since we finally, at long last, have decent management). I think that in the NFL, luck certainly matters (especially when it comes to injuries) but good organization, scouting, drafting, etc. matter a lot. Add in the specialization of the various positions and the diverse skill sets thus required, and the NFL becomes a geek’s dream. To me, the resource parity imposed on NFL organizations makes it all so much more interesting.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The NFL’s egalitarianism only works because the NCAA serves as its developmental league, with the NCAA games being taken to matter in their own right due to peculiarities of the history of American sport. Compare this with MLB. College ball can’t serve as its primary developmental league, if only because most baseball players aren’t ready for the majors until they are older. Rather, it has Minor League Baseball. MiLB has its own charms, but it is rigidly hierarchical. Worse, no one really cares about winning and losing. Go to a game and the fans prefer to win, but it isn’t really a big deal. No twelve year old kid lives and dies with the record of the Lansing Lugnuts or the Lehigh Iron Pigs. This wasn’t always the case. A century ago, minor league pennants were big deals. But that was before the farm system reduced the minors to developmental league status.

        • Chester Allman says:

          I don’t disagree with your contrast between NCAAF and MiLB, but (and maybe I’m being dense) how does that affect the parity question?

          Also, I do think that one benefit of promotion/relegation is that it makes lower-division competition more meaningful. But to me, that’s just less important.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            NFL’s parity is due to several causes.

            One is structural to the game: a 22 year old with good NCAA training can be ready to contribute in the NFL. This is unusual in baseball (occasional individual exceptions notwithstanding). The NFL and the MLB drafts are roughly similar, but football has a much stronger correlation between draft slots and eventual contribution than does baseball. In consequence, the amateur draft in football is a much stronger equalizing force than in baseball.

            The other factor is the national television contract. Both leagues share the national contract between the clubs, but national television is just peanuts in baseball, while it is the main event in football. Why is this? Good question. Partly it is that football is a better television sport than is baseball (while baseball is better in person than is football, unless you are just going for the crowd dynamic experience). Partly it is that the NFL has done a terrific job of marketing, such that people will spend their Sunday afternoons watching the games, even if they don’t care about the teams. The number of games played, which differ by an order of magnitude between the two sports, makes this impossible in baseball. The real money in baseball television is in local coverage. No individual game will pull in the numbers of a Sunday afternoon football game, but there are a lot of them, and that money isn’t shared. The value of the various television markets varies wildly, producing inequality among teams. Similarly, ticket sales are much more important in baseball. A popular team can put some 40,000 butts in seats 81 times a year. A less popular team can do only a fraction of this. NFL teams don’t play often enough for this to be a major factor. The upshot is that there is more income disparity between MLB than NFL teams.

            Finally, there is the salary cap: the NFL has one, while MLB does not. The correlation between team salary and team record is imperfect, but the Yankees can usually buy their way into contention, while the Royals lack that luxury.

        • mpowell says:

          The question is whether the sport is better for it or not. Is it better to solicit fan interest in minor league teams that are really competing for something or to build a well balanced super high talent top league? Most soccer fans never really make the choice, they’re soccer fans, not fans of the particular structure, but I happen to prefer American league structures.

    • Sam240 says:

      Olympique Lyonnais was a perennial middle of the table type in France for the last portion of the 20th century. The Rough Guide to European football, published in 1997, had details on teams in five French cities (actually, four French cities and one team in Monaco). Lyon was not one of those cities. OL didn’t win its first title until the 2001-02 season. Then it started a run of seven consecutive championships.

      Also, the structure of European leagues reflects a hierarchy of merit, not size. You could have a team like AJ Auxerre, based in a city of 40,000 (metropolitan population 90,000), which started out as an amateur club, and climbed the ranks to win the French title in 1995-96.

      If you live in a place like Auxerre, there’s always the possibility that your local team could reach the top of the mountain. American baseball never had that; even though the Baltimore Orioles of the early 1920s were better than some of the major league teams of the era, there was no chance of Baltimore ever winning the World Series. If you live in Memphis, Las Vegas, Columbus, or Los Angeles, you’re not going to see your local team win a Super Bowl. Residents of Seattle and Pittsburgh can forget about the NBA champions being from their city.

      A closed league structure could work well in a country like Australia, where the majority of the population lives in a handful of metropolitan areas — 14 million out of 21.5 live in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, or Adelaide. Add Gold Coast, Newcastle, and Canberra, and you’re up to 15.5 million in eight cities. In a country as large as the United States or Brazil, a closed league system leaves too many people out.

  9. Doug says:

    Big bonus for the Buckaroo Banzai reference! Who’s Dr Lizardo in this scheme?

  10. Craigo says:

    I definitely prefer to win the CL than the EPL, but that’s probably because Chelsea wins the former more often than the latter.

  11. mikebdot says:

    Just curious, but how do you like BEIN? I have considered getting it since espn3.com no longer carries La Liga and I love watching Messi kick the crap out of the lesser teams. I want to watch Bundesliga as well online somewhere, but, espn3 lost that as well.

    You can watch Eridivise (Dutch league) on espn3 though. And Portuguese and Mexican leagues as well.

  12. Ken Houghton says:

    Craigo – Uh, once versus not-recently-despite-some-leads?

    Champions League is theoretically a better level of play. Only the Top Four EPL teams qualify for the next year unless (*sigh*) the Defending Champion does not finish in the top four.

    Moving from FSC to OLN/Versus/ComcastNBCSports makes it easier not to watch Fox. Let’s just hope they don’t start having Costas et al. do the announcing.

    • Izzy says:

      Nothing helps me identify another Spurs supporter like mentioning that Champions League rule.

      While the financial imbalances in European football are even greater than American sports, the beautiful game has completely taken over my life.

      As a neutral, watching the way, say, Man City won last year in the most dramatic fashion possible, is simply more exiting than anything American football is offering at the moment.

      And then there are moments like this one:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fwd0mD1CzUY

      • bph says:

        And, hey, this year the Spurs will get into the CL without a problem.

        But once Bale gets bought, they will fall back into the middle of the table where they belong.

    • actor212 says:

      Defending Champion does not finish in the top four.

      Liverpool applied and was granted an exemption to this when they won the UEFA one year and finished fifth in the EPL that same season. They appeared in the next tournament and humbly went out early

    • alexander von humbug says:

      Isn’t this part of the beauty of European soccer, though? So many competitions, so many Byzantine rules — you can argue forever about which team was “best”.

      (Another full disclosure: When it comes to England, I am a Yank Spurs fan — who was gutted by Chelski’s win in the CL final last year and consequent slot in this year’s CL at Spurs’ expense.)

  13. howard says:

    because my father was transferred there by his business, my family lived in london early-mid ’70s (i was in college already) and on a when-in-rome approach when i would be over, i looked up the closest stadium (loftus road, home of the currently relegation-threatened qpr) and went to a bunch of matches, but once my family moved back to the states it was quite literally impossible in any realistic way to keep up.

    fast forward nearly 20 years, and suddenly the rise of sports cable brings the english premier league (what i knew as divison one) back (amusingly, a bunch of guys i remembered as players – gerry francis, kevin keegan, kenny dalglish – were now managers!) and i’ve been a renewed fan ever since.

    the premier league is known for its high-level of end-to-end action and effort, which makes it great tv soccer; the spanish league is known for its greater emphasis on technical skills land playmaking, for example. i think it’s a perfect sports-watching fix: the great traditions, the high level of action, the continuity of action, the degree to which fluke events can occur.

    i would suggest that paul take a look at nick hornsby’s “fever pitch” to start to delve into the culture a little….

  14. Tod Westlake says:

    Well, winning the EPL gets you an automatic invite to the Champion’s League next season, as does finishing 2nd or 3rd. The 4th-place team plays in a UCL qualifying tournament. If they make the cut, they’re in; if they don’t, they get relegated to the Europa League (kind of a second tier champion’s league), along with the 5th place team.

    The League Cup (now called the Capital One Cup), consists of only those teams that are in the Football League, so EPL, Championship, League One, and League Two. The FA Cup includes any team that is a member of the Football Association, which includes hundreds of amateur and semi-pro teams, such as fire brigade squads and the like.

    Winning the UCL is the biggest prize, no doubt. But being at the top of the table is key if you want to compete in next year’s tournament, so one begets the other.

    And when it comes to relegation and promotion, there is no better way to keep teams honest. No fielding of inferior squads in order to obtain a favorable draft spot. And you can have something like $150 million in TV cash riding on the outcome of a single, late-season game. And then there’s what’s known as a “relegation release clause” that exists in many top-flight contracts. You get sent down, you lose your superstars.

    And I would also encourage you to watch the playoffs in the 2nd-4th tiers (when the idiots at Fox Soccer Channel bother to show them). Really intense games at tiny, Victorian stadiums. It’s pretty awesome.

    And it’s not “singing”; it’s “chanting.”

    NBC is taking over the EPL coverage next season. Let’s hope they don’t fuck it up. Either way, at least we won’t have to listen to Rob Stone and Eric Wynalda anymore.

    p.s. If you’re into sports sims, check out the Football Manager franchise (available on Steam), a game that has taught me and many other people the intricacies of the tactical aspects of the game.

    • actor212 says:

      BEin shows Championship and the occasional League One game, so I imagine they must show playoffs there

      • Tod Westlake says:

        I’ve been watching some of the Championship games on beIN, so I’m glad to see those included. Fox Soccer Channel is truly awful, however; so, the less I have to watch games on that network, the better. I imagine FSC will be showing L1 and L2 games next year. Gol TV has the Bundesliga. La Liga, Ligue 1, and Serie A are already on beIN. What’s left? Portugal? Eredivisie? Korea? Gonna be a lot more rugby on Fox Soccer next year, I’m guessing.

    • Cheap Wino says:

      I like Hattrick. Not sure it teaches you much about football but it’s a fun, long term challenge.

    • catamount says:

      Any team fighting relegation long ago had any budding superstars poached by a bigger club, and decent BPL-level players will not have relegation clauses in their contracts, their agents will have seen to that. Which of course makes it harder to get promoted back into the BPL because these players will have been moved on.

      As to Wynalda and Stone, don’t be so sure they won’t turn up on NBC, look at how certain Fox Soccer and GolTV personalities turned up at BeIn Sports.

    • Leeds man says:

      And it’s not “singing”; it’s “chanting.”

      It’s both!

    • Auguste says:

      And it’s not “singing”; it’s “chanting.”

      That is, if not flat-out untrue, a complete over-simplification.

      After all, the saying is not “You only chant when you’re winning.”

  15. actor212 says:

    Once you go round, you’ll never like downs.

    • Chester Allman says:

      I like that – but respectfully disagree. The cool thing for me is the way that the two sports illuminate each other. Thinking about the theoretical similarities between the read-option and tiki-taka, for instance, or the use of width vs. depth. I think there’s plenty of room to appreciate both sports.

      • actor212 says:

        Yea, I was being flip, despite the fact that American football, in my humble opinion, is about the most boring game to watch on TV after golf and NASCAR.

        But I get why other people like it.

        • Chester Allman says:

          Oh God, golf on TV. Why?

          • Richard says:

            If you play, you understand. If you dont play, then I see why there would be minimal interest.

            • Chester Allman says:

              Fair enough. To me, it’s just a bunch of people standing around on the grass.

              I remember seeing billiards and darts on TV in Britain. And in prime-time, on major networks, if I’m recalling right. I mean, great fun if you’re drinking beers and actually playing them, but sitting at home and watching them on television?

              • Richard says:

                I agree with you about billiards and darts (and bowling) but the thing that sets it apart from those sports is the beauty of the surroundings. Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, Augusta, etc are beautiful spots while the inside of a pub is not.

                That said, the beauty of the surroundings doesn’t make up for the boring nature of televised golf unless you factor in the fact that many of the people who watch, play. I only took it up a few years ago (when I turned 62 and really couldn’t play basketball or touch football anymore) and am now a fanatic.

                • Chester Allman says:

                  True. I did find myself getting distracted by a televised golf tournament at some very beautiful course on the coast of South Carolina or Georgia. Much better than staring at a billiards table for an hour.

          • actor212 says:

            I have a hard time understanding that myself, but then I watch road cycling on TV, so what do I know?

            • Chester Allman says:

              Cycling can be beautiful on TV. Some of the arial images from the tour de france, of cyclists flowing around a bend in the French landscape, are among the prettiest sport images I’ve seen on television.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The same, incidentally, is true of following baseball and cricket. Cricket makes Association football look positively mainstream in American sporting culture by comparison. This is our loss.

        • Chester Allman says:

          Agreed. I’d love the opportunity to learn more about cricket.

        • actor212 says:

          I agree. I was in the Caribbean one January and chanced upon the Twenty20. I had never watched cricket before, understood very little of it, yet was fascinated with it. I still don’t get large swaths of the rules, but still…

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            There are many amateur cricket leagues in the US. Just don’t expect to find US citizens of European ancestry on them. They often fall on ethnic lines: the Indian clubs, the Pakistani clubs, and the occasional West Indies club. The leagues are all on the internet, and so are easy enough to find. My experience is that when I show up to watch a match they are very friendly, once they get over their surprise at this white guy without an Australian or South African accent taking an interest.

  16. Jim Mc says:

    This is so timely for me! I have also recently been totally into Eiropean Football. The whole drama and hype time available for big matches could easily match up with that of the NFL. Alas, that will never happen in the US. I love American Football as well. It is the organized chaos and wildy different personalities around the world, in addition to the (relatively) new influx of big-money owners that makes Soccer so interesting. The biggest point you fail to mention is that the live games are on so early in the US that it does not blow my whole day!

  17. Ron says:

    My favorite from the announcer argot: a dirty tackle is a “cynical challenge.”

  18. Splitting Image says:

    I was fonder of the game back before they abolished the Cup Winner’s Cup and began allowing second and third place teams to make it into the Champions League.

    In those days, you had to win a League Championship to go to the Champions League the next year and you had to win the national FA Cup to go to the Cup Winner’s Cup. The runners-up went to the UEFA Cup, which made it sort of a consolation prize, but your league got bragging rights if it sent a lot of teams deep into the tournament because it made the league’s depth of talent look stronger than the other countries’.

    When they started allowing runners-up into the Champions League, it stopped being an actual tournament of Champions and just became a tournament of perennial contenders. Teams stopped going to the Cup Winner’s Cup and and they folded it into the UEFA Cup, which became a real consolation prize when they started moving the losers from the Champions League into it.

    Also, kids today have no respect for their elders, but I do wish they would implement the relegation system in North American sports. There are a few teams besides the Detroit Lions who would benefit from it.

  19. pete says:

    The FA Cup has replays. These add to the confusion late in the season, when clubs challenging on several fronts really, really do not want an extra game; but at that point also really, really don’t want to let the chance of a double (or treble) disappear.

    • actor212 says:

      I’m OK with that, because often the PL team will purposely let the lower divisions tie so they can get some extra cash. That’s socialism at work!

      And think of it this way: they used to allow ad infinitum replays. I think Fulham once played twelve games including replays to make it to the finals.

    • Bill Murray says:

      if you’re referring to the replay mention in the OP, I think he might have meant instant replay

  20. The #1 key to being a true soccer fan is to Support Your Local Team!

    Its awesome to watch great teams from all over the world. But I believe all supporters first order should always be local.

    • Pooh says:

      The single most tiresome online debate among soccer fans. Who counts as a “real fan”?

    • catamount says:

      That is the true essence of soccer that differentiates it from US professional sports: every decent sized town has a local club, and its supporters could care less if it’s in League Two or the BPL; it’s their team.

      The only thing like it in America is in college sports, where people are fiercely loyal to their school regardless of its place in the hierarchy. Yes, I know everybody supports their local pro teams, but they will also have second and third teams if the local one is crap. Not really the case with soccer clubs.

      • Auguste says:

        I actually disagree with this. When I lived in England, I was about 15 minutes from two separate local (at the time) Fourth Division clubs, neither of which had a lick of support from my classmates; they all supported Manchester City. I suspect but can’t prove that for the most part local lower division (say, sub-Championship) clubs are similar to minor league baseball teams in small-town USA: The team you go to see when you can’t afford to travel & pay for big league tickets.

    • Ramon A. Clef says:

      That’s why I’m a loudmouthed Tampa Bay Rowdies fan.

  21. ironic irony says:

    I live in Germany, and I miss Fox Soccer Channel. They don’t show enough of it here on Das Erste, ZDF, etc. or maybe my cable just sucks. I did get to see almost all the Euro 2012 games, though.

    For #9, see Ireland vs. France World Cup 2010 qualifier.

  22. Michael says:

    I have often thought/said that EPL/La Liga etc. should market to women (pardon the sexism) because of #4 – 5 minutes means 5 minutes (plus maybe a bit of stoppage time). Also, the men take their shirts off after the game. U.S. viewership is poised to increase mightily with this advice!

  23. DRickard says:

    If the NFL had been running a system of demoting under-performing teams, would the Lions even still be a professional team?

  24. dick gregory says:

    Argentinian and Brazilian league football is more exciting than any else I’ve seen.

  25. Mrs Tilton says:

    This post is wonderful in its naiveté. That is by no means disparagement of Paul; it is emphatic praise. This is one of the most delightful blog posts I have ever read. And in the fullness of time, Paul, we’ll introduce you to rugby, and your life will be complete.

    As for the 11-man code, I really do think the the Bundesliga the world’s best league at the moment, despite Bayern Munich’s grating even-more-then-usual dominance at the moment, and despite Eintracht Frankfurt by all appareances beginning their annual free-fall (0:1 to Gladbach last night? WTF, Eintracht?) — and for the very reasons that make many think it boring by comparison to other leagues. (Real Madrid would have lost their licence five times over if they were in Germany; and serve them right, the Francoist feckers.) I dislike BVB even more than I do Bayern, if that were possible, but hats off to Klopp for a magnificent achievement over the past few years. He is among the most impressive managers in football today, and I would not be surprised if Bayern try to buy him when Pep’s work is done.

    Meanwhile, in less than 24 hour begins the only 90-minute match that matters this week, now that the Eintracht have pissed away three points: the last Beşiktaş-Fenerbahçe derby EVER in that magnificently decrepit cauldron that is the Inönü Stadium. I hope for the best, of course; but knowing my BJK as I do, I fully expect the Black Eageles to hand undeserved victory to Fener, thus enabling the inexplicably Fener-supporting friend with whom I’ll watch the match to pay for my dinner rather than I for his.

  26. [...] This post by Paul a couple weeks ago has inspired me to post more about soccer. I’ve sporadically written about it in the past, including every major international tournament, occasional mentions of clubs I support or otherwise follow (Celtic, Arsenal, and to a lesser extent Plymouth Argyle, FC Twente, and Seattle Sounders FC), and other random topics. I naively hope to make this a semi-regular feature. [...]

  27. gagner de l’argent l’été

    I’m considering breaking up with the NFL because of an ongoing affair – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

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