Hefferon: Jump on the EPL (Sept. 27)
Jack Hefferon | Monday, September 26, 2011
You might not want to hear this, so I’ll just get right to it: You should be watching soccer. You’ve seen people jump on the bandwagon for the World Cup over the past two summers, and why not? It’s fun to root for the red, white and blue over the international forces of evil that are Ghana, Slovenia and Sweden. Now that it’s over though, it’s easy to turn away from the beautiful game and all of its magic. Instead, try paying attention to the English Premier League ⎯ The Most Interesting League in the World.
The EPL is the top tier of English football (that other football), and the skill on display is unbelievable enough to deserve viewing on its own. But there are plenty of other reasons to watch.
For one, the passion the matches evoke is second to none in Europe. Take a nation of fifty million crazy, drunken, hooligan fans and twenty top teams and cram them onto a country the size of Alabama. Now take away the handful of teams any given fan may support in the colonies (er, states) and put all that allegiance behind one team, and you get the hysteria that is EPL fandom.
If that’s not enough for you, just look at the owners of these clubs, who all seem to be a cross between Mikhail Prokhorov, Mark Cuban and the Godfather. Take 2010 champion Chelsea, a club owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abromovich, a man whose Wikipedia page has an “Alleged Crimes and Wrongdoing” section. Indian Lakshmi Mittal, better known as the sixth-richest man in the world, recently purchased Queens Park Rangers F.C., only to watch his shiny new toy lose their home opener 4-0 to lowly Bolton.
Throw in the supreme goal-scoring talents of adultering Wayne Rooney, sex-taping Frank Lampard and allegedly-teammate’s-wife-impregnating John Terry, and the EPL will keep you interested both on and off the pitch.
Another great EPL concept is relegation, where the bottom teams in every league are sent down, and the lower leagues’ winners get promoted to play with the big boys. Relegation can make even the worst teams’ seasons exciting to the wire, and it needs to come across the pond.
For example, imagine that the Carolina Panthers, instead of finally getting rewarded with a winning quarterback (sorry, Mr. Clausen), were punished for their terrible play last season and sent to the UFL, losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Locomotives would have their chance at a Super Bowl. How much fun would that be?
And while relegation may seem awesome, the Premiership’s most appealing aspect is its rivalries, which break through the common standards of a modern society and must often be contained by fences in the stadiums and riot police outside of them.
The best current rivalry can be seen in the derby between Manchester City and Manchester United, which dates back to 1881. City has been dominated by United in the recent past, winning just five of the teams’ last thirty-three league matchups. Tension built until 2008, when City was bought by oil baron Sheikh Mansour, half-brother of the current president of the UAE, who immediately bought up the world’s best available talent. Now, the sides are considered the two frontrunners for the league title.
And if the appeal of the EPL wasn’t enough to pique your interest, there are other benefits for the Notre Dame student. The games are typically early on Saturday mornings, which is the perfect excuse to start your tailgating early. If you’re not a morning person, the games are now even being shown on Sundays on FOX in the normal, American football timeslot (dancing robots need not apply).
If you missed their Chelsea-Man U broadcast two weeks ago, do yourself a favor and watch Tottenham at Arsenal this Sunday on FOX. You (probably) won’t regret it.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.