Saturday, December 21, 2019

Personal Soccer Hooliganism

One of my relaxing-based life pleasures is getting to sit in my recliner with a cup of coffee, reading the paper, or The Economist or working on one writing project or another. A recent addition to this having the TV on in the background. I'm not a big fan of watching the talking heads (not to be confused with The Talking Heads) on the networks and cable news. College and NFL "gameday" shows are just as annoying.

Still, I like something live and light. Also, this fall my daughter played a lot of soccer. She was on two teams, so I've been attending a lot of her matches. Enter Premier League (PL) soccer, i.e. English professional soccer (football).

England is six hours ahead of the US Central (my) timezone (CST). So 9:00 am CST is 3:00 pm in the UK. This is just in time for live broadcasting of the matches that correlates well with quiet weekend mornings. NBC is championing the PL broadcasts with at least four games on NBC-sports network (NBCSN) and the main network.

Now that I've been casually watching for a couple months, I'm starting to pick up on what's going on in terms of the game play and see how teams try to get things done. I'm starting to see how defenses line up, how attacks are carried out and who's who in terms of the teams. I'm still a ways off from knowing individual players, but I'm sure that will come. I love watching a well executed corner kick.

There are also some interesting things done in the PL that could be interesting to adapt to other sports. I'm not sure if these are things done across all of footballdom. I'm starting to watch some German soccer too. It's interesting that its the same game, but the style seems to be quite different. I'll maybe write more on that when I'm better able to describe what I means.

One thing is how the league is structured. It is made up of 20 teams. No division splits or anything like that. However, there is something of a league continuum. Bottom teams get demoted into a lower league at the end of the season, replaced by top teams from the next lower division.

In total, there are four leagues: Premier, Championship, League One and League Two with a total of 72 teams and all working on this "Promotion/Relegation" system. Relegation below League Two (the national league) takes the teams out of purely professional play. They then have to compete with a mix of pro and semi-pro clubs.

This would be an interesting approach for, say, American professional football. Perennial bottom teams (cough, Detroit, cough, Miami, cough, NY-Jets) could move to a lower league maybe some kind of NFL/CFL agreement and have to work to prove themselves. This might add an interesting spin on baseball too if an entire MLB squad could be relegated while an AAA squad promoted.

Games are played weekly with a season running from August to May. Another interesting aspect is the teams can each qualify for competition within the various european leagues and tournaments. Thus, there are weeks where there is on PL, but instead there is international competition.

There are also many international players who can occasionally go and play for their home countries in tournaments like the World Cup.

Because positions aren't as structured as in American football or baseball, it can be a little tricky to figure out who is who on the pitch (field). This is similar to hockey for me where all the line changes and fast play can be tricky to follow. I suppose with more watching it will become easier to tell.

Lastly, the fans are great to watch and hear. It's constantly loud and there's so much singing of "team songs" which often have the melody of popular music such as "Hey Jude" only with team themed lyrics. I imagine it would be a lot of fun to attend a match.

So if you need a change-up on your weekend mornings. I would suggest checking out this Premier League stuff with a cup of coffee.

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