As you might have heard, basketball and hockey are coming back! (Baseball is not – yet.) This is great news for the average sports fan who, for the most part, has resorted to watching replays of classic games from the past, live streams of other bloggers playing NCAA Football ’14, or if you’re like me, a sad combination of both. However, after the initial excitement of both leagues returning died down, I was left with a shocking revelation: there’s still another 50 days before both leagues start up.
I don’t need to tell you how long of a stretch this is without American sports in a year that feels like every month has 20 extra days. This is a daunting wait even for the most patient, but I have a suggestion to help pass the time. Instead of just wistfully counting down the days til the first jump ball and or puck drop, you should give soccer a shot. Before you click away in disgust (why did you click on this post in the first place?), let me explain why any “real-sport” loving, red-blooded American could actually enjoy soccer.
Beggars can’t be choosers, and there’s no question that we’ve all got our hands out praying for any sort of action. God, the first month I was watching dodge-juggling (don’t ask) on ESPN+. It’s nice to watch replays of classic games, but knowing how they end kills most of the fun of why we all love sports in the first place. Bundesliga (Germany’s top soccer league) has been back for a few weeks now, and let me tell you it has been a lifeline as I suffer through severe sports withdrawal. All the major European leagues will be returning between June 10th and June 17th, so there will be plenty of games to watch. Actual games where the winner is still yet to be determined. It’s thrilling!
Remember brunch? For those who don’t, I’ll explain the concept. Basically, you would wake up hungover from binge drinking the night before and go to a restaurant in order to drink some more while eating breakfast foods to get rid of your hangover. Now that COVID-19 has spread like, well, an extremely contagious virus, there is no socially acceptable form of morning drinking. This is where soccer steps up. Due to the time difference between the states and Europe, most soccer games begin between 8am and 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays which was formally known as peak brunch time. Flip on a game and crack open a cold one. If your girlfriend tries to yell at you, explain that in England they’re called pints, and it’s culturally insensitive to watch a match without one.
As someone who has been a diehard Philly sports fan my whole life, I understand that the rest of the country sees me and my brethren as some sort of subhuman animal who throws snowballs at Santa and beer bottles at Vikings fans (for the record both deserved it, but I digress.) Whether you’re the prick that everyone hates who started rooting for the Warriors in 2016 or the diehard Browns fan who has convinced himself that Johnny Manziel and/or Baker Mayfield and/or any of the other 23+ starting quarterbacks since 1999 is the answer to your infinite problems, you can try on a different style of fandom with little to no consequences while watching soccer. Are you a Yankees fan? Cheer on tiny Sheffield United in the Premier League whose entire roster makes less money than a number of soccer stars around Europe. Are you a Bengals fan who literally hasn’t seen a playoff win in your life? Have fun rooting for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga who have won the last 8 titles. Cowboys fan? Well then you can take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself why you feel obligated to be complete scum.
In American sports, teams are not punished when they are complete garbage. In fact they are rewarded with better draft picks in an attempt to bail them out of their misery with young talent. This is not the case in European Soccer. In each country, there are multiple tiers of leagues. It’s sort of like baseball with the minors except that all the clubs are completely independent of each other. Relegation is the process in which the worst 3 teams in the league at the end of the season are moved down a tier to a lower league and replaced with the top 3 teams from the tier below. It’s a brutal punishment for a club’s finances and pride while ensuring that there is no tanking. Another benefit is that it makes late season matches against horrible clubs must watch TV with both teams treating these types of games as do or die. Just imagine how hype it would be in the NFL if week 17 rolled around and the 1-14 Lions were playing the 2-13 Buccaneers with the loser being demoted to the XFL (R.I.P. in peace). That type of game happens every year in the Premier League, and they are just as good as the games that decide the eventual champions.
Right now, the only news about US Soccer is that the women’s team is suing the US Soccer Federation to receive equal pay to the men’s team. Regardless of how you feel about the matter, you have to admit it’s pretty sad when the only news about your team is a lawsuit alleging you’re overpaid because you suck in comparison to your female counterparts. I won’t lie, American soccer has been trash for a very long time with a low point a few years back when we failed to qualify for the World Cup. However, for the first time in my lifetime, there’s a large number of young American players who actually contribute to European clubs. Imagine watching the USA in the 2022 World Cup and explaining to your friends that you think Weston McKinnie could be the key to a deep run as he’s been playing great for FC Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga. They’re either going to think you’re having a stroke or know what you’re talking about.
DISCLAIMER: I do not condone or condemn gambling. If you’re going to do it, please do so responsibility.
This one is strictly for those who partake in ACTION. In soccer (most of the time) there is no overtime which means a good number of matches end in a tie. Due to this, when you bet on a soccer game, you have three options; home team winning, away team winning, or a tie. This creates some interesting opportunities where you can get teams that are favored to win at plus money (odds that pay off more than your bet). Now I must warn you, with the highs come the lows. Soccer betting is great when you hit, but when your team concedes a last second goal to tie, they haven’t lost, but you’ve been dealt a crushing defeat.
For whatever reason, soccer is one of the largest youth sports in America meaning if you ever start a family, there’s a good chance you might find yourself on the sideline of a kids’ game wondering whether your flask is subtle or if everyone knows and is judging you. If you watch soccer, now you can learn a thing or two about the game your kid will probably play, and maybe not need to drink to get through an afternoon of 8-year-olds running in mob formation after the ball. You can even bet on it too! Who knows, you may even trick your kid into thinking you know a thing or two about the sport, and thus gaining his/her love and respect. It’s nice to dream!
Look, I get it. Any game that can potentially end 0-0 is difficult to get into if you’re used to the excitement of the NFL or NBA. I’m not here to convince you soccer is the most exciting sport in the world, and I will guarantee you that if you do give it a shot, a game or two will suck. That’s just the nature of the beast. However, as I write this, you have 50 days til there are any other team sports on so I ask you, what do you have to lose? Give it a shot, if you hate it, turn it off and flip back on ESPN which will most likely be airing an Oklahoma-Texas football game from like 1987 or something.