The Drop Zone

Both my teams in the English Premier League lost today. One is squarely in the drop zone to move down to the lower league–how European soccer teams are rewarded for futility. Not with high draft picks, but the demotion of the entire team.

Easy enough for me to sigh and hope for better things next year. I can’t imagine what it must be like for long-time fans to experience the thrill of seeing their whole team promoted to the major leagues, and to savor the prospect of seeing the best pro players have a crack at one’s beloved side once in the coming season. And then to have it come crashing down in utter defeat.

As I’ve acquainted myself with football around the world (I’m starting to call it like the Brits–my wife noticed that the other day) I find that there are, most especially like most North American sports, haves and have-nots. The haves are always in the running for championships, and are never in danger of demotion. Or high draft picks. There is no chance for a have-not to achieve top-end glory. None whatsoever.

That is part of the frustration of being a sports fan these days, especially when one roots for the team that has no realistic chance. My first season of following English football in earnest has been quite fun, but mainly because I have no history with them. The young miss is thrilled that her team, Everton, is very much in the running for one of two European leagues next season. Me, I’ve been rooting for my teams to steer clear of the relegation zone.

That’s one sad bluebird there, isn’t it?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to The Drop Zone

  1. David D. says:

    This past summer, NBC, to promote its inaugural season of broadcasting the EPL, decked out the three car consists that run on the Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle as can be seen here and here Predictably, the six teams represented correspond to six of the top seven sports in the current table. Sorry Todd but not a Swan or Bluebird in sight.

  2. Todd says:

    Indeed. Americans love winners. So not surprising.

    I remember once having a discussion about the Yankees and the Cowboys a number of years ago. My suggestion as to their marketing superiority was this: I’d love to see how the legs of that marketing would run if those two teams began play in leagues of one. No team, no owner, no marketing plan is bigger than its sport. Plus it is very, very sweet to see a Big Team get taken down by an underdog.

    I remain confident that in the long run, perhaps far beyond my lifetime, football will continue as a world sport, and that people will play for the love of the game, and follow their team loyally regardless of any win-now sensibility.

    I don’t really have a personal connection with Wales. My father’s father’s lineage is English. I like the new incarnation of Doctor Who, and so Cardiff poked my knowledge of that fiction. And that Wales was represented by two teams in the Premier League for the first time ever. Despite an unpopular owner, and apparently inevitable relegation, I will follow Cardiff City FC in the Championship next season.

    • David D. says:

      “Indeed. Americans love winners. So not surprising.”

      Certainly not just Americans.

      All major global and national sports brands rely on and welcome the revenue derived from front-running fans. The 40,000 that fill Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s home matches can’t all be from the West End can they?

      I began casually following English football in the late 90’s and to make things interesting settled on Manchester City as “my club.” City had just been promoted from the third and second tiers in successive seasons but were immediately relegated before once again gaining promotion after one year back in tier two. In the ensuing seasons, the club bounced around mid-table. A few years later, City hit the ultimate fantasy football jackpot with petro-dollars now fueling their wildest transfer dreams. I have to say that I much prefer the present state of affairs. Being an American with no familial or geographical ties to the club, I could never be a “City ‘til I die!” type of fan anyway. As a Grantland writer recently noted, “If you’re some make-believe soccer fan in North America, you cannot refer to frigging Blackpool as ‘we.’ You don’t have a blessed thing to do with Blackpool, the little English city by the sea, let alone with the Tangerines.” For me, the “otherness” of the EPL allows it to be a pleasant diversion rather than an unhealthy preoccupation.

      Until recently, American interest in international football always seemed to me to have an element of snobbery where cheering for VfB Stuttgart was somehow considered more sophisticated than rooting for the Cleveland Browns. Why else did PBS broadcast “Soccer Made in Germany” back in the 70’s? Of course, this all ignored the fundamentally working class makeup players and supporters and glossed over the game’s rampant violence inspired both by nationalistic and local or sectarian sentiments.

      If you haven’t already, you might like to check out the movie Fever Pitch – the 1997 version and not the wretched American remake – or the Nick Hornby book on which the movie is loosely based. For a foray into pre-EPL hooliganism I recommend Among the Thugs by Bill Buford.

      By the way, perhaps your Jacks would be doing better if they has a proper Latin motto like other clubs.

  3. Copernicus says:

    Which is your other team, Todd? (My team were beaten by your daughter’s yesterday!)

  4. FrMichael says:

    As an Oakland Raiders fan, I’m glad that this principle is not applied to professional American football!

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