Two countries separated by a common language
It is a widely-accepted quasi-fact that I loves me the soccer. Love it. Can’t get enough of it. Stupid for it. Pick whatever vaguely sexual metaphor you like and apply it to me and soccer and you will get the idea.
Because the quality of what is offered from our fair shores rarely strays out of the “meh” zone, I – and many others like me – get my fix by turning to soccer of the European variety, and most specifically the English Premier League. It’s like television or disgusting animal entrails euphemistically called “pudding”: if you want the really good stuff, you gotta go to England.
But I was still born and raised in this country, and my conception of professional sports was formed from watching them over here. When you start watching the EPL this mental framework leads to a slight disconnect when you realize that the English way of looking at sports is completely fucking insane. If you think too long about the differences you will slowly go mad, your brain eaten away by little gremlins that say “would you like a cup of tea?” while they devour your neurons.
There are a thousand little things, and most of them are terminology issues that you quickly assimilate like a second language. You learn that the standings are “the table,” that the game is played at a “ground” and not a stadium, and that the referee is actually a “wanker.” Other than that, you get used to singing profane songs while watching sporting events – “Fly Eagles Fly” has got nothing on “The Wanky Tottenham Hotspur” – and eventually getting up at 6AM on a Saturday to go to a bar to watch grown men kick a ball around on TV will become your new normal.
Two of these quirks, however, are so massive that they drive American sports fans – this one, at least – quite mad.
In the entire cosmology of sports, there is no single element more irrelevant to an individual contest than history. And this is in a world with things like DIPS, “quality starts,” and the save, the only statistic in which the phase of the moon is actually one of the deciding factors. English commentators and fans love to blather about history. Seriously. One of the popular songs sung against Chelsea fans actually has a line “you ain’t got no history.” It is beyond idiotic. It puts idiotic to shame. Idiotic cannot hold a brain-draining candle to the notion that history is a factor in whether your team is good or not.
To put it in context, a soccer fan COUGH Liverpool COUGH talking about their team’s brilliant “history” and/or/vis a vis your team’s lack thereof is roughly equivalent to a Jets fan claiming that they are – RIGHT NOW – better than, say, the Eagles because did you fucking SEE us in Super Bowl III? We kicked ASS twenty years before I was born!
I mean, if Jets fans weren’t charity cases as things stand now, can you imagine if they talked like that? They’d be euthanized to protect the future from their genes.
The fact that past glories, however many and varied, have absolutely no bearing on what’s going on down on a field right now is a completely alien concept to fans like this. What I eat for dinner five time zones away has about as much effect on Arsenal v. Newcastle as the history of the two teams, though in fairness there is very little anywhere that can have a positive effect on Newcastle.
Now it’s true that there are historical elements of soccer that are definite indicators of quality – Chelsea’s 85-game home streak without a loss, Real Madrid’s 943,000 trophies, Newcastle’s 53-year trophyless streak – but when Aston Villa plays Swansea in the FA Cup and we are told that Swansea hasn’t won at Villa Park since that famous day in 1941 blah blah blah yackity schmackity, it means absolutely jack shit unless we’re going to call in Herbert West, Reanimator to turn the guys who actually played that game into zombies and send THEM out on the pitch. If that were the case I might actually toss a ten-spot on Swansea at 14-1, but until something out of HP Lovecraft is involved please shut the almighty fuck up about history.
2) “Mind Games”
Can you imagine that, let’s say, the day before Patriots-Colts in the AFC Championship, Bill Belichick was asked at a press conference what he thought of the Colts and his answer was:
“Well, you know what, the Colts fucking blow. I swear to god Peyton Manning is such an assmonkey, it really makes me sick. Who the fuck do they think they are, anway? Look at them. Their guards are undersized, their safeties couldn’t bring down a figure skater, their linebackers are older than my grandmother, and I’m pretty sure Tony Dungy once sprained his back trying to suck his own cock.”
Okay, maybe Belichick isn’t the most unrealistic example in this specific case but imagine, like, Mike Tomlin saying that (after he heals from the two black eyes, swollen lip, and fractured coccyx Jim Johnson just gave him). The press would go BERSERK. ESPN would run it on a non-stop loop for weeks. He’d get fired 5 minutes later and Goodell would probably toss him in a re-education camp for good measure.
In the Premier League managers say shit just like this EVERY WEEK.
And instead of calling them crazy people, the press just labels it as “mind games” – I’m serious, that’s the exact phrase they use – and goes on to tell us what happened when Manchester United played Preston North End in 1902 and of what great import that is to their match tomorrow. It transcends insanity.
Now don’t get me wrong, behind closed doors I’m sure coaches in any sport in this country trash talk other teams. But you don’t slam the other guy in public. You express nothing but respect and admiration for your opponent and heap praise on them, even if you’re Joe Paterno and you’re “playing” Temple that week (and he did, I heard his press conference). That’s the kind of thing you learn in fucking high school. To publicly run down your opponents is so startlingly unprofessional I’m still blown away when they do it, and I just advocated a eugenics program to eliminate Jets fans for Chrissakes.
Yet this is a common practice over there. You actually have to go to classes for a year and get a fucking LICENSE to manage a Premiership team, and “don’t slam the other guy in the papers” apparently isn’t part of the curriculum. It boggles the mind.
Then again, this is a country that eats the parts of animals even Native Americans couldn’t find a use for, so prion diseases are probably a lot more common.
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