Pairing Up – A Yank Tries To Adopt a Premier League Team

I’ve been threatening to become a soccer fan for a couple of years now (thanks, Football Manager 2012) and now with news that England’s Premier League has a full-blown American TV contract with NBC Sports, it might be time to pick a team there. I’ve thrown my support behind a few teams (usually thanks to FM) such as Celtic in the Scottish Premier League and the local Carolina Railhawks, but I’ve let to get behind a team in a “major” league. With other sports, there’s always been some outside influence that made me a fan of the team, whether it be my mom’s brainwashing at birth (New York Yankees), my grandparents not wanting to use a catalog (Miami Dolphins), or proximity (Carolina Hurricanes). But not here. I’m flying (relatively) blind going into this. I will do this the way that people were meant to support sports teams – for petty, ridiculous reasons.

This seed got planted in my head a while back by Bill Simmons, eons ago when he used to write about sports and be entertaining. He wrote his post(s) back in 2006, and had the help of a huge readership that sent him thousands of emails to give his reasoning for picking their team. Email would be obsolete (and I’d be long dead) before I reached 100 emails about the subject, so I don’t have the benefit that he did going into this. All I have is Wikipedia and a few facts I’ve gotten from the handful of soccer fans that I know.

OK – first, for those who don’t know soccer, a little introduction to the Premier League and how British soccer works. In England (and as is the case in most of the world), there are different levels of soccer, of which the Premier League is the top level. Unlike professional sports in the United States, teams in English soccer not only compete with the goal to win a championship, but they also compete in order to avoid relegation. Teams that finish at the bottom of their division are in danger of being “relegated” to the division below their current level, while teams in lower divisions can be promoted to the division above them with a finish towards the top of their division. There are no “bottom dwelling” teams in English football – if you suck, you get sent down and another team takes your place. That said, it adds a bit of challenge to picking a team. It might be fun to pick a struggling team that “needs the support” in the NFL or Major League Baseball because you can watch them struggle, rebuild, and when they (hopefully) become successful, say that you were a fan from back in the dark days of the franchise.

Not so for the Premier League. Like a team and watch them come in next-to-last? Guess what? They’re not in the Premier League anymore. This isn’t as bad in England where you could still watch the Football League Championship level, but in the US, it’s going to have to be the Premier League if you want to watch them regularly, or else pony up some cash each month to get some obscure soccer channel, and I’m not ready for an actual financial commitment at this time.

So anyway, back to the teams. There’s 20 teams in the Premier League. They are as follows:

  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Fulham
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Manchester United
  • Newcastle United
  • Norwich City
  • Queens Park Rangers
  • Reading
  • Southampton
  • Stoke City
  • Sunderland
  • Swansea City
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • West Ham United
  • Wigan Athletic

Let’s start knocking some of these out. Easiest ones to eliminate are the ones who aren’t going to be in the Premier League next year – that’d be the teams that finished in the bottom three in the league. Wigan (18th), Reading (19th), and QPR (20th), it’s not happening.

  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Fulham
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Manchester United
  • Newcastle United
  • Norwich City
  • Queens Park Rangers
  • Reading
  • Southampton
  • Stoke City
  • Sunderland
  • Swansea City
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • West Ham United
  • Wigan Athletic

Manchester United is likened to the New York Yankees – they both are the most successful teams in their respective leagues, they claim the most supporters, and they have the most money to spend. As a Yankee fan, I put up with enough crap from baseball fans – I don’t need the same crap from soccer fans.

If Man U is like the Yankees, then Man City would be the Mets. Living in the shadow of their more successful neighbor, they’re perhaps a more fun “alternative” pick to those who hate the “entitled” Man U, and won their first league title in 44 years. That said, Man City has plenty of cash and are currently one of the richest teams in the world, so City fans that criticize United basically become the Red Sox fans who complain about the Yankees. Pass.

  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Fulham
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Manchester United
  • Newcastle United
  • Norwich City
  • Southampton
  • Stoke City
  • Sunderland
  • Swansea City
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • West Ham United

Speaking of the Red Sox, the company that owns the Red Sox also owns Liverpool. Isn’t that neat?

  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Fulham
  • Liverpool
  • Newcastle United
  • Norwich City
  • Southampton
  • Stoke City
  • Sunderland
  • Swansea City
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • West Ham United

A step that Simmons took that is probably good advice is to just stay away from teams that were in danger of relegation each season. While it’s kind of hard to predict that on a regular basis, we can probably eliminate Sunderland, Southampton, and Norwich from the group.

  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Fulham
  • Newcastle United
  • Norwich City
  • Southampton
  • Stoke City
  • Sunderland
  • Swansea City
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • West Ham United

Finally, let’s eliminate some more teams for petty reasons. Fulham has been around forever and I’m sure a lot of their fanbase comes as a result of family tradition. That doesn’t work for me, and I can’t find anything else the least bit interesting about them, so pass. Tottenham has been impressive recently and have one of the best players in football in Gareth Bale, but I can’t stand the all white kits. If I’m supporting a team, I’d want to wear their stuff, and wearing all white just makes it look like you’re running around in your underwear. Arsenal is one of the “big four” and has only finished outside of the top 5 in the league twice since the Premier League was formed in 1992, and I’m not crazy about being seen as a “bandwagon fan”. Plus, “Arsenal” sounds like a team’s nickname. Too weird to be a regular name. Swansea has a cool gold trim to its kits, but their key rival is Cardiff City, and Cardiff is where Doctor Who comes from, so screw them.

  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Fulham
  • Newcastle United
  • Stoke City
  • Swansea City
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • West Ham United

Which leaves us with seven. Next time, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of each team.

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