Are we there yet?
By Devin Skrade
I have an unpopular opinion for you: Summer is the worst.
There, I said it. It is too hot, too sunny, and too expensive. My Norwegian skin requires more sunscreen than an infant’s, yet I inevitably burn, affording me the elusive honor of perpetually smelling like Banana Boat without actually being protected. Everyone is sticky and sweaty despite limited movement, and most people’s idea of competitive sport involves some sort of homemade lawn game that can only be played with a drink in your hand.
But the absolute worst part? No English Premier League games.
Thankfully, we are less than two weeks away from the first full weekend of Premiership action. With that in mind, I have compiled a personal list of the 10 reasons I cannot wait for the 2013-14 campaign to kick off. Without further ado, and in no particular order:
1. Enough soccer for every waking moment of the weekend
In the interest of round numbers, let us assume that each game consumes two hours of time, and most weekends involve about eight games. That gives me 16 hours of glorious, intense, spirited competition between some of the finest players in the world. After factoring in work, sleep, and any (slightly less) spirited soccer games of my own, basically every waking moment is accounted for on Saturday and Sunday for 38 weeks of the year. Apologies in advance for flaking on whatever barbecue/short film screening/child’s birthday party that you invited me to.
2. Monday and Wednesday games
If you think I am excited to spend all my free time on the weekends watching Suarez bite people, just imagine how good it feels to actually factor it into my weekday schedule. Obviously, the weekday games are similar to the NFL’s “Monday Night Football” in England, but in the Pacific time zone, those games land squarely at noon. There is nothing quite like running down your Monday obligations for a significant other by saying, “I’m pretty busy tomorrow...gotta run some errands, clean up the house, and watch a famous striker bite opposing players.”
The storied Red Devils are coming off a League title and somehow still enter the new campaign as the most compelling club. Credit that to a shocking managerial change that brought Everton’s talented former boss David Moyes to Manchester and...there was something else...oh, right! Wayne Rooney, the face of the club for nearly a decade and (allegedly) one of the best players in the world, doing his best grumpy cat impression for the 27th straight year (note: that statistic could be off). While his waning desire to play for United may not have been an issue during the reign of Sir Alex, do not rule out the possibility that the Rooney saga could undermine a new managerial regime, even one as seemingly sure-footed as Moyes’. Regardless, it will be fascinating to see where Rooney ultimately decides he most would like to smoke cigarettes and be out of shape.
4. Chelsea FC
Manchester United may be the most compelling team off the field, but Chelsea holds that claim on the pitch heading into the new campaign. Even if you dislike the Blues in principle, you cannot deny that they have the most intriguing set of young talent in the Premiership. Any team with just one of the Hazard/Mata/Oscar wonder trio would be ecstatic; Chelsea can play all three at the same time. Considering they now have a year of playing together under their belt, the prospect of a Blues attack conceived by The Man in the Cashmere Scarf should be legitimately terrifying to other clubs. Now if only they can figure out a way to sign Rooney to be out of shape on their bench instead of United’s...
6. Jozy Altidore
By all accounts, Altidore is coming off an incredible 18 months. He dominated the Eredivisie, leading AZ Alkmaar to their first Dutch Cup in 31 years while scoring 31 goals in the 2012-13 campaign. He then suited up for the U.S., kicking off a record win streak with a few dominant performances in World Cup qualifying before sealing a transfer to Sunderland. The move was largely criticized in the States, presumably because of his lackluster season with Hull City a few years back, in addition to Sunderland’s struggle to stay in the Premier League last season. But Sunderland hired the maniac known to most as Paolo Di Canio, and the players mirrored his furious passion to stay relevant as the relegation battle heated up. If Jozy is able to translate his prowess in the box to the English game, expect Di Canio to ruin quite a few $3,000 suits this season.
7. Luis Suarez
I know I have said this before, but he intentionally bit multiple people, on the field, during the run of play. This cannot be overstated. The biting is made even more hilarious by the size of his teeth. Though I suppose it speaks to his incredible quality as a player that he has even stayed in the spotlight long enough to bite multiple people in different matches. So there is that.
8. Premier League Review Show
Hands down, the greatest highlight show in the history of sports television. No anchors. Extended highlights of every game. Every important moment of every game from the weekend. Light voiceover commentary to set up the significance of each game, including relevant news from the week. It is, quite frankly, the most seamless hour of sporting television that exists. My understanding is that the League puts the show together, so it should move to NBC Sports from Fox Soccer Channel as part of the television rights deal. If not, they will have to answer to my friend Luis S.
9. The Relegation Zone
Is there any greater wrinkle in sports than the promotion/relegation cycle? Sorry, the correct answer is “No”. Imagine if in the NBA, NFL, or MLB, rather than tanking an entire season for a draft pick, the consequence was that you were sent to the minor leagues, lost out on a share of the ridiculous global television revenue, could no longer afford to pay your best players, and were sentenced to irrelevance for a potentially indefinite amount of time. That is what is at stake. When a team like Newcastle remains in the relegation battle late into the season, even better. Suddenly the teams clawing to stay in the top flight make for much more compelling drama than anything happening at the top of the table.
10. The Premier League on NBC
It remains to be seen how NBC will handle the challenge of appeasing an American fan base thirsty for “authentic” Premier League coverage. Personally, I think it is a good thing to shake up the broadcast rights, if only to force everyone to step up their game. Competition is good for everyone, and sports coverage is no different. Even if the only good thing that comes from NBC acquiring the rights is Ted Lasso taking over for AVB as head coach of the “Tott’num” Hotspurs, I think we can all agree the transition was a win.