2018.02.07 Guest Column: Catherine McAran

Every now and then I will say to someone, "Please write a column about that for me. About 4,000 characters will be fine." Few respond, but Catherine McAran, the daughter of Morenci's school superintendent, sent her finished peice the next day. Thanks, I'll take it.

There's football & there's football


Massive weekend for Premier League football. Can you believe that penalty kick by Kane against Liverpool. Should the ref have even given him the shot? Oh, Premier League. "What is that?" you may ask, as we are all in the standard Super Bowl withdrawal state.

Now, Sunday’s Super Bowl was a great game, which finally served us all up a healthy dose of “good” commercials. But, I was much more excited about the most popular sport in the world instead, real football, the original football, or “soccer” as it is commonly referred to in America. Ironically, the Brits can blame themselves for America’s use of the term “soccer” 200 years back, when they coined it, but since the 1980s, our friends across the Atlantic have been back peddling to keep “football” as the only term describing soccer.

History lesson over, now onto the fun! Last Saturday I woke up at 7 a.m. to catch Manchester United, David Beckham's former team, eke out a win against Huddersfield. Arsenal clobbered Everton, and Man City—ranked first—tied Burnley. There were more matches, but these were the hot ones of the 20 clubs.

Let me explain how I became a fan of Premier League Football. At first, I referred to this sport as “Hockey for Wusses.” I would roll my eyes at the 0-0 score or “nil-nil” match. Yawner. Then, one crisp late fall day, very sad that my alma mater, the University of Michigan, had suffered another embarrassing football season, a British friend of mine lured me from Brooklyn, N.Y., to the Lower East Side to watch “real football,” promising me a full Irish breakfast.

He took me to a small pub in lower Manhattan at 8 a.m. to kick off watching Arsenal. I was clear that I was not into “soccer,” but gave it a go. Why not.

I admit, like magic, the Premier League tantalized this tiny television in this small Irish pub, the Dorian Gray. The Scottish bartender, Paul, slept on the floor behind the bar because he had to open sometimes at 5 or 6 a.m. on a Saturday for Premier League as well as for rugby.

Premier league was fast, the fans at the pub cried tears of joy and sadness. Properly grown men, tough women, and all in between, including myself, later. The match went 90 minutes without commercials, except on a brief halftime break at the 45-minute mark. No replays, no whining, or litigating for more seconds. Just­ straight powering through the most important 90 minutes of thousands of souls that week.

In stark contrast, in the NFL, the ball is “in play” for a mere average of 11 minutes per game, which is averaging 3 hours and 12 minutes. The rest of the time is milling about, timing out, half-timing, reviewing, and of course, commercializing. In 2015 the Super Bowl had 12:06 minutes of actual game play, a half time show of 12:41 minutes, and the ads ran 1 hour 20 minutes.

In Premier League, the game played is like a car revving up from 0 to 60 and then only increasing in speed as the pedal pushes the metal, the game gets more and more intense, gathering momentum, as they play. You can’t even compare the tenacity and optimal return on investment for the viewer looking at these two sports side by side.

Premier League money is made by a long season of events close together. It is easier to travel and see your team live by hopping on a train from East to West London for 20 minutes on the tube. Their players wear some logos, and there are ads around the arena, as well as post-game interview room to compensate for the nearly zero commercial time.

Oh, and the crowd at the event! What passion. It is unmatched by any American sport. You may not believe me, but don’t discount me until you watch a match yourself. The Arsenal fans in the stands were harmoniously singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “God Save the Queen,” which is known in the U.S. with newer lyrics as “My Country ‘tis of Thee”—another subtle salt rubbed in England’s wound about our win on the war for Independence.

Now, I still hate on Arsenal. Chelsea more. Bandwagon teams. Which is why this Sunday at 11:30 a.m. EST was so crux. My two favorite teams went head to head, Liverpool and Tottenham. Never had I ever wanted two teams to tie. They did, 2-2. Amazing match! Note, in the Premier League, overtime is rare as teams are awarded three points for a victory, one for a draw, and none for a loss.  

The best part of Premier League is anyone can join. A local club, or just some friends kicking the ball, can compete. It's open to anyone! No drafting, no red tape, pure performance.

Football (soccer) is also the most popular sport worldwide, as all you need is a ball and some people who want to kick it. From low income areas in Brazil to affluent central London, it unites anyone who is just keen to play.

So, don't be sad that the American football season is over. The Premier League is just ramping up! Stay tuned for the next level, the European Cup, and then onto the World.