Over the past few years my sports viewing habits have changed dramatically. The NFL continues on its path of self-destruction and suck. Meanwhile, I’ve discovered the joy of watching soccer (let’s all agree to call it soccer for the purposes of this discussion). I used to be a very casual fan of the sport. Every four years I would get really into the World Cup and vow to continue watching games and following a league after it was over. I could never parlay that enthusiasm into anything more than a brief glance at a match here or there.
The big game changer came after the birth of my second daughter. When daddy is left alone to watch his newborn child he will try just about anything to keep her content and quiet. One Saturday morning I was in that exact situation and gave the English Premier league a whirl. I believe it was Everton vs. Manchester City (home team is listed first…remember that). The baby immediately stopped crying and just stared at the game, seemingly engrossed in the action. Every weekend I went back to the well, and every week it did the trick. This became my ritual every Saturday and Sunday the rest of that year. Two seasons later and I am hooked and have been an Everton supporter since that very first day. I have even started watching some Bundesliga, the occasional African nation’s World Cup qualifiers and MLS. I love watching the Timbers play at home in Portland. The crowd and overall atmosphere there is awesome.
The NFL, on the other hand has gotten worse and worse every year. They have made a once enjoyable game virtually unwatchable. It has come to the point where I won’t watch any games not involving my favorite team. I am clearly at a crossroads here and I think many of us are.
So, without further ado I present to you the top ten reasons why I would rather watch soccer than football:
10. International Flavor – Soccer has a much larger diversity of players and coaches in whichever league you happen to follow. The NFL has certainly had it’s share of foreign born players…even some that weren’t kickers. Where soccer wins this outright is the shear numbers and the fact that you get to watch these players go play for their native country during qualifying and tournaments. Leagues actually have scheduled breaks in season for doing just that. This would never happen in football. NFL players barely survive the games that play now.
9. More Games to Watch – The soccer seasons are longer of course. Not only that, with the English Premier League you can watch games on both Saturday and Sunday and the occasional mid-week game thrown in. The NFL throws a ton of games at you on Sunday’s and yes, you have Monday and Thursday nights too. But, let’s talk about those Thursday night matchups. Are we supposed to be blinded by the color rush and not realize that each week features two horrible teams on short rest? They need to end this experiment yesterday.
8. Live Sports in the A.M. – I’m telling you, there is nothing like watching live sports first thing in the morning on the weekends. This is one of the best things about Wimbledon, British Open golf, and the World Cups and Olympics which are played in those time zones. I’m still waking up with a cup of coffee (should it be tea?) and here are thousands of fans all fired up and ready for the action and drama. I love this. The NFL gives you the occasional game played in London. Once again, a terrible matchup resulting from one team that is so bad they are willing to give up one of their 8 home games.
7. Promotion/Relegation – Don’t you wish we could banish those really bad NFL teams to Siberia or something? If they fail to compete and bore us all, shouldn’t someone else get a crack at it? Well, that’s exactly what happens in the Premier League and just about all other soccer leagues. The bottom three teams in the standings (table) each year are sent down to a lower league and the top three teams from the lower league come up. This may seem very odd to many Americans at first. Trust me though, it adds so much to the experience. There is so much at stake when you are a borderline team and the resulting tension is just awesome.
6. Length of Games – In soccer you know what you’re in for with regard to obligation of your time. The game is going to be done in under two hours (excepting certain tournament matches which need extra time and/or penalty kicks to settle). Other than a halftime, the clock keeps moving no matter what. You can plan your day around these games. The NFL…who the hell knows. I can’t even plan my bathroom breaks around the broadcasts. Who really wants to be up past midnight on a Sunday night with a work day looming. And suppose your team blows the game in stunning fashion? Talk about a case of the Mondays.
5. Commercials – Ahh, the reason for the discrepancy in game time is naturally the commercials. In soccer you have none at all during game play. You only have to deal with them at halftime really. Why would you want to interrupt the game with excessive ads? In the case of the NFL it has started to actually effect the games themselves as well as strategy. Teams with a great running game used to be able to completely wear down their opponent by the time the 4th quarter rolled around. It just doesn’t work anymore with so many breaks in between drives. For crying out loud, there is an NFL official at each game whose sole purpose is to regulate the commercial breaks!
4. Flags vs. Cards – Both sports throw the yellow around and soccer also has red. The shear volume of yellow laundry in your average NFL game is simply stunning. You can’t even be happy with a positive play anymore. The immediate reaction is, “please don’t let there be a penalty”. Obviously fouls and cards are being given in soccer, and even frequently at times. But don’t forget, that clock keeps-a-movin’. Also,the rules for soccer are pretty simple. Okay, the offside thing is a trifle confusing. But is there anything more convoluted, arbitrary and ever changing than the NFL rule book? The U.S tax code?
3. Violent Collisions – I won’t get too much into this one, since so much ink has been spilled on the topic already. I’ll just say that it’s getting difficult to watch these NFL games knowing that it could forever alter the lives of its players.
2. Injuries – Mostly the result of those violent collisions, injuries are ruining the NFL for the average fan. There are so many season ending injuries these days. Your favorite team can have their season end in the blink of an eye. More importantly, you just want to keep watching the players do their thing. It is so unfortunate that we are robbed of seeing a special player doing what he does best. There are injuries in soccer too…you can’t escape them in sports. It’s just not nearly in the same ballpark. The more the NFL tries to protect the players from injury (or claims to), the worse it gets.
And the number reason I would rather watch soccer than football…