If you read a lot about sports on the Internet, you've probably seen your share of essays by American soccer novices deciding on which English Premiership team to support as they officially jump into the fandom. They go all out, with lots of research and soul-searching and weak analogies to the Cincinnati Reds. Friends, this is not one of those essays. The new season begins Friday, but I don't care about the teams, their history, or their current players. I am a soccer idiot, as evidenced by the fact that I couldn't even enjoy the 2018 World Cup, even though people seemed to agree it was a good one. I like to read books about soccer (like the excellent Among the Thugs, one of the best sports books ever written) better than I like to actually watch it.
And yet, there has to be something I'm missing. Wait, let me rephrase that: There is obviously something I'm missing. There's a reason soccer is so popular, there's a reason it hooks American who also like good sports, and there's a reason beyond my own shallowness that I'm not quite getting it. Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that I've never given league soccer a try beyond watching the odd Champions League match. It's all been World Cup and Euro Cup. And I have especially never committed myself to English league soccer, the creme de la creme.
Careful readers will already know this by the fact that I called it the "Premiership" in the first paragraph, which,I realized after I looked it up, is a word that hasn't been used since 2007. It's called the Premier League now, and I have once again committed an egregious self-own.
So I'm in. I'm in for the Premier League, partly because I want to get it, and partly because I got roped into a season-long EPL pool that I'll quit after roughly nine days if I don't have some sort of rooting interest. And yes, as the title indicates, I'm choosing Liverpool as my team (club? lad gang?). Three reasons:
1. My friend Spike became a Liverpool fan a decade ago and talks about them constantly to me on g-chat, so I may as well start enjoying those chats.
2. Liverpool is not owned by some evil foreign billionaire who made his billions by forcing Siberian children to ingest cobalt. It's owned by the Red Sox people, which is almost as bad, but whatever.
3. I've actually been to Liverpool (the metro system? Not bad!), which is more than I can say for Manchester (never) or London (airport and bus station only). And I'm sure as hell not rooting for any of the shitty teams from North Farthing-upon-Toadshire that can't win.
And that's my snap decision. Please feel free to tweet complicated strategy opinions at me on Twitter, or tell me I'm utter bollocks, or join me in praising Mo Salah, the only Liverpool player I can name.
I will keep you updated as the season goes along, starting with...
The English Soccer Match of the Week: COMMUNITY SHIELD!
One great thing about English soccer is that there are a million side matches that aren't part of the regular season. They have the FA Cup, the Champions League, a lesser cup competition called the League Cup, and then a few one-offs like the Community Shield, which pits the previous year's league champion against the holder of the FA Cup (or, since Manchester City won both last year, them and the runner-up in the league).
Anyway, Manchester City played Liverpoool Sunday, and...Liverpool lost in penalties because this Man City guy did this in the dying moments:
Bloody hell mate, that really winds me up! They done us again, innit!
The Ejections of the Week: Alex Cora and Chris Sale, Red Sox
I'm a Yankees fan, but I can't help admitting that Chris Sale got absolutely screwed by the home plate umpire in his Saturday start at Yankee Stadium. Was it hilarious? Yes. Was it fair? Absolutely not. Sale gave up a huge, game-ending inning when he should have been out of it several times much earlier, including a perfect pitch that would gotten him out of the jam with no runs allowed. Both he and his manager, Alex Cora, got tossed for arguing, and this breakdown of their constructive criticism for the ump upon exiting—which is EXTREMELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK—makes it all worthwhile:
The lesson of the year in baseball is that all great anti-umpire tantrums happen in Yankee games. (Note: That link is ALSO VERY NOT SAFE FOR WORK.)
The 'Wait...Are These Guys Still Really Good?' Team of the Week: The Warriors
There won't be many chances to write about the NBA for the next couple months, but there's one last piece of interesting news out of Golden State, where Draymond Green has signed a max four-year deal with the Warriors. That means that for the next four years, they have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson (recently signed to five-year deal), and D'Angelo Russell. The component parts are just okay (though the Kevon Looney signing was a great move), and they're not going to have much cap space, but if those four can continue to play at an elite level, they're not going to need it.
The narrative of this offseason has been that the Warriors are officially displaced as western conference royalty, and between the Lakers and Clippers and Klay Thompson's ACL, that's probably true...for now. But as Thompson himself said, it's "a little ignorant" to declare the dynasty dead...suddenly, life after Durant doesn't look so bad.
Best Human Rally Monkey: Baker Mayfield Shotgunning a Beer
Not only did the stunt below work, propelling the Indians on a five-run tear that was all they needed to beat the Angels, but the team Twitter account also managed a terrific own in the process:
Send Baker Mayfield to Liverpool!