Friday, August 12, 2011

Opening Days

The English Premier League season begins this weekend with nine matches instead of the mathematically complete 10 that originally were scheduled.

Everton at Tottenham has been postponed in the wake of the rioting that has frighteningly enveloped the area this week.

TigerBlog used to watch the top English teams play on the small black-and-white television in his room when he was a kid. From there until about two or three years ago, he could care less about English football.

Now, in large part because of the winning battle that Princeton men's soccer coach Jim Barlow fought with TB to get him to appreciate the magnitude of the EPL, and of international soccer in general.

The EPL is different than any American professional sport in ways that would be interesting to see implemented here.

As TB said earlier this year
, the concept of relegation is beyond fascinating, and it made for an unreal end to last season for the Premier League.

Then there is the idea that there are no playoffs, so that the team that wins the regular-season title simply is the league champion. The other incentive - a major one - is to finish in the top four in the league to earn a spot into the Champions League, which gives the opportunity to play for the European club championship.

The 20 teams that compete in the EPL are divided into some basic categories: the very few top teams who have a legitimate shot at winning, the ones competing for a Champions League spot, the ones who have no chance of getting to the Champions League but are too good to get relegated and the ones who have to fight to avoid relegation.

It makes being a fan of one of the team's in the middle somewhat frustrating, TB assumes.

Of course, what separates the top teams from the middle and bottom is money and how much of it is spent on the elite players. In that way, it's sort of like Major League Baseball, where the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies become Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

TB hasn't quite figured out who his favorite EPL team is, because he doesn't like to root for the rich teams and there's no sense in rooting for the middle ones. He rooted for Blackpool to avoid relegation last year, but that didn't quite work out. Maybe he'll root for one of the new teams.

Closer to home, the U.S. men's national team played a 1-1 tie with Mexico earlier this week in a game played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

It was the first game for the U.S. since Jurgen Klinsmann became the head coach, replacing Princeton alum/former coach Bob Bradley. TigerBlog admits that he didn't have the same connection to the game without the Princeton connection.

Also, TB couldn't help but wonder what might have been for Bradley if the Gold Cup final between the U.S. and Mexico - a 4-2 Mexico win in what would be Bradley's last game with the U.S. - had been played at the Linc instead of at the Rose Bowl, perhaps maybe the crowd would have been pro-U.S. rather than 80% pro-Mexico.

The EPL kicks off a 38-game schedule this weekend; the NFL regular season starts in four weeks.

The Princeton athletic year begins three weeks from today.

Three weeks. Can that possibly be correct?

It is. In fact, four Princeton teams start their seasons on Sept. 2 - none of them at home:

field hockey at Bucknell (and at American two days later)
women's soccer at Long Beach State (and Cal St.-Northridge two days later)
men's soccer at College of Charleston (and at Furman two days later)
women's volleyball in Hofstra's weekend-long tournament

Most of the rest of Division I will already have started by the time Princeton gets going; in fact, there are regular-season games next weekend.

The first home game of the 2011-12 academic year is a field hockey game against Penn State on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, TB is still trying to come to grips with the fact that the summer is winding down and that athletes will be on campus in the next few days to start preseasons.

Last Friday, TB and compliance director Anthony Archbald were talking about how there were only four weeks until the first athletic events, and both agreed that time would fly by.

One down. Three to go.

No comments: