It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, the kids are gearing up for back-to-school, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about once again having meaningful viewing options in professional sports. A time when Americans, like buffet diners returning to a fresh tray of peach cobbler, bask in the glow of televised athletic content we care about watching. The English Premier League in August? It’s like finding out that Mila Kunis has been assigned prison guard of your cell block. And the National Football League on top of that? An embarrassment of riches.
It begs the question: is this the year the EPL catches up to the NFL in America? Short answer – No. Longer answer – Wait, you were serious? Did you play under power lines as a kid? No, this is not the year.
I’ll level with you EPL blokes. Knocking football off its perch in the US of A is not likely. Why? Our Founding Fathers traded tranquility for long military odds in order that they, and we, might live free. So it’s kind of written in our DNA that we’ll prefer a smash-mouth goal line stand to a sublime offside trap. This doesn’t mean you can’t make solid ground gains. It’s not like we dislike soccer. Our youth programs are thriving, with requisite British (or British-sounding) coaches. Plus America loves a winner, and the U.S. Women’s performance in the World Cup was almost too dominant for Christian Grey. So what’s keeping the EPL from making the NFL hear footsteps? Pull up a chair, old chaps, and I’ll tell you.
First, that pre-game tradition of having kids walk onto the field with the players? You need to knock that off, like yesterday. I am sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this in Europe, but it doesn’t play well in Peoria. After all, the players have just come from the locker room, and the mascots are not even their own children. I’m not saying there can’t be a kid-sport nexus. The Green Bay Packers tradition of players borrowing kids’ bicycles to ride to training camp is pitch-perfect. But over here your tradition seems a pocketful of candy away from hitting the creepiness trifecta.
Second, lose the expectation of American fans donning team scarves to show support. For a man who will wear a scarf to support a club must first be a man who will wear a scarf, period. Sure, the ratios improve in hip places like Park Slope, but nothing like the 3:1 scarf-to-man ratio in London’s West End. I get it, it’s cold in Sunderland. But there’s a reason why they call Lambeau Field the Frozen Tundra. The takeaway for EPL commissars? Americans gratefully accept what their moms have crocheted for them for their birthdays. They just don’t wear them to sporting events.
Third, enough with strikers taking dives to sell their injuries. It’s not like they’ve ever felt a stinger. If we wanted to see high-priced talent flail about, we’d take in Adam Sandler in Hamlet. Two simple words — play hurt – have very different meanings in NFL and EPL fan expectations. In America, we take our athletes like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, not Bill Murray in What About Bob.
Fourth, streaking. This seems quintessentially British, and inextricably linked to your product. Alas, we might be more receptive on our side of the pond if just once in the rich history of Anglo-streaking someone with a body for streaking actually streaked. Instead, we’re stuck with horrifying images of nude and besotted Benny Hill doppelgangers seared on our retinas.
Fifth, pull the plug on those interminably long songs supporting your club. One verse is fine. To the average American, this is like coming upon Appalachian Trail hikers seated around a campfire singing Michael Row Your Boat Ashore in rounds. That is to say, fine at first, but if it’s still going at the Jordan’s River is deep and wide stage, American jurisprudence sanctions the use of lethal force. Just know that, if you schedule any friendlies in the South.
And speaking of friendlies, here’s number six to round it out. Your phrases like pitch, extra time, set piece, boots, booking and clean sheets might seem sound as a pound to you, but they are fingernails on the chalkboard in Tyler, Texas. I am fine if during commercials you observe to one another how a cross wafted more delicately than the scent of a buttered scone, or a volley snuck in the goal through the tradesman’s entrance. But for heavens sake, man, when the mics are on use the vernacular!
Of course, if you really want to gain ground on the NFL in America, you could make one small rule change. Let ‘em use their hands.