An American's Guide to Picking an English Soccer Team
When you ask an American about the English Premier League, you are probably going to encounter someone who falls in one of three groups.
1. A fan who follows the league regularly, like myself. We are in the vast minority, but our numbers are growing.
2. Someone who can’t wait to tell you how much they hate soccer. These are people that usually cite how it’s their “right as an American” to drive enormous SUVs and generally act inconsiderate.
3. Someone who is indifferent about the game. This person understands that there is something beautiful about watching world-class athletes play in electric atmospheres. Unfortunately, there are obstacles that prevent this person from ever becoming a fan.
One of the obstacles is understanding the game’s history in England.
Sure it’s great to sit down and have a respect for the league, but its no fun if you have no idea what any of this means or who to root for!
Well, fear not group three, that’s why I’m here.
I have created this guide. I have done my best to draw a parallel between every team in the league and a team from America. I’ll also include a "buyer beware" warning about each team.
Here goes nothing…
American Parallel: Boston Red Sox mixed with the Golden State Warriors
Rationale: Like the Warriors, Arsenal is the most offensive-minded team in the Premiership. But there is a lot more Red Sox than Warriors.
The book Fever Pitch was based on Arsenal. That book was later remade into an awful chick flick based on the Red Sox.
Both Arsenal and the Sox went through a run of close calls between 1999 and 2003 before both broke through with legendary titles in 2004.
Buyer Beware: Much like the Red Sox bandwagon, if you hop on the Arsenal bandwagon, everyone will view you as a front runner.
American Parallel : Utah Utes Football
Rationale: Much like Utah’s status as a “BCS buster,” Aston Villa is trying to spoil the party for the big boys.
Villa currently sits in third place in a league where the top four spots are almost always occupied by the big four (Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool).
A lot of people are hoping that Aston Villa can be the team to break into the top four.
Buyer Beware: Aston Villa isn’t shown a lot on Fox Soccer Channel, so they are tougher to follow than some other teams.
American Parallel: Green Bay Packers mixed with the Oakland Raiders
Rationale: Like the Packers, Blackburn hails from the smallest town in the league. Like the Raiders, they have the reputation of being the dirtiest team in the league.
The reputation is justified, as the team usually leads the league in yellow cards.
Buyer Beware: Unlike the Packers, Blackburn rarely fills its stadium. They also are in a relegation fight (the bottom three teams in the EPL are relegated a minor league, they are replaced by the top three from that league).
If they are sent down, a lot of people around the club do not like their chances of ever returning. It might be a good idea to avoid picking a team that might not be in the league for a while.
American Parallel: Kansas City Royals
Rationale: Both teams play in cool-looking stadiums that are usually half empty.
Buyer Beware: There is about as much upside in rooting for Bolton as there is in rooting for the Royals.
American Parallel: Dallas Cowboys
Rationale: Both teams have egomaniac owners. But Jerry Jones can not compete with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, the 11th richest man in the world.
Chelsea’s spending makes the Yankee’s look like a penny-pinching organization. They also goes through coaches at a rate Al Davis can appreciate.
Chelsea, much like the Cowboys, are usually a cast of high-profile players that seem to have little to no chemistry.
Buyer Beware: The team is very good, so see Arsenal on the bandwagon potential. It may be not quite as high though.
American Parallel: Minnesota Twins
Rationale: While Aston Villa is the team threatening the big four this season, the honor usually belongs to Everton. A team that, like the Twins, is able to compete on the highest level without spending nearly as much money.
Buyer Beware: The sponsor on Everton’s jersey is Chang beer. I have never seen this beer and every time I watch Everton, I contemplate a search for Chang that I know deep down will not be worth the effort.
American Parallel: New York Jets
Rationale: Fulham are one of five teams in the league from London, along with Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham, and Tottenham.
Fulham is the smallest and least-threatening of the five teams much like the Jets are the least-threatening New York team.
Buyer Beware: This team used to be littered with American players. Now they are down to one American, Clint Dempsey.
Since they have offloaded their American talent, the team has gotten better. Do you really want to root for that?
American Parallel: Arizona Cardinals
Rationale: Both teams have long histories of futility before reaching unprecedented heights this season.
Hull is a newly promoted club who was expected to go right back down after this year. However, Hull has held their own this year and are currently in a position to remain in the top flight.
Buyer Beware: The key word in the last sentence of the above paragraph is “currently.” Hull could very easily get relegated and you do not want to pick a team that ends up getting relegated.
American Parallel: Boston Celtics
Rationale: Both teams are located in port cities that Irish immigrants flocked to during the potato famine. Both teams have won more titles than any other team in their sport.
Buyer Beware: The bandwagon potential is probably lower than any of the other big four teams, but it is still there.
American Parallel: New York Yankees
Rationale: The only difference between the two teams is that their cities are nothing alike. Like the Yankees, Manchester United has more resources than any other team in the league. They spend copious amounts of money to put together a team that is always one of the top teams in Europe. They are also hated by the fans of just about every other team, much like the Yankees.
Buyer Beware: If you choose to root for Manchester United you might as well just have "frontrunner" tattooed on your forehead. The bandwagon is that of Arsenal times a trillion.
American Parallel: New York Mets
Rationale: Once again, the cities have nothing in common. However, both teams are overshadowed by the bigger clubs in their respective towns and are determined as hell to catch up.
That’s where the similarities end—the Mets spend a lot of money, but they have their limit. Manchester City is owned by the "Arab Donald Trump" who, like Abramovich, is willing to spend whatever it takes.
Buyer Beware: Do you really want to root for a team owned by the Arab Donald? Also, take it from a die hard Mets fan. It’s not fun to root for the second class citizen in a city.
American Parallel: Houston Astros
Rationale: Because if you are a casual fan, it's hard to get too worked up one way or another about either of these teams.
Buyer Beware: They are currently in a place to be relegated.
American Parallel: Cleveland Browns with a pinch of the Oakland Raiders
Rationale: Both Newcastle United and the Browns are from blue collar cities. Both teams have insanely passionate fans. Both teams have extremely tortured histories.
Newcastle also mirrors the Raiders in that they used to be known for high-powered offenses, but are now known for incompetent ownership.
Buyer Beware: I am a Newcastle fan. Unless you have infinite patience, do not pick this team. They will break your heart and hurt your head at the same time.
American Parallel: Oakland A’s
Rationale: Both teams hail from blue collar cities along the coast. Both teams have been able to remain competitive without large sums of money. Both teams play in unsightly stadiums.
Buyer Beware: I’ve got nothing here
American Parallel: Any mid-major bubble team in college basketball
Rationale: Stoke City is a newly-promoted club who does not have the resources that the Premier League mainstays have. Nobody expects them to stay out of the bottom three, but like a mid-major team on the bubble, they are fighting for their lives.
Buyer Beware: Small teams like Stoke and Hull are hard to follow from across the pond—especially if they get relegated.
American Parallel: West Virginia Mountaineers
Rationale: Because both teams are the “have-nots” in their rivalries with Newcastle and Pitt, respectively. As a fan of Newcastle and Pitt, I hate both with a passion.
Buyer Beware: You’ll make me cry and then throw things in your general direction
American Parallel: Miami Dolphins
Rationale: I chose the Dolphins, but really any semi-successful team from a city with a large Jewish population can apply.
At some point, Spurs fans were stereotyped as being Jewish. Tottenham fans realizing how ridiculous and Anti-Semitic this was, turned the insult around by proudly proclaiming themselves as the “Jew Army.”
Buyer Beware: Like Newcastle, Tottenham has been a chronic underachiever of late.
West Bromwich Albion
American Parallel: A far less successful version of the Chicago White Sox.
Rationale: Along with Aston Villa, West Brom hails from the city of Birmingham, which is England’s “second city”. I felt like a Chicago team was necessary here, so I went with the White Sox since Villa seems to be the team's first city.
Buyer Beware: This team currently sits in dead last, and is most likely going to be relegated.
West Ham United
American Parallel: USC basketball
Rationale: Both teams were down in the dumps before bringing in a star player (West Ham’s Carlos Tevez, USC’s OJ Mayo) under the shadiest of circumstances.
Both players left after one year and both teams have been better off than they were before the player got there.
Buyer Beware: Do not become a West Ham fan without seeing Green Street Hooligans. If you choose this team, everyone will ask you about this movie.
American Parallel: Florida Marlins
Rationale: Both teams play in unsightly, half-empty stadiums that are better suited for another sport. Both teams get rid of their best players as soon as a bigger team makes an offer. Wigan even prides themselves as being a stepping-stone players can use to get to a bigger team.
Buyer Beware: As if the Marlins comparison isn’t enough.