EPL: The 11 Most Interesting Qualities of the Premier League

Michael WillhoftContributor IIIJanuary 15, 2012

EPL: The 11 Most Interesting Qualities of the Premier League

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    The English Premier League is widely considered the top football league in the world for a variety of reasons: its storied franchises and venues, the connection between the teams and their supporters, the fact that some of its players were—seemingly—only given one name at birth. They all combine to create a massive demand in terms of viewership, both domestically and internationally.

    With the league’s increase in popularity in the United States, we’ve seen a corresponding push by major television networks to broadcast games from across the pond.

    And even though the majority of those broadcasts occur on Saturday and Sunday mornings, they still draw large television audiences.

    In trying to pinpoint what it is that gets American viewers out of bed at 7:30 AM on days when they don’t have to report to their cubicles, I’ve decided that it’s a combination of varying factors that make the league so intriguing and enjoyable to watch, some of which are listed above.

    But in addition to the qualities I noted previously, there are several other aspects of the EPL that interest me and—as I narcissistically assume that my interests count for those of other people—the EPL fans in the United States.

    Here are the best, worst, most irresistible and most puzzling facets of the English Premier League. Because I know that I love to watch these games, and I’m almost certain these factors are among the reasons why I’ll wake up to watch the likes of Bolton and Wigan when I could be sleeping instead…

1. The Name of the Sport

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    I love the fact that in the EPL, it’s not soccer—it’s football. It’s a minor thing, but it can be the little things that make all the difference.

    I know, I know. On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s basically a crime to infringe on the territory of America’s most popular sport. That being said, I love that the EPL is truly a “football” league in the purest sense of the word.

    The name of the sport is self-explanatory; it describes the game at a fundamental level. Players kick the ball using their feet. Leave it to the British to come up with a practical name for their national pastime.

    It’s almost like the United States wanted to distance itself from the mother country in a way that wasn’t political, so the sport was renamed: “You know what? Let’s take their sport, but we’ll call it 'soccer' instead. That’ll really get ’em.”

    Oh, and the fact that they’re called “matches” instead of “games” is just icing on the cake. Like I said, it’s the little things.

2. The Benches

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    One of the EPL’s more idiosyncratic qualities is the method by which the players who aren’t in the game get to watch the action on the field.

    I’m speaking, of course, about the benches.

    Except in some cases, the term “bench” applies less to the player seating area than the term “luxury box” does.

    Some of the teams in the Premier League showcase their reserve players in multi-tiered, enclosed benches that seem more like stadium seats than anything else. And the fact that each player has an individual chair that looks like an after-market racing seat you’d find in an import tuner car only increases the unique nature of the EPL.

    And those soccer shelters—the plastic half-domes that cover the benches—are another topic entirely. But I can’t help loving that the players on the bench need to be enclosed in a kind of above-ground dugout.

    It’s confusing and intriguing, and I can’t get enough of it.

3. The Acting

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    What’s most intriguing to me about the EPL is the amount of acting that goes on after a foul. Or in some cases, the acting that occurs in the aftermath of a player breathing too heavily near the player controlling the ball.

    This can be applied to any number of international football leagues, but since we’re most heavily subjected to the Premier League on television it makes sense to discuss it here.

    I don’t know why acting—or diving, for that matter—is such a part of the game in the EPL, but in this age of high-definition broadcasts and endless replays, it seems a little ridiculous that a player can act like he’s suffered a career-ending injury when an opposing player clips his ankle.

    We can all tell when he’s faking. Not that it stops him from putting both hands to his face in apparent agony anyway.

    Despite the questionable nature of the antics themselves, I find it fascinating that acting occurs so often.

    And I love that after being carried off the field on a stretcher, the injured player almost immediately demands that the referee let him back into the game.

    It looks like that "broken leg" will be just fine after all.

4. Stoppage Time

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    The concept of stoppage time is among the most-questioned concepts in organized sport—at least, according to my list. It’s right up there with the NFL once having the goalposts in the front of the end zone, fans being allowed on the field/court/ice during a championship moment or the idea of cricket in general.

    I’m aware that stoppage time is not unique to the EPL; but again, this is an EPL-centric article, so bear with me.

    Could you imagine an Americanized sport (e.g. the NFL or the NBA) having a game clock that didn’t truly cause the game to end when it hit 00:00?

    When it comes to the EPL, it’s almost mind-boggling that such an important sport played at the world’s highest level operates according to an almost arbitrary time-keeping system.

    Sure, the referee’s assistant signals an amount of stoppage time to be played to account for breaks in the action during the first 90 minutes of play, but the fact that it’s up to the main referee when the game should be declared over is one of the more interesting aspects of the sport.

5. The Plurality of Team Names

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    If you’ve watched five minutes of an EPL game, you’ve probably picked up on how the commentators pluralize the—often—singular names of the teams.

    A few examples: “Liverpool are struggling to mount an attack” instead of “Liverpool is struggling to mount an attack.” “Chelsea have played an extremely high defensive line” instead of “Chelsea has played an extremely high defensive line.” “City are possibly the best example of overpaying for talent without reaping the rewards in terms of hardware” instead of “City is possibly the best example of overpaying for talent without reaping the rewards in terms of hardware.”

    Cheap shot at Manchester City aside, I can’t get over how singular team names are described using plural verbs. It would be like commentators in the United States saying things like “New England have Tom Brady in at quarterback.”

    For whatever reason, talking like that sounds wrong except when it’s applied to the teams in the EPL.

    Which is another reason I love watching this league.

6. The Referees

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    If there’s a world in which EPL referees don’t get to treat star football players like misbehaving schoolboys, then I don’t want to live in it.

    This is one of the more underrated aspects of EPL football, and it shouldn’t be. I love watching the interaction between a referee who’s just called a foul and the player on whom the foul was called, especially when that player is convinced he’s done nothing wrong.

    Those few moments when the referee is silencing angry teammates or pointing them away with a single finger while simultaneously motioning the offender over to him with a “come-stand-over-here-right-now-I’ve-got-something-to-say-to-you” gesture is the highest form of sports comedy.

    The best part of the whole situation is that the player who committed the foul absolutely has to go stand in front of the referee and listen to a stern warning.

    It’s like a kindergartener being sent to time out for stealing another kid’s crayons.

7. (Legal) Gambling

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    Betting on EPL teams is common practice in the United Kingdom. After all, it’s completely legal.

    Need I say more?

    Gambling on sports is not considered unethical in Europe. Betting outlets are even sponsors of some EPL teams, with their company names and logos placed prominently on the jerseys of the players (Bet365 and 188Bet being two examples).

    Unless you “know a guy,” you can’t legally bet on your favorite team in the United States. And even if you’re in Las Vegas—where it’s legal to place wagers on sporting events—you obviously can’t be in the same location as the event you’re betting since professional sports teams aren’t allowed to call Vegas home.

    For British fans of the EPL, betting on their favorite team and watching the game at their home stadium is what constitutes a typical match day.

8. The Champions League

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    Even though the Champions League is separate from the EPL, it’s usually teams from the Premier League that are most interesting to the typical American fan.

    I love the Champions League for a variety of reasons, the greatest of which is the fact that Champions League games are played during the EPL season.

    Think about that for a second.

    Could you imagine your favorite American sports team competing in their normal league—say, the NFL—then being required to play games in another country that counted in the standings for a totally different league?

    It would be like the Patriots playing at home on Sunday, then having to travel to Mexico to play a team they’ve never faced before, all during the NFL season.

    The fact that the Premier League and Champions League seasons overlap is always a source of interest. The decisions an EPL manager is forced to make with regards to his roster—basically telling his team’s fans which games are more important to him—are among his most difficult of the season.

9. The Crowds

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    As with any live sporting event, the energy of the crowd always plays a role in the outcome of the game. Whether the crowd is in full voice in its support of the home team or is silenced by the quality of the visitors’ play, the performance of each team is impacted.

    Nowhere is that more apparent than in the EPL.

    The Premier League is home to some of the most rabid fan bases in sport. Part of the appeal of the EPL from a viewer standpoint is the opportunity to hear the home crowd singing in support of their team.

    And even when they’re singing to mock one of the players on the opposing team, it’s still enthralling.

    No American sports league can compete with the passion shown by fans in the EPL, which is why it’s so appealing to both casual and hardcore fans.

10. Promotion and Relegation

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    The concept of promotion and relegation is one that makes the EPL exciting for fans of every team in the league.

    Whether your team is fighting for a spot in the top four—meaning an invitation to the Champions League—or fighting to stay out of the league basement—which earns bottom-dwellers a demotion from the Premier League—the entire EPL season is exciting.

    Every time this topic is brought up in conversation, I can’t help but think that it should be adopted by the professional sports leagues in the United States.

    The idea of tanking to earn a higher draft pick would be eliminated entirely, the top teams in the league would be rewarded for a season’s worth of hard work, and relegation races would mean almost as much as pennant races.

    Promotion and relegation adds another level of excitement to the EPL—like I really needed another reason to tout the league’s beneficial qualities.

11. The Quality of Play

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    The EPL is home to world’s highest level of football, hands down. The quality of play in the Premier League has never been in doubt, which is what makes it the most enjoyable football league to watch.

    To those who would argue that the Italian Serie A or Spain’s La Liga offers football at a higher level, I would say that each league has a few stellar teams but neither league can step toe-to-toe with the EPL as a whole.

    It’s no secret that many of the world’s top players would rather join a club in the EPL than in any other league.

    The star power on display in the Premier League on a weekly basis is the best argument I have for the league’s overall addictiveness. Once you start watch the EPL, it’s almost impossible to stop.

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.