MLS Snobbery: Confirmed

I don't think there's a clearer sign that I've lost interest in following the club game around the world, than the decision I made yesterday.

For reasons not worth discussing, I happened to be at home, which made sitting down to take in the Champions' Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Chelsea easy enough (result - for the curious). And yet I arranged my day to see the Kansas City Wizards take on Toronto FC. Moreover, I found that plenty interesting and don't remotely regret my choice.

It's a curious path I'm on with regard to Liverpool, who was once "my team," and the EPL in general: I spent one season (late 1990s; couldn't say when) drinking a shot of gin for every goal Liverpool scored (the famous 4-3 fight back against Newcastle was the closest I've come before or since to getting cut off); when I saw Liverpool win the League Cup in 2001, the relief was such that I felt some tickling of nausea. Fast forward to (was it?) the 2005 Champions' Cup victory, the one where Liverpool looked all but dead against Barcelona before a dizzying 5-10 minute spell got them right back in it - I didn't see even one of those goals, but stuck around for the PKs that decided. And it was merely OK.

That takes the story to yesterday. If I ever doubted my interest in the EPL has ended, I don't any more. And don't interpret this as self-congratulation because I'm not proud of this or anything - more surprised, I suppose, given the years spent going to a smoky bar every weekend to catch the Premier League. And Lord knows I'm not claiming Major League Soccer is in any way superior. It's closer to the truth to acknowledge that as irrelevant. Put another way, I don't know how this happens; I only know that it can.


Tom said...

Interesting, especially as someone trying to follow MLS more closely myself and having also lost some interest in the Premiership (relatively-speaking).

I'd like to hear more on why this happened with you.

The Manly Ferry said...

Funny you should ask...and one might think I'd know. But, the reality is, I don't, or that I haven't thought it through because it's something that just kind of happened and the whys didn't concern me so much. I do have a guess or two, though, but will try to keep this brief (I've failed, by the way, in doing so twice now).

Part of its a local thing: whether it's the connection to the national team or being able to think to oneself, "Hey, Columbus is kind of ass as cities go; I hope they get a good soccer team." So parts of it grows from cultural context. For instance, it's easy for me to hate teams from California, so I do; I have happy memories of Chicago (where I've visited, but never lived) and Boston (where I've lived) and, from having spent the first years of my life there, I've got soft spots for Ohio (hence Columbus). I don't like Texas, which turns me against Houston...though, for some reason, I still like FC Dallas...I'd rather lick a toilet seat than spend a week in Salt Lake City, but I like that team...go figure. All that weird meandering across the American landscape works for me. And I think I don't have that with the EPL. I've been to England and got around a fair amount (London, York, some time in Huddersfield and a "pilgrimage" to Liverpool that I still cherish, even if I didn't see a game), but the connection isn't deep; it can't be after just a visit. So, for all the better soccer, it gets kind of lost in an emotional disconnect.

It doesn't help seeing the same teams winning - Arsenal, Man. United, now Chelsea - year after year. It's a 38 game season and you're supposed to spend almost 10 months watching when you know the same three or four teams will come out on top and no second chances? I think they've been wise in terms of making international competitions available and promotion/relegation keeps things exciting at the bottom and for the teams involved, but there's the rest of the Premiership between here and there - I couldn't imagine being a Tottenham fan, for instance. It's like living in Purgatory.

But there's a funny thing about that last part; namely, that I typically like dynasties. The fact that DC and LA have traditionally done so well lends beating them a little special signficance; it's the same thing that applies when, say, Watford beats Chelsea (has that ever happened?). Put another way, if MLS kind of moves to a model with looser financial rules and the same teams keep winning again and again, I doubt I'll stop watching. I'll do what English fans have done for so long - or what I assume they have done anyway: find solace in smaller accomplishments.

In any case, I only know I just stopped watching the EPL at one point. Just stopped all but outright. I don't even "use" the EPL as off-season methadone.
It certainly helps that it's easier than ever to follow soccer in the U.S. obsessively. Back when no league existed, I tried on a couple other American sports ( it's Canadian), but they never took. I'm a born soccer fan; it's just automatic, always has been. Now that it's easy...well, shit, there it is. It's easy.

DCUinCT said...

Have had the exact same thing happen to me this week and had the same thought that this would make a good blog entry. Glad someone took it up.

I care a lot more about teams in the US even besides DC partly because I know the cities, their charateristics etc. Some I just hate and want to see loose (RBNY). I know the players and where they've come from (most US players), and know the committment they make to playing here (sometimes for 12K a year. For bang for the dollar spent on team salary I think MLS is among the top leagues in the world. At least those were the reasons I gave myself for ignoring the end of the ManU game ("my" EPL team) even though it was a great game and then watching a midweek game of KC and TFC.
Glad to hear that others are possessed by the same malidy.

mlsfan said...

I wouldn't doubt that a lot of people are experiencing the same shift in interest from Europe to MLS. The MLS is expanding and the DP rule has brought about some buzz.

I do think the start of this MLS season is the first time MLS has been my top league. I do not have any real dislike for any teams as you say you do, but I live quite a ways from any MLS team and cheer for the Wizards.

I still will watch some EPL on saturday mornings, or Champions League during the week, but if games are on at the same time MLS will take top priority.

Hockey is a close 2nd favorite for me so right now is a real busy time for me watching sports (NHL Playoffs). I don't live too far from Canada...

pate said...

Somehow I missed this when you first posted it, but I agree. I sort of followed the EPL (not very closely though) for a couple of years. Now that I'm really getting back into the game, I find myself caring about the MLS (and to a lesser degree, Mexican soccer) a whole lot more than any other league.

Gareth Sleger said...

I've found myself paying more attention to the MLS this season than in the past (maybe it's just my duty as a U.S. soccer fan), but I'd still rather watch the EPL or UEFA Champions League over the MLS anyday.
It's not that the MLS isn't worthy--the talent level is the best it's ever been--but Europe will always have a leg up.
On the other hand, when a MLS team or it's all-star team plays a European team, I'll always cheer for the MLS. In that case, hopefully they never play Liverpool...

The Manly Ferry said...


Seriously, I like that you went the other way, Gareth. This is all consumer choice, so there is no "right" response. I hope MLS peels away enough people to survive - or better still, thrive - and I've done my bit here and there to convert a person or two (I think I'm somewhere between 5 and 10 for lifetime converts to MLS or USL soccer), but my reason for living won't suddenly dry up if MLS dies.

Now, if soccer as a game dried up...well, then I'd have serious problems.