With the NFL Draft coming up this (Thursday) evening, I’m going to turn from issues specific to fantasy games to something that strikes at the core of the game. The NFL Draft is an important day on the US sporting calendar because it represents hope and make no mistake, the reason that the NFL is wildly popular is that every team has hope. This reason this finds its way into a column about the Premier League is that one wonders how long the league can continue to sustain its position in its core (UK) market when the majority of teams have no hope.
Internationally speaking, the Premier League will continue to grow revenue streams because those of us who weren’t born into a club affiliation by virtue of inheritance or geography can pick a club that DOES have a chance year in and year out. There is little risk in this strategy and because we weren’t born into our affiliation there is also little shame in changing it from time-to-time as the balance of power shifts in the league.
The problem that the league faces and doesn’t really seem too intent on solving is what to do about the core fans that made the league what it is today? What hope does the league offer to supporters for clubs like Fulham, Sunderland, Everton, or Blackburn? The NFL, through the draft and salary cap, ensures that fans in outposts like Green Bay and Pittsburgh that aren’t known as major markets have a chance to compete for a championship. The Premier League makes no such prevision.
Certainly, there are plenty of reasons that it is easier for the NFL than it would be for the Premier League with European law and the presence of alternative top tier leagues in other countries being the biggest. Still, that won’t be of much comfort as a new generation of supporters of mid-table teams wonders why they are paying incredibly high ticket prices with no hope of EVER winning a championship. As an Eagles fan in the NFL I haven’t experienced my team winning a Super Bowl in my lifetime but I retain hope because they have come close and there is nothing systemic preventing them from achieving that goal. A takeover by a super-rich tycoon willing to lose gobs of money aside, fans of mid-table Premier League teams can’t say the same.
I’d love to hear from die-hard supporters of perpetual mid-table teams “what do you consider a good season?” Finishing in the top half? In the Europa Cup? Beating a “big club” or derby rival? Is that enough to keep you going to matches or glued to the TV on days when your team plays a team at the bottom of the table? Major League Baseball has the same issue as the Premier League and there is great danger of the game slowly dying in towns like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Oakland.
As NFL teams and their fans prepare to renew hope this evening and over the weekend, I wonder what the fans of mid-table teams in the Premier League will content themselves with as the summer comes? Will it be enough to keep future generations of fans interested after 20 or 30 or 40 years in a row with no hope of a significant accomplishment?
Where we evaluate the match-ups that improve the value of the players involved versus the ones that leave the player’s value unchanged. The first note is to mention that all teams are back to having one match only this week.
- MAC vs. WHU – I’m not wild about Manchester City without Tevez but West Ham have clearly lost what momentum they had now that they’re playing a tougher schedule.
- Stoke @ Blackpool – Another team that seems destined for the drop going up against a solid team riding some solid momentum. I’m particularly interested in Stoke attackers – seems less likely that Blackpool will be shut out.
- Fulham @ Sunderland – I’m not sure if any of Sunderland’s players are still healthy – my only hesitation here is that Fulham aren’t that great on the road. I’m more interested in Fulham’s defense since Sunderland are missing all of their forwards.
- Liverpool vs. NUFC – Predicting how NUFC will perform has made me nervous all season and this week is no different but Liverpool are playing well and are at home which makes me feel good about their chances.
I hate trying to figure out where the points are going to come from when teams at the top of the table face off so I’m staying away from Arsenal vs. Man United and Chelsea vs. Spurs. I suspect that United and Chelsea will win but betting on their premium players is especially risky since the opposition isn’t the typical mid-table pushovers.
- Suarez – The headlines will be about Carroll playing his old team but Suarrez is The Man and consistent best bet for Liverpool.
- K Jones – More a “stick with him” than anything else but he’s a streaky scorer and he’s on 3 in 3 matches and playing against opposition that can’t keep the ball out of the net.
- Odemwingie – The difference between WBA being safe and fighting relegation – he’s been a revelation. Villa coming to town is hardly intimidating enough that it would dissuade you from having him in your side.
- Beckford – Since I really don’t like any of City’s forwards, I’m recommending Beckford at Wigan over Balotelli (too unpredictable) and Dzeko (still not necessarily a starter).
- Silva/Toure/Johnson – None of them have lived up to the hype but I’d suggest picking your two favorite of the three and assuming that West Ham’s visit will improve their outlooks. Also a good idea to prepare ahead of time for next week’s two-gamer.
- Dempsey – Easy to pick the guy coming off the brace but somehow that made Dempsey Fulham’s all-time scorer in the Premier League so who else would you bet on to score against teetering Sunderland.
- Gardner – Still quietly having a strong fantasy season and gets to play at home to Wolves who have looked worse and worse as the season finishes up.
- Meireles – Same logic as Suarez – he’s been exceptional during the Liverpool revival.
- Pennant – With Eth hurt, Pennant will likely take all of the free kicks which will improve his chances for assists against goal-friendly Blackpool even further.
- Kolarov – Solid chance of both clean sheet and attacking points against WHU and he’s still fairly cheap.
- Kompany – More expensive and you’re probably over your limit of City players but he’d be my second choice.
- Hangeland – With no forwards to face off against you have to like Fulham’s chance of a clean sheet even if the match is on the road.
- Ridgewell – Same logic as Hangeland since it appears that Wolves forgot where the goal is away from home.
- Hart – A no-brainer between this week’s match-up and preparing yourself to have him next week for the two matches.
- Schwarzer – If you have him coming off of last week and don’t want to use a transfer here.
- Foster – Home against Wolves seems like as solid a bet as you can find.
- Suarez – I can’t say I’m in love with any of the choices for captain but Suarez is the best combination of a great match-up and exceptional talent.
- Jones – He isn’t as talented but he’s in form and playing against Blackpool.
- Dempsey – Also in form and playing against a crumbling Sunderland team (don’t let last weekend’s result fool you – it was at home against Wigan).