8 Reasons Why NBA Fans Should Try Watching EPL Soccer

Considering that the NBA season is locked out while the owners and players fight over money, many Americans may already have a backup plan. The NFL season is in full swing, the NHL season is about a month old and the MLB has ended. Even still, some who are hoops fans may even gravitate to college basketball for a substitute.

If you’re a NBA fan who is looking for something to replace your love of the game while you wait for the lockout, here are eight reasons to consider the English Premier League (EPL):

1. It’s really not as boring as you think.

Some NBA fans think (at least some of the ones I have spoken to) that soccer is boring because there is no action. It’s just a bunch of guys running up and down a field kicking a ball into a net. Really? And what is the NBA? Guys running back and forth on a court doing what? Ok, that’s what I thought. And there is plenty of action to be had. Players getting double and triple teamed, players trying not to get clipped while sliding tacklers hurl your way, players risking a concussion while going to get the header coming their way from a corner kick.

Better yet watching the drama unfold as a 1 – 1 deadlock is broken by a stray shot corrected and slid smoothly in past 2 defenders in the waning minutes for the winning goal as seen in this past weekend’s Liverpool victory over Chelsea. You want to see some athleticism? It takes a LOT to put a ball in a net using nothing more than your wits, skills and of course your feet and head! Soccer is as brutal as American football (and guess what, these guys wear less pads) and in many ways it’s more physical than basketball. So, if you are looking for action, it’s here in spades.

2. Not as deep of a commitment.

One of the issues I have had with basketball was the schedule. Games are aired 3 or 4 times a week and mostly in the evenings. Sure there are a few weekend games but still, if you miss a game or two during the week you may miss the best highlights. And if your games are west coast games, either you are staying up late or putting your DVR to work!

The one thing I love about soccer is on Monday, I am waiting for Saturday to watch the games. If you want to deepen your commitment, then yes you have Champions League games during the week and they come on early enough that you can watch them almost as soon as you get home from work. If you are an early riser on weekends, you can watch some of the games at 10am EST and since most games can be done in about 2 hours, enjoy the rest of the weekend after 1pm. If you are hardcore like some of my friends are, they can STILL get 2 or more games in and still have time to hang out around until 5 or 6. And what if you miss the game? Most are replayed during the course of the weekend and during the week.

Furthermore, let’s look at how much time you have in between seasons. The NBA finishes play in June. The season doesn’t start until the end of October — nearly 5 months! Soccer? Ends in May and starts up again in mid-to-late August. If you are a NBA fan what are you supposed to do in between that time? Fill it in with another sport? Do housework?

3. Just as fast paced as the NBA.

One thing makes this game The Beautiful Game is that it flows. Once the game starts, your attention is on the game following the ebb and flow as the teams do what it takes to score. From every step over, single and double cut dribble, back pass, bicycle kick, to the inevitable goal, the game just moves. I also enjoy that once the clock starts there is no stopping until the half and at the end. Americans have the luxury of having sports where there are stoppages during the game. I have to admit it’s gotten increasingly annoying especially in American football where instant replay has sucked all of the fun out of a good game. If you refer back to point two this is why you can have so much time on your hands after a game.

4. International camaraderie

In the time I have been following the sport I have met so many acquaintances from many different walks of life. It’s as simple as supporting your favorite team. Put on your favorite Lakers or Heat jersey and go to a mall. No one cares. No one will pay attention because here it’s commonplace. Put on a Manchester United kit, wear an AC Milan scarf or put a Real Madrid sticker on your ride and trust me, people will notice. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have ridden the DC metro and met others who enjoy the game because they noticed my MUFC keychain on my bag or even the wallpaper on my iPad. Just this weekend, I hung out with 5 new friends who I recently met, all of which are avid fans. If there was a sport that could bring people together, this would be it. Can you really say the same about the NBA?

5. Don’t let the low scores fool you!

One of the biggest complaints I hear is that there isn’t enough scoring in soccer. Compared to an NBA game, that may indeed be the case. But against the NFL, it’s hard to dissuade an NFL fan on that fact. But if you broke down the scores in an NFL game on a point to point basis, counting touchdowns only, most NFL games would be 4–3, 5–1, or even 1 to 0.

6. Rivalries

What is a sport without rivalries? In the NFL this past weekend, we saw the Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins in one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL. The biggest and newest rivalry game that could shut a city down for a day is the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens. Off of the top of my head, one of the longest standing NBA rivalries has to be the Boston Celtics vs the Los Angeles Lakers. East coast vs. West coast. But nothing compares to what you get in soccer.

Looking at the EPL on its own, you have Arsenal vs. Tottenham — two teams within 5 miles of air and opportunity separating them, Manchester United vs. their ‘noisy neighbors’ Manchester City. And we all saw the trouncing that took place a few weeks ago (when City won 6-1). Regardless of the 19 titles held by Manchester United, Manchester City got a much-needed moral victory that many thought they would lose.

There are so many others, the Second City Derby, the Merseyside Derby, and so on. There is actually a Wikipedia entry that lists them all! Find a pub in the US on a derby day and just be prepared. The tension is so thick you can cut right through it and that is something you will see that you can’t find in the NBA.

7. It’s easy to get into!

Believe it or not it really is! Too many sports now have a ton of rules that bog games down especially when championships are on the line as well as reputations of teams. Did he step on the line or did he hit the basket before the buzzer. Did he travel or did he foul the player? These are some of the things that can slow down American games. It’s even worse when it’s a bad call and mitigated when refs want to review the play. In soccer, games tend to get played out without a whole bunch of obscure rules stopping the game. Given a little bit of time, one can understand when yellow and red card are appropriate, the difference between when a corner kick or a throw in is used, and what an offside is.

It’s not a complicated or complex stat driven sport. You don’t have to know a ton of intricacies to enjoy for it to be fun to watch.

8. Cups and tournaments aplenty to be had all year long.

On this last point, I talked about this before and it needs repeating. During the course of a season, outside of the regular season matches, you have so many other competitions going on. In the EPL you have the Community Shield held at the beginning of the season. There is also the FA Cup, the oldest soccer competition played, the Carling Cup which determines the qualifier for the UEFA Europa League and the biggest match of them all, the UEFA Champions League final, a match that pulls more people in to watch than what you would find over the course of the NBA Finals. It’s a great way to have some kind of bragging right during the course of a season beyond the derbies. American sports can’t make that claim. It’s all about one trophy and really, how much fun is that?

These are some of the selling points that one could use to bring in a new fan. It won’t be easy because other than just telling someone about it, one also has to take the time to get them to come watch the game and let them experience it for themselves. A new fan has to be willing to step out of their comfort zone of being an American sports fan and get in touch with a sport that is global and growing. It’s easy to get into, doesn’t require as much of a commitment as does the NBA and has some of the best and oldest rivalries among sports. Soccer isn’t just a sport, it’s a culture. It’s passion and drama you can hardly find anywhere else and something that any new fan could quickly appreciate.

**I would like to dedicate this blog to my new friend Anton, who in turn introduced me to his friends and some really cool people to watch a match with Natasha, Amrith, Julissa and Desmond! Lastly I want to thank Eric and David for introducing me and stoking the fire that I have for this sport!

17 thoughts on “8 Reasons Why NBA Fans Should Try Watching EPL Soccer”

  1. Really well written but I must say as a lifelong Pittsburgher I can tell you that the city will never shut down for an NFL game. Other than the Oakland riots of super bowl 43 we don’t really come to a halt when the stillers play. However, I will say that I think the EPL requires far more commitment than the NBA or my former sport of choice the NHL. In American sports you can easily get away with not watching a single regular season game all year and still be in the know just from watching sportscenter once a week. In football the game can’t be followed enough if you want to be in the know because things happen so rapidly. Especially considering the fact that there is no postseason in football it is even more crucial to follow every aspect of every game every weekend which is a far more difficult task than trying to follow all 30 (insert NBA/NHL/MLB here) teams every night throughout the enitre course of their seasons. In fact the Gaffer’s last article about making the EPL schedule more spread out would be much more ideal if you’re trying to follow the league. However, you are SPOT ON when it comes to the comoraderie that is formed from the love of football. I have made so many friends in the states through my ancestral ties to Denton, Manchester, Macclesfield, and Swindon.

  2. Ok… I can concede part of that point…but what was on my mind is where soccer is mostly watched thru the weekend, the NBA is a “digest as much as you can during the course of a week and weekend too” kind of thing.

  3. Harry cee could not be more right! I have the zeal of the convert when it comes to football.

    The game flows and is not constantly stopped. Darren Rovell on Twitter this weekend had some fellow twitterites with stopwatches on NFL games and there was usually in the neighborhood of 6 minutes of actual playing time during the 3+ hours of a telecast. The NFL has become like DisneyWorld: lots of waiting around with a little action here and there, much of it not worth the wait.

    There aren’t endless TV timeouts in soccer. You know the NFL sequence: teams scores, kicks PAT. Commercials. Kickoff. Commercials. If it’s near a quarter change or the two-minute warning, you barely see any plays run. Goodell and the NFL don’t give a damn about the fans either in the stadium or at home. In stadium? Dreadful. Wait around while the pump commercials over the jumbotrons–ugh! That’s another gripe session. Sorry for the digression.

    EPL soccer packs a ton of action–90 minutes worth–into a couple of hours. The fans are awesome and make the best American crowds look tame by comparision. I strongly recommend “Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer” by Chuck Culpepper as he fights off the malaise of having covered American sports. I think it was Culpepper who referred to thinking of the EPL in England as akin to dropping the entire NFL into the State of Wisconsin, except the EPL has players and attention from all over the world, not to mention history and the linguistic stylings of Martin Tyler, Ian Darke and a host of other commentators who make our own sound like inelegant cheerleaders.

    The other leagues in Europe–Spain, Germany and Italy–have wonderful teams an players, too, but the consistency of the entertainment in the EPL, especially for newcomers to the game, is unmatched.

    European Cup this summer, too! Gotta love that as well.

    1. People constantly trot out the “amount of playing time” argument when it comes to American football, and the fact of the matter is that saying there’s not a lot of action in football is as wrongheaded as saying there’s no scoring in soccer. Yes, the actual plays in American football are short, but the real game is figuring out what happened in each play, what went right and what went wrong, adjusting to the evidence and trying to outwit or just outplay the other team. It’s like chess, except the pieces are running into each other.

  4. The people that love the NBA are watching college basketball now not soccer. Are you also talking about the same NBA that I know, ya know the one that doesn’t let you play defense because they want 100-90 score lines. The diehards are going to keep watching basketball in any form which for us in the US is college which myself prefer over the NBA (go UConn!). But hell I could be wrong (http://aol.sportingnews.com/soccer/story/2011-11-07/mls-passes-nba-as-third-best-attended-american-sport).

  5. I am a die hard NBA and Knicks fan, and I am not watching College BBall. I am definitely using Man City as my Knicks replacement and i think the ebb and flow of soccer is very similar to basketball. Just like a goal can drastically change the game, and possibly win it, in the NBA, a team can go on a sudden tear and build up a lighting quick double digit point lead, and never look back. The individualism and style of the players is also a similarity between the two. Dwyane Wade has a different dribbling style than LeBron James, different go to moves, etc. just like Messi and Ronaldo have very different and unique styles of attacking. Chris Paul is Xavi, content to set up his teammates all game, Kobe is clinical like Van Persie, Blake Griffin explosive and precocious like Balotelli. Rooney is like Derek Rose, Mertesacker is like Hasheem Thabeet (ha)…

    The style, artistry, teamwork and individualism is why i love the NBA and also football. You don’t get that in other sports.

  6. The most important difference, in my mind, is the lack of commercials. It is a joy to be able to watch a sporting event and only see a few adverts–as opposed to the ridiculous amount of advertisements I am subjected to in every other American sport.

    The second advantage is that I can consume different media. The Football Ramble and the Premier League Review show are two of the highlights of my week. Compare that to the crappy espn basketball podcast and I think you’ll see my point. (to be fair to espn, I do enjoy “Men In Blazers”.)

    But I can go on and on. I watched 20 minutes of the Eagles/ Giants game this weekend and spent the entire time rolling my eyes about the crap product that I was forced to watch (my friend is a diehard). Even the MLS Cup final looked attractive in comparison!

    1. It’s not just on American sports – every single thing on American TV is subject to a ridiculous amount of adverts! In the UK we don’t have half as many ads as what you guys get. Don’t know how you sit down to watch anything when it must be almost impossible to really get into it when it goes off all the time!

      I used to watch NBA when I was a kid but I had to record it because it was on live in the early hours. You can’t ever compare the PL to any American sport. American’s don’t have a clue how to play a proper game of anything. We go out on the pitch for 45 solid minutes (plus stoppage time) either way and have a 15 minute break in between the full 90+ minutes. None of this time out rubbish or stop start rubbish. Even in NFL I don’t get why you don’t man up and lose the helmets and padding… thankfully we have rugby!

  7. I love the camaraderie aspect–just this weekend I stopped at Chipotle after watching Liverpool-Chelsea and I saw another guy with an LFC jersey, we nodded to each other and I said “great game.” None of my Dallas Cowboys, etc. loving friends would even consider saying something like that to a stranger.

    And I also met a great friend and LFC fan while in college because we were both wearing Liverpool jerseys. It’s awesome to meet other fans and be able to talk not just Liverpool but footy in general.

    Some of my other friends might get annoyed at my talking, tweeting, basically LIVING Liverpool. But I don’t care. Wouldn’t change it for anything.

  8. I would argue that a much easier transition for NBA fans would be to the NHL. Hockey is like a faster version of soccer, and many NBA arenas are also home to NHL teams, making it easy to follow your local team rather than picking from thousands of miles away.

  9. I’m sorry but I can’t take you seriously if you call it “soccer”. FOOTBALL.

    FOOT (played with the feet) BALL (played with a ball).

    American football/ =/= FOOTBALL. More like HANDEGG.

    HAND (played with the hands mostly) EGG (played with a “ball” shaped like an egg).

  10. Uh huh yeah so many LFC fans around the world eyy…Anyone around Dallas YNWA
    The major problem with EPL in the US is actually sucked up broadcasting but livestreaming through fast internet speed overshadows them all and by the a proper store where I can look up for jerseys and franchises

  11. I absolutely agree with EPL more exciting and no fake. There are at least 1 broken leg per season from charging each other. The championship title not conquer for long although Man United get most at this decade but I believe the coming future the title will change. :)

  12. Love me some footy but I have to disagree on the brutality angle. Maybe I am just jaded after seeing Kevin Everett get paralyzed about 30 feet in from of my seat but I am just not seeing it man. Free safeties for instance I mean heck they are taught from day one as to how to use their body as a weapon. If they are going in for a tackle they often times do not care less about the ball, the goal is to hit the player hard enough to dislodge the ball. Did I mention that is not a penalty either?

    I am coming off as a hater here and I apologize because I am a true convert to the beautiful game. The way the NFL rules are structured though makes the game inherently more brutal and violent.

    Just YouTube some old Ronnie Lott footage, that man was pretty dam good at laying the lumber.

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