Year in review: Silly soccer moments that somehow happened – The Daily Breeze
Word this week that the World Taekwondo Federation was changing its name to simply World Taekwondo to disassociate itself from its unfortunate, but trendy acronym prevalent on social media pretty much summed up 2015.
It was one of those years when events just made you go “Say What!?” … or words to that effect.
Premier League parity?
Now, admit it.
If, at the start of the season, someone had suggested to you that the unfashionable likes of Leicester City, Crystal Palace, West Ham United, Watford and Stoke City would all be in the Barclay’s Premier League top 10 after Christmas and ahead of clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea in the table (are they really flirting with relegation just months after winning the championship?) you would have replied: “Say what?!”
But it’s true.
Is all that hundreds of millions of dollars in television money translating into parity like we haven’t seen in years?
No wonder more Americans are finding the EPL one of the best reasons to wake up early on the weekend. Viewership on U.S. cable is at an all-time high with an average of about 483,000 watching every game.
Every week seems to bring new surprises. Last weekend we discovered Chelsea proved incapable of doing something at Old Trafford that lowly Norwich City managed — beating Manchester United at home.
While the profile of the EPL has never been higher in the U.S., MLS is still struggling to gain traction even while spending millions attracting big names at the tail end of their careers (35-year-old Ashley Cole, anyone?).
And even as MLS officials talk about growing to 28 teams (Say what?), general sports fans can easily ignore domestic soccer on any given weekend.
Ratings for MLS Cup 2015 were down around a third from the previous year when Landon Donovan’s last game and the large TV markets involved gave the game more visibility than either Portland or Columbus could generate even with a prime Sunday afternoon kickoff time.
One suggestion to boost awareness of the league’s biggest game of the year: Hold it in prime time away from the slew of NFL games on the Friday after Thanksgiving to provide a permanent time and day for the championship game that is now all too easily missed as it floats around the schedule almost as an afterthought.
Think of that huge potential captive audience still stuck at granny’s house the day after Thanksgiving. You know who you are.
Women’s soccer (in)equality
Even in the U.S., which lavishes more money and attention on the game than virtually any other nation on the planet, women’s soccer is still struggling for respect, let alone equality.
After all that controversy given to playing the Women’s World Cup on fake grass last summer in Canada, what does U.S. Soccer go and do? Schedule some games of its Harlem Globetrotters-like Victory Tour on artificial surfaces.
And bad surfaces at that. So bad the U.S. was forced to postpone its final game in Hawaii — sorry about that, you 16,000 or so ticket holders — because it was unsafe.
“For this kind of screw-up to happen just makes it feel like that much more of a step back,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati admitted.
Yes, it does.
Although it came only after star midfielder Megan Rapinoe injured her ACL on the crummy turf a couple of days before the game. And now she could miss the 2016 Olympics.
Finally, who does a guy who admits he doesn’t know much about soccer pick as his first hire to head up MLS expansion club LAFC’s soccer operations?
How about a 36-year-old guy who has never run any sort of sports franchise?
That’s what Tom Penn did when he hired retired midfielder John Thorrington, who grew up on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Some might believe that’s thinking outside the box.
Another MLS club exec, who not surprisingly asked for anonymity, when asked by the LA Times what he thought of the idea skipped the “say what?” and said tersely: “It sounds stupid.”
Yes, it does.
For more local soccer news, read the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer.