ASK CFN Part 2 - Soccer? Really?! (2/11)
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney
Posted Feb 12, 2010

Is the English Premier League really comparable to college football? Is that a sport that college football fans can use to get through the bleak offseason without football? Pete Fiutak interviews's Robert Burns for answers in Part 2 of this week's ASK CFN.

ASK CFN, Part 2

Feb. 11

Fire over your questions, comments, and baskets of mini-muffins to

- ASK CFNs 1/22 - Bowl Matchups | 1/29 - Being Boise State 
2/11 Part One - Greatest QB Ever

Q: Everyone knows college football is the best sport around, but with signing day wrapping up, and thus the long offseason looming, I was wondering what other sporting events you will be watching this offseason. Particularly the Winter Olympics and the World Cup. Do you care? Will you be watching? - DK

A: WARNING … pretentious blowhard answer to come, but for a reason.

I watch everything because there's nothing else to do.

I used to really, really love college basketball, but it's irrelevant until late February. There was a promotion the other day for No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 6 West Virginia … so? It doesn't matter a lick who wins that game, or even the Big East tournament, because they're both in the NCAA Tournament anyway. And now The Man wants to expand the field?! As if the regular season could be more worthless.

I'll get excited about the idea of baseball, but I won't actually watch a whole game without doing 41 other things at the same time. Watching cars go in a circle doesn't do anything for me, the NBA is unwatchable until May, and the Olympics are just plain silly. A bunch of chemically-enhanced freaks play a bunch of made up sports invented on a dare and that's supposed to make us all feel a sense of national pride … rah, rah. (BTW, of course you know this whole Lindsey Vonn shin thing is trumped up just to make her more heroic.)

So why did I go with question with the potential for a self-serving answer like that? There's a reason …

Q: I hate soccer. So why do I like the English Premier League and why do I get some of the same sense that the atmosphere, at least from the TV, is a lot like college football? Am I nuts here? - RE

Q: I have an answer to your problems with football season ending … English Premier League. It comes on Saturday mornings when nothing else is going on, it has a ton of passion, and I know you hate soccer, but it's actually good because it's played at a high level. At least give it a shot. - RP

A: I've been married to my wife for just over ten years and I've never lied to her about anything (or at least nothing major). But the other day I was running on the treadmill and watching Aston Villa vs. Man U. when the wife walked in. I scrambled for the remote and changed the channel in a rush, as if she caught me watching a skinner. When she asked, "Are you watching soccer?!," I actually said I wasn't and that a Super Bowl show was on and I forgot to change the channel.

Over the last few months I've received several e-mails and have been told by several people that I trust as good, right-thinking sports fans that the English Premier League soccer has a lot of the same elements passion and excitement-wise as college football. While I continue to loathe the sport and I can't sit through a match from start to finish, I find myself drawn to the English Premier League more and more, and because of it I feel like Tiger Woods in need of a fancy clinic and counseling. So I asked the expert on the matter, Robert Burns.

1) Q: Every sport has passionate fans, but why does there seem like there's some similarity between the English Premier League and the craziness surrounding college football?

A: (From Robert Burns) In England, football (soccer) is king – there is no other distraction. When you support a college team, that interest is probably divided between football, basketball, maybe baseball and any other prominent sport that a university excels in. For over 100 years, football is in the fabric of society from a very early age – played in the streets, at youth and club levels, and eventually to the professional ranks at various levels. And unlike a pro sports team in the U.S. that is always capable of packing up and leaving town, Premier League clubs are tied in with their cities – you can't just pack up and no longer be in Birmingham. In that sense, they're very closely related with the university system here in the U.S.

2) For college football fans who get into the sport for the enthusiasm and for the lack of a plastic, NFL feel, what should they be looking for and rooting for when watching the League?

A: For pure drama, nothing beats the Premier League. While a 6-6 team in college football now makes a bowl game, Premier League teams are battling not only for a top position in the league (which could lead to the riches of getting to play European club football the next season), clubs at the bottom risk relegation if they finish in the bottom three. Imagine if USC had a terrible season and finished last in the Pac-10 and was demoted down to Div. II – this is what club fans do in England every season, so there are battles not only at the top, but also huge relegation battles at the bottom of the table that drive fans absolutely wild. In American sports, the bad teams are rewarded for being lousy – look at the New Jersey Nets – almost guaranteed the best player in the country next season. But in the Premier League being bad means you no longer belong in that division, and with that, you take the knock of no longer being in the national limelight, loss of TV revenue, and (often the case) mass player exodus.

There's also the great rivalry games, especially the inter-city/regional rivalries (think USC-UCLA or Michigan-Ohio St.). The matches between clubs like Liverpool and Everton (both in Liverpool) or Arsenal-Tottenham (same section of North London) are highly intense and steeped in tradition.

3) College football is big on tradition ... what are some of the cooler traditions of the EPL?

A: There is nothing like the sound of a Premier League crowd in full voice … in terms of tradition, each club and its supporters are well versed in songs that an entire stadium sings in unison. The most famous of these? ‘You'll never walk alone' – the famous anthem sung at every Liverpool home match at their famous stadium Anfield (here's a taste … There is also a terrific tradition in England known as the FA Cup – this is a competition in which clubs from the lower leagues get the opportunity in a knockout stage competition to face the big boys on an even playing field – think Durham Bulls getting a chance to play the New York Yankees before their home crowd in a fully competitive match. The magic of the FA Cup is when the little guys actually do win (like Leeds just sending Man United out of the competition). It's a massive honor for the little clubs and a huge point of pride for a city to win the FA Cup.

4) Q: Is Manchester United basically the New York Yankees? What are the other similarities between the top teams and American sports teams (ex: who's the Minnesota Vikings ... always good but never wins the big one)?

A: Manchester United and Arsenal are the two most successful Premier League clubs in modern times, but the record holder for most English titles is actually Liverpool. You could sort of compare this to the San Francisco 49ers who have won five Super Bowls but not since 1994-95. Liverpool has won the title 18 times but not since 1990. There are also teams that are consistently in the ‘top flight' (highest division) but can never get over that title hump (Tottenham Hotspur and Everton come to mind). There's also the case of the ‘nouveau riche' like Chelsea and Manchester City – wealthy owners bought the clubs, paid huge wages to bring in the best, and were rewarded with big success (Man City's new owners just came in this year so the impact remains to be seen, but Chelsea won two straight Premier League titles in 2005-06. This could be compared to Mark Cuban's impact with the Dallas Mavericks or Wayne Huizenga who paid for two World Series champions with the Florida Marlins.

And thus concludes the soccer part of the CFN day. Please, go on and lead a more fruitful existence.

2/11 Part One - Greatest QB Ever