My grandfather loved soccer. His father was an official referee in the Soviet Union (there were remarkably few of them in the 1930’s. Maybe most of them were in the Gulag for bad calls?).
But in America, there are lots of sports. And he liked many of them.
He taught me about the game, though. I remember being ten or so and kicking penalty shots against him in the goal. He was wearing pleated pants and a button up collared shirt.
It wasn’t until years after he passed, however, that they started showing Premier League games on TV in the States. I loved watching the games but didn’t really have a dog in the fight until my grandmother told me that Papa had been an Arsenal fan for years. I never knew that. It was my tipping point. I was now addicted.
One of my big problems with American sports—although I remain a big NY Giants & NJ Devils fan—is that we set up the system all wrong.
When a hockey team is having a bad year (i.e. the Buffalos Sabres of 2014-15), they toss the rest of the season out and lose on purpose. Why? Because if you finish last you get rewarded with the top draft pick.
You suck worse than any other team and you get rewarded.
And that makes the game terrible for fans.
What happens when you finish last in the Premier League (or European soccer leagues in general)?
They send your whole stinky team to the minors. Now that’s motivation.
Even if there is no statistical chance that you can stick around in the top league—players often get bonuses for goals, clean sheets (shutouts), and wins, so there is always motivation to cash in.
Which makes for great sport.
No one gives up. No one throws in the towel. No one is playing for nothing.
I try to think about that when I start to dig in and resist change or conflict or work that scares me or whatever.
Because if I don’t get better, if I don’t keep on making positive changes, I don’t get a draft pick.
I get relegated.
The mere thought of that hurts.