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Please Stop Killing the Giants, They Got Rid of Barry Bonds Ages Ago

April 11, 2010

I don’t get soccer.

And by that I mean I don’t get the way leagues are structured in other countries. In the US, we have the MLS. It functions in the same way any other major league sport does over here in the US: Two conferences with X number of teams. Teams in each conference play games, determine who makes the playoffs, then teams in each conference face off in the playoffs to see who wins the conference. Then, the winner of each conference plays in the championship and that determines who wins the season.

I get the rules of the sport. I played soccer as a kid and have watched enough World Cup and non-World Cup matches to know how the game is played, but I just don’t get the way the sport functions elsewhere in the world and Giant Killing made my understanding drop even lower.

I know that each country has its own league and that the teams play in those leagues, but I don’t get the way teams across Europe also play against each other in some other league championship series. How do they determine what teams play in that championship? Is it so many teams from each country or what? What countries get to participate? That was confusing enough for someone like me who has limited access to soccer matches on TV (They show a handful on ESPN2 at inconvenient times during the week.), but Giant Killing has brought up the fact that teams that are essentially “minor league” teams can rise up and compete with “major league” teams in certain tournaments.

My understanding of how soccer functions elsewhere in the world has been shattered even more so.

In the US, baseball and basketball have varying degrees of “minor league” teams. Basketball, the sport I’m most familiar with, has the NBA Development League. It’s a separate league of teams that compete amongst each other and have their own playoffs and championship. These teams are “affiliated” with teams from the NBA proper. NBA teams can send players to their affiliated teams in order to beef up their skills before participating in the NBA. My hometown team, the San Antonio Spurs, have a development affiliate in Austin, The Toros. If they have a rookie on their roster that they feel isn’t quite ready for the NBA, then send him over to the Toros to get experience. They did that with Ian Mahinmi for a few years before “calling” him up to be with the Spurs this season. That’s the system I’m used to, since baseball functions in a similar way. The NFL doesn’t have such a system, but their teams have large enough rosters that they don’t need to have a separate league in order for people to essentially practice. Not sure how hockey works, since Texas isn’t exactly hockey country despite Dallas having a team. I know there’s a separate pro league, and San Antonio has a team in that league, but I’ve never heard of said league functioning as a “minor league” like I’ve seen in the MLB and the NBA.

But with soccer, it doesn’t seem to function that way based on what I’ve seen in Giant Killing. They talk about a small town team playing against a major league team in a tournament and nearly beating them. That sounds like the Austin Toros playing against the San Antonio Spurs in a non-exhibition match. That’s something that doesn’t happen in the MLB or the NBA. And once we segue over to Japan, they talk about East Tokyo United being demoted to a lower league for a short amount of time. Again, teams in the big leagues in the US never get demoted. They might get disbanded or move to other cities, but it isn’t like the Chicago Bulls got demoted to D-League during the years after Michael Jordan where they totally sucked and almost always had losing records. So, again, I’m not “getting” soccer.

And yes, I’m very aware of the fact that I could easily look up the answers to my questions. I’m just thinking out loud and showing how even someone from the US who is considerably more versed in sports than the average anime fan is almost as much in the dark as said “sports-illiterate” fans due to a lack of exposure to the sport.

Also, the whole football vs. soccer argument is silly. The US calls it soccer because we already had a sport by the name of football long before soccer became widespread over here. People who speak the same language use different words for the same object in countless other situations. I’m not going to get all pissy at someone for calling a crawdad a crayfish, so anyone that tries to tell you “CALL IT FOOTBALL YOU FASCIST AMERICAN PIGDOG!” or “THE NAME IS SOCCER YOU SOCIALIST EUROTRASH SOW!” should be punched in the face. Hard.

By the way, I actually liked Giant Killing. Figured I may as well say something about the actual series somewhere in this post.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2010 2:30 PM

    Think of football in England as being like Darwin’s theory of evolution in action. Clubs can rise up the leagues based on the quality of their team, because in every league, there is promotion and relegation (or ‘demotion’). England’s top league is the ‘Premier League’.

    Every year we have the FA Cup, into which any club in England can enter; whether they are based in city like Manchester United, or in a village like Histon. That’s what the phrase “Giant Killing” is all about, because in the FA Cup, teams are drawn against each other at random and play in one-off matches, regardless of their relative statures and sizes.

    Also, at the end of each season, the top 4 placed teams in the Premier League are entered into the European Champions League, a competition that pits all the best teams in Europe against each other. Every country in Europe gets at least one club entered in to the competition.

    I hope that all made sense. I’m huge into football, so I’m enjoying reading these posts from people curios about the sport. Fire away if you have any more questions! :)

  2. April 11, 2010 2:34 PM

    The FA cup is a knockout tournament where the lower league teams play each other first and the winners play later against some of the higher league teams. Generally really shitty team somehow gets really far and ends up playing one of the top teams in the country, which is why the FA cup holds some sort of hold over the English. Giant Killing is when this shitty little team from a league 6 tiers below the team they’re playing beat them.

    So yeah, it’s a totally seperate competition. Thought I might as well do my bit and explain it

  3. April 11, 2010 6:44 PM

    >I’m not going to get all pissy at someone for calling a crawdad a crayfish, so anyone that tries to tell you “CALL IT FOOTBALL YOU FASCIST AMERICAN PIGDOG!” or “THE NAME IS SOCCER YOU SOCIALIST EUROTRASH SOW!” should be punched in the face.

    Something seems off about this…

  4. April 11, 2010 7:59 PM

    Spurs fan? I’d talk some trash, but my Lakers aren’t looking so hot heading into the playoffs. Damn it.

  5. Landon permalink*
    April 12, 2010 7:51 PM

    Awesome. Yeah, that all makes sense. Crazy and alien compared to how I’m used to seeing a sport play out, but it makes sense.

    If it was just Phil Jackson or just Kobe Bryant at the Lakers, I might be able to tolerate them. I’d still hate them with a burning passion for 2000-2002, but I’d tolerate them. But since they have BOTH of them, that burning passion becomes something unspeakable and quite terrible.

    Once Shaq left the team he became far more likable.

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