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|The EPL Decision: Box Set|
From the fans to the Sports Guy, here's all you need to know to pick your own EPL team:|
• Picking an EPL team, Part I
• Arsenal fan e-mails
• Chelsea fan e-mails
• Liverpool fan e-mails
• Man City fan e-mails
• Newcastle fan e-mails
• Tottenham fan e-mails
• Signature Players: Skipper John Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard. You might remember Terry as the only English player who showed up for the 2006 World Cup. Don't get Davies started on this.
|Buying titles or not, Chelsea fans don't seem too upset about it.|
|Imagine if LeBron went pro in the 10th grade. That pretty much sums up the Theo Walcott signing.|
• Bonus Reason to Pick Them: Manager Arsene Wenger seems to be revered, with reader comments including "a more clutch version of Billy Beane -- they spend a small fraction compared to their chief opponents and achieved comparable results" "he's the Bill Walsh of soccer, an offensive-minded attacking genius who hates playing 0-0 matches as much as everyone else hates watching them" "always pretends he didn't see his players start fights with the other team, tacitly allowing their antics to continue" and "quite simply, he's the best soccer coach in the world, the equivalent of Phil Jackson crossed with Billy Beane." (Another reason to pick them: As a reader explains, "Like the Green Bay Packers and unlike anyone in the EPL, no one owner owns the team, but rather, fans own shares of the squad." That sounds cool. Not as cool as having a Russian mob boss own your team, but pretty cool.)
(Bonus reason not to pick them: Without Hornby's book, we never would have seen Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore celebrating on the field in St. Louis with the 2004 Red Sox, and I never would have spent $10 to see "Fever Pitch.") • Single Best Reason NOT to Pick Them: I mean, seriously did you see that celebrity list? Besides, Hornby already claimed these guys a long time ago. I need a team that doesn't have a writer attached to it. Sorry, Arsenal. 4. MANCHESTER CITY
|Claudio Reyna and company look good in that baby blue, right?|
|If you long to wear old-school prison garb, then Newcastle is the team for you.|
• Single Best Reason NOT to Pick Them: The tortured history. For instance, they famously blew a 12-point lead down the stretch in '96 that sounds suspiciously like the 14-game lead that the Red Sox blew in '78. I'd rather not go down that road again. But I'm going to make a more concerted effort to drink their beer. 2. LIVERPOOL
|How can you not love a guy called the Big Papi of soccer?|
(Note: Continuing with the Red Sox parallel, they staged the most famous comeback in recent soccer history last year, rallying back from a 3-0 deficit in the second half to win the Champions League. It's hard to say whether this was more or less incredible than the Red Sox rallying back from three games to zero against the Yankees. And if you thought this was a thinly-veiled excuse to mention the 2004 ALCS again, well, you know me too well.) • Bandwagon Potential: Sadly, a little too high -- especially because of the Big Four thing and Gerrard (who seems like the most likable star in the league, hands down). • Celebrity Fans: Sporty Spice, Chris DeBurgh, Darren Clarke and Dr. Dre. I think I'd sacrifice a kidney to be in the same room as those four people discussed Liverpool soccer for an hour. • Colors/Jerseys: Blood-red, absolutely fantastic. I would wear this jersey pretty much all the time. • Signature Player: Praise for Gerrard from the readers included "the definition of a true leader, last year's MVP, and England's most complete midfielder of his generation" "the backbone of the current Liverpool team (think: Tony C. times 10)" "when it comes to clutch, Big Papi is the Steven Gerrard of baseball" "ROUTINELY goes out to bars after games because he's an average scouser (he was much criticized for this earlier in his career)" "the Ortiz of English soccer, an inspirational player who has a knack for coming up with a big goal whenever they need it most (he is also likely to be appointed England's new captain now that Beckham has stepped down)" "a local boy who turned down the chance for millions more from Chelsea and Real Madrid to play for his childhood heroes." (And if that's not enough, check out his top 10 goals on YouTube, including his famous extra-time goal in the Champions League last year. Imagine if Tom Brady grew up in South Boston before becoming the Pats' QB, then turned down an extra $20 million from the Jets to remain with them. That's what Gerrard means to Liverpool.) • Unintentional Comedy: Not only do they have a goofy-looking, 6-foot-7 striker named Peter Crouch who's nicknamed "Bambi on Ice" and does the "Robot" after goals, but longtime striker Robbie Fowler was (A) nicknamed "God," and (B) once celebrated after a goal by pretending to sniff the end line. • Sponsor: Carlsberg Beer. I consider this a major negative. Carlsberg sucks. • Stadium: Anfield was originally built in 1884 and also received some Fenway Park comparisons from readers, mostly because of the Kop (a banked stand on one side) that's a little Green Monster-esque. Although I wonder if the fans of various teams were buttering me up by describing their stadiums as "a lot like Fenway Park." If so, you succeeded. • Vacation Destination: Only if you've been kidnapped. • Most Hated Rival: Manchester United. • Random Depressing Fact: According to a reader, "Back in 1989, 96 Liverpool supporters died in the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, an event immortalized by the twin flames on the official club shield. Liverpool fans vowed never to forget their fallen comrades, and to this day carry on their memories in banners, scarves, songs and poems. It was an event that actually brought an end to Liverpool's reign of success." (Bonus reason to pick them: They have the best song: "You'll Never Walk Alone," which sounds eerie when they're belting it out before games and absolutely electric after big victories. It's so good, Pink Floyd even found a way to work it into a song ("Fearless"). I've said it before, I'll say it again: We need to figure out a way to come up with team songs for American sports. How much better would Knicks games be if the fans sang Tom Petty's "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" after every game?)
(Another bonus reason to pick them: The Beatles.) Single Best Reason NOT To Pick Them: Too much history, too personal, too easy, too obvious. Someone from America can't casually become a Liverpool fan, just like someone from England couldn't have casually become a Red Sox fan before 2004. I just wouldn't have felt right about it.
1. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
|Think Keane is a little crazy? Wait until he scores a goal.|
• Most Hated Rival: Arsenal. And "hated" isn't a strong enough word. As a couple of the readers explained, "[This] dates back to 1919 when Arsenal was promoted to the top division ahead of Spurs under the shadiest of circumstances. So they have an 87-year rivalry made worse by the fact that their stadiums are only a few miles apart. The equivalent of having Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium at opposite ends of Charlestown. Surpasses Yankees/Sox, Leafs/Habs, etc. There has been blood spilled between fans, not to mention the hatred started because of a corrupt Arsenal president. Add to that the fact that last season Spurs finished underneath Arsenal by two points because of a case of violent stomach flu, conspiracy theorists claiming that Arsenal fans poisoned the team's food at a hotel party prior to the final game of the season. Not even Aaron Spelling could come up with that plot line. It would have been the first time in years that they had finished above their North London rivals. What's not to love?" (By the way, the food poisoning story DID happen -- it was the biggest EPL subplot of last year. Can you imagine if the Mavs had lost Game 7 in San Antonio because most of the team came down with food poisoning from their hotel food the night before the game? Cuban would still be blogging about it two months later. I'm telling you, crazy, crazy, CRAZY stuff happens in the EPL.) (Bonus reason to pick them: They finished fifth last season and are considered the proverbial "Team on the Rise," but they haven't actually done anything yet and perhaps never will. Now that's tempting.) • Single Best Reason NOT to Pick Them: One reader writers, "If you want a team that will absolutely crush your spirit, you must support Tottenham Hotspur for the '06-'07 EPL season." You know what? Screw it. Since I started writing for ESPN.com in 2001, the Pats won three Super Bowls, the Celts made the conference finals, the Sox won the World Series, and I even bought season tickets for the Clippers and watched them win a playoff series for the first time in 30 years. Maybe I can help the Spurs in the Karma Department. Besides, they're named after a Shakespeare character! How can you beat that? With apologies to the great fans in Liverpool, I'm going with Tottenham Hotspur. Let's hope they can keep that "new car smell" to them for the entire EPL season. Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.