Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dr. Changeteam (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Find a New EPL Team)

The torture for me is over... finally

EPL Table - Dec 5, 2012

With little mystery left as to the fate of Wigan Athletic's EPL status (despite not having even passed the mid-season/ December break yet), I can therefore begin the process of determining what may be next for me as a fan of English Premier League Football. 

It is with some regret (but more relief) that I must remove myself from the scattered hundreds of fans worldwide who support Wigan Athletic, for there is certainly no logical way this team will survive the top shelf of English Football beyond this season.

Since I have decided that personal sanity and mental well-being is more important than any loyalty to my very first EPL team, I am finding this bit of freedom in looking for a new team quite welcome. This is not an indictment of loyalty (more the opposite actually - maintaining loyalty to self-preservation), nor is it band-wagon-off-jumping as I see it more as self-preservation than fleeing a disaster. Think of it as losing that first love. Years from now, there will be clarity and a realization that it just wasn't meant to be, but you will always look back with fondness and wistful sentiment at those early days.

Unfortunately, and what does cause some considerable conflict at this point, is that much of what Wigan Athletic does as a professional sports organization, I have great respect for. By most all reports, owner Dave Whelan is generous, loyal, professional, and runs his local club in a proper manner. It is therefore sad to see such an honest, hard-working (albeit relatively small) club have to be relegated to a lower division because they cannot compete with the over-spending, hardware-seeking zealot owners from around the world who choose to 'smash-and-grab' their way into the top flight by spending beyond their means, often leaving their 'toy' with little choice but to be sold off to the next-in-line suck-errr... buyer.

I want the little club to triumph by being a well-run, financially-conservative club with an eye to longevity whose top-flight status is not a perennial question. Maybe that's too much to ask. Maybe FIFA's much-needed and more-equitable Financial Fair Play rules phasing in over the 2012, '13, and '14 seasons will come after the demise of Wigan's top-flight status. At any rate, it's become too much for me to shoulder anymore as a fan and I for my own good I need to change teams.  Top level stability is nothing but a predetermined security blanket in the American sports world to the delight of mega-buck owners with little impetus to defend their status and detriment to lovers of a more pure style of competition.

So in looking for a new team, and being faithful to my original tenets of club selection back in 2006 (in order of priority; EPL-level club, non-'Top-4' club, nice looking kits, English-owned, newer to the EPL), I am now a crossroads from which my future EPL fandom will set out. 

Option 1. Choose one of the three newly-promoted sides each season to cheer on with survival being the benchmark for success.
Option 2. Pick another club whose chances of survival are significantly greater and meets as many of my original tenets as possible.
Option 3. Get over my own limits, grab a big club, and bandwagon it like everybody else.

Here's where you, my beloved readers, come in: 

I am open to your input, so you therefore will help determine what my decision will be. 

Give me your selection of the three Options above in my comments section below. The most-popular suggestion will showdown with my personal favorite option to determine the system for selecting my next EPL club.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Childhood - TV Memories

Hopefully all of us had that sweet-spot time in our lives when we retained the joy of the insular and innocent phase of early childhood, yet were old enough to begin to view and appreciate the larger, mature world around us with an inquisitive sense of wonder. I place this time in my life at approximately ages 7 to 12, which dates approximately 1974-1979. 

For most at the time, the singular most accessible vehicle for entertainment (beyond ourselves) was television. VCRs were only an amazing bit of expensive technology on the horizon for the general public and cable TV was just a fantasy for those of us who lived outside the largest 30 American television markets. I look back at this being a fairly fortunate time to be watching TV, because it seems the looming 'threat' of cable programming to over-the-air TV made for some interesting gambles by the big three networks.

One particular show comes to mind and evidence of its popularity and influence on TV shows remains to this day. I refer to the pseudo-talent contest know as The Gong Show. Short of listing a synopsis and history of the show, which can be found numerous other places on the internet, I merely note the sheer fun and frivolity that occurred on the show as a standard but in particular a recurring bit known as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.
Often thrown into the show at 'spontaneous' moments, the crowd would go wild and other cast members joyfully played along with the popular and special bit that had almost nothing to do with the contest format of the show. Gene was a stagehand whose wonderfully simple dancing, positive demeanor, and 'everyman' appearance eventually became popular enough to become a requested and regular feature on the show. 

The pure fun that this segment brought (at a time when economic and post-Vietnam War woes had the USA in a bit of a funk) was a welcome respite and elevated Gene to celebrity status.  I wish to thank Chuck Barris and Gene for brightening those darker days of the late-70s. Only recently did I find that, sadly, Gene lost both legs in 2001 to complications from diabetes. I am all the more thankful that we can relive that fun space in time via YouTube.

Without further ado, I present Gene Gene the Dancing Machine...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Addled w LLS - Lovable Losers Syndrome

My forward inertia, weakened by time and poor short-term memory, relents and backward I go, as if some addiction-addled junkie. Someone should really put me out of my misery or at least attempt an intervention.

"Hi, my name's DZ, and...  I'm a Wigan Athletic fan." **sobs openly**

Only while writing this do I realize the expected catharsis of openly stating my problem is instead serving to highlight and magnify it. My problem is... I'm a fan of demi-losers

I've somewhat proudly decided to not become one of the scads and kaboodles of dullard bandwagoneers who grab the brightest sports team to follow with blind attraction. Nope. Not me. I take time to consider many variables and settle on what seems right for me. Apparently, I'm a borderline loser, annual fodder for the lower tiers.

In a few short weeks I'm sure I'll be kicking myself for not having bailed on my first Barclays Premier League team selection (the details of which are too pithy to describe here) - Wigan Athletic. Certainly they will have already disappointed me by losing at least two of the first three matches of the season. All of which they should be winning. Those first three are all of the recently promoted clubs from the lower nPower Championship division of the English Football Association. 

You see, in the last 90 days of the previous season, my Wigan languished in the bottom three positions of the Barclays Premier League standings. Those lowest rungs, at the end of the season, are removed from the loftiest of the English Football Association ladder and sent down to what is the equivalent of the AAA in American baseball.  The whole of the club and ownership takes a knock, and generally includes an associated self-loathing by players, fans, towns they represent, everything. 'Relegation' it's called and is a wonderfully maddening and enticing system where the bottom three of 20 clubs go down (including less income, less TV money, less ability to spend on payroll, etc.) and the top three from the next lower division come up (promotion) to test their mettle. 

So as I stated, Wigan had been trod upon enough to be sitting near the foot of the table (standings) for most of the 2nd half of the season. Only by their near-miracle turnaround during May, did they scrape enough wins and draws to rise above and resuscitate their top-flight status.  Before that, in February, realizing the unlikelihood of their task ahead, I had vowed to dump them after the season as they were certainly going down. Good riddance to bad rubbish, and they OF COURSE, on the last week of the season, scratch their way out of the hole and here I am, fresh with optimism, at the dawn of a new season, again drawn back to being their fan.

For the record I would totally support relegation/promotion in our American sports system. No more guaranteed anything, just win baybee. My Kansas City Royals would have been relegated 15 years ago, the Colts of Indy during my college days would have been geldings, and basketball 76ers of Philly would be right about where they are now. Nowhereville. Even blithe Cubs fans, amiably content with mediocrity, really have no idea how ugly it could be.

But forgiveness reigns and the love for my near-losers will soon return and Wigan will be right back in my thoughts again. I'll likely peruse the various online shops for some new Wigan gear. Possibly begin developing a canned speech to recant my previous hardline stance of February. Look for all the positives and optimism that a new season brings and say a little prayer for better times to come.

So here's wishing and hoping for a better season and perhaps the grim reaper of English Football doesn't appear quite so closely next spring. I don't think I can handle another season of near-loserdom.  

Eh, now that I think about it, I said that last year also. 
And the year before that too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dear Universe, You Suck.

Why hast God forsaken us? 

Photo by Richard Carson, Reuters

I really want to believe there's a terrific payoff somewhere down the road for the players, coach, and fans of Butler University Men's Basketball team because I'm left wondering just how the universe, in it's infinite and expansive wisdom, saw fit to allow, on one of the biggest sporting stages in these 50 states, the worst display of shooting a basketball there has ever been.  And it didn't happen to some anyteam at some random anytime... noooo.  What is now the most infamous of least prolific shooting nights was bestowed upon a fan-favored, unlikely underdog team, on the biggest stage of Intercollegiate sports events in this country.

Dear Universe, you suck. 

I understand that Connecticut's defense was aggressive and difficult to deal with, so is most any team's who make it to that level, but seriously? 18.8% total shooting percentage from the field?! I honestly believe that, had I played for Butler and U Conn had agreed to let me shoot undefended from beyond the half-court line, I could equal the accuracy of the Bulldogs last night. That, of course, is a ridiculous analysis but it IS equalled by the profound ridiculousness that is 19% from the field in the NCAA final. This had to be more than just players ineptitude, there must have been other netherforces at work. I doubt I'm alone in this assumption.

Nobody wanted to see Butler lose. Nobody wanted to see Butler play poorly, but what we saw was the equivalent of being forced to watch torturous things happen to a loved one.  In slow motion. 

Having played sports, been a fan of sports, and watched sports for the better part of 3 decades, and one who pays attention, I can spot trends. I could see in the first half one of those 'winners trends' and the signs of a Connecticut win. Seemingly a majority of loose balls, rebounds, and other assorted intangibles bounced Connecticut's way. Loose ball scrambles, bouncing off a foot or knee of multiple players and into the hands of a U Conn player. I recall a point early in the second half when a U Conn player inexplicably lost control of the ball as he was ready to jump for an easy layup, only to have a Butler player grab the loose ball and subsequently allow his own knee to free the ball from his grasp and out-of-bounds. It's those freakish little events that so often portend the outcome of a sporting event. Most people don't even notice them.

A vast sporting majority wanted Butler to win last night. A vast force in the universe seemed to conspire and see to it that most of us were grossly disappointed with the alternate outcome and forced under sheer optimism of recovery to watch. For this I call into question the God, Gods, or Universe. 

Perhaps there is a golden reward for this bunch of quality kids who study and play hard in Indianapolis. I just hope I live to see it someday, because then I'd know the Universe does truly seek balance.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents Day

This is the Presidential aesthetic circa 1840:

Sweet Georgia Brown, them's some bomb-ass sideburns Marty. 

Judging by the entire coiffure, I'm guessing this photo was taken at approximately 4:43am.