Saturday, January 24, 2009

An Open Letter For An Open Thread

Dear English Premier League,

Hi, how are you? Just want to start out by saying, nice job. Not that I'm certain it has anything to do with something you've done, but the league this year has been awesome, especially in the bottom half of the table.

It's late January and there are only five points separating 10 teams from the drop. The bottom of the table is almost better than the top right now. I'm a total advocate for relegation in American sports just for that reason, but this isn't about our leagues as much as it is about yours.

See, we play football too. Only we use this oblong thing and we throw it around, and there's really not much "foot" involved in it at all. It's kind of a stupid name. But it's huge over here. It dominates the sports landscape in ways which defy explanation.

I mean they televise the fucking draft. And people watch it.

Our professional football (the National Football League) is having its championship next week. You've probably heard of it, it's called the Super Bowl. We like to pretend that the whole world watches it, but I can't fathom many people in, say, Ouagoudougou getting up in the middle of the night to take in a game that they don't even really understand.

Anyway, the way the whole NFL thing works is a bit like the World Cup. There's a kind of group stage—only this one last 17 weeks—followed by a knock out round. Now between the semi-finals and the final, the Super Bowl, they take 14 days off. Yes, there is actually a full off week to help build the hype or some shit like that. Or maybe give people a chance to reconnect with their families after 20 weeks of neglect. I don't know.

But that off week is this week. That means there's not a single fucking thing happening in American professional sports this week. Nothing.

Okay, maybe some college basketball, but seeing how 64 teams will get a shot to compete for that championship, this weekend's games are not really of consequence. It's not like a home loss at this point can cost you a title the way that a home loss and three dropped points to, oh, Stupid Fucking Bolton would.

To the point though, there are hundreds of thousands of men who have a pretty ingrained routine—put on a shirt with another grown man's name on the back of it, go to the bar a little before noon, start drinking and yell at television sets showing large men playing a game—who suddenly have this interrupted for one week. A little lifestyle hiccup if you will.

So, my suggestion (by way of a question) is: Why the fuck aren't you exploiting this hiccup?

This shouldn't be an FA Cup weekend. It's a great competition and all, but there should be Premier League fixtures today and Sunday. And among them should be matches between the Big 4—Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool. Either do one a day, or even better, a double header on Sunday. That's the day that's already sacred to NFL fans.

Match those four teams up against one another (although might I suggest avoiding Liverpool v. Chelsea as those affairs have been a bit dull as of late) and promoting the hell out of it in the US. "While you're waiting for you're football, watch the world's football" or some shit like that. Push the kicks to late afternoon or early evening over there so that the starts coincide with what would be an NFL game kick over here. Sponsor watching parties at bars. Give away shit to get people out. I don't care what you actually do to market it, just do something.

The opportunity is there—again: there is nothing going on in sports this weekend, but there are millions of sports fans with 20-something weeks of conditioning to go watch sports—you should take advantage of it.

America is a huge market. If not in terms of size—certainly there are 3 times as many people on the sub-continent—at least in terms of dollars. And it is warming to soccer. The last World Cup, European Championship, and Champions League Final all exceeded ratings expectations over here.

Americans will gladly watch something when it's played at the highest level. And what's going on in Barcelona not withstanding, the English Premier League (suck it, Barlcays) is the highest level of league soccer in the world. Shit, even Wigan is pretty good this season.

So to recap: this is the bye week between the conference finals and the Super Bowl in the NFL. There is a lull in the America sports calendar that is just waiting to be filled, you, the EPL should fill it with your best—Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United; Fabregas, Essien, Torres, Ronaldo.

There's my suggestion. It's yours to do with what you will. But you'd be stupid not to take it.

Hugs and kisses,
Precious Roy


Mike Georger said...

If I cared about these games, if it were a league weekend, I'd be up at this point making breakfast and getting ready to stream several hours of games. But as it's a cup weekend, I'm up because I thought eating pizza and peanuts in the same meal would be a good idea. Rest assured as soon as the beast has subsided, I'll be back to bed, because who the fuck cares about West Ham v. Hartlepool (no offense to the two West Ham guys on here, but come on, even you don't care about this game.)

The FA seems to have something in common with the NFL, they both go out of their way to make games unviewable and scheduled at shitty times.

ü75 said...

Testy match in Aberdeen this morning (what I've seen at least). Still 0-0, with Rangers having most of the attack. Aberdeen with their backup keeper in after Kenny Miller kicked Langfield in the head.

ü75 said...

You know how broadcasters use odd analogies for sports? Well, Rangers have their tails up with 10 minutes to go.

ü75 said...

Boyd hits the post so hard, it would have knocked down some goals I used as a kid. Still 0-0, 4 minutes left. Rangers will score soon.

ü75 said...

Gaaaah. Lee Miller had the keeper beat, only to head wide by a foot or so. 1 minute left.

ü75 said...

4 minutes of injury time given.

ü75 said...

0-0 full time. Considering the only other match Bossu played in was a 4-2 loss at home to Killie, I'll take it. Langfield came back to the bench, bloodied to be sure, but not dazed. On to next week--away to Falkirk.

ü75 said...

I don't think marketing Essien would be a good idea right now.

Eladio said...

PR -- how can you say there's nothing going on in the sports world this weekend when the NHL All Star game is on?

/ducks boot being thrown by Gazza

Precious Roy said...

And that tells you all you need to know about the state of hockey in this country. I was totally unaware that the All Star game was this weekend.

In fact if ESPN do go after the Prem rights for the US, Hockey is going to be in even worse shape. If there is one thing the WWL is good at, it's browbeating viewers to watch their properties. I would imagine the time to do that would come at the expense of something they don't have rights to, particularly hockey.

Eladio said...

And to be fair, the all star game is in Montreal this year. But yes, without ESPN promoting the shit out of it, hockey is pretty much dead in the states.

Would love to see a West Ham/Millwall Round 5 match...that's really the only thing i'm rooting for today.

phil said...

Excellent post, PR. EPL could learn a shitload from the NFL, as far as getting its product into as many homes as possible.

Spectator said...

Upset alert.... Swansea 1 Pompey 0. Burnley 1 WBA 0.

Spectator said...

Oh and Jay DeMerit scored for Watford. USA! USA! USA!

Precious Roy said...

How is Burnley not even in playoff position in the Colaship. Jesus, they almost knocked all of London out of the Carling Cup.

Goat said...

"If there is one thing the WWL is good at, it's browbeating viewers to watch their properties."
Agreed except for MLS which ESPN inexplicably refuses to promote now that they're paying a rights fee to broadcast it. Phil, the Prem's decision to go after streaming football websites seems to indicate that they want to get their product into as few homes as possible. Maybe they think that the scarcer their product the more it will be worth.

phil said...

Hey, PR, in lieu of big 4 matchups, EPL could use this weekend as derby weekend, show gooners-Spurs, Everton-'Pool, etc.

phil said...

Phil, the Prem's decision to go after streaming football websites seems to indicate that they want to get their product into as few homes as possible.

I don't disagree. It's baffling, really.

Goat said...

For everyone's listening enjoyment:
I'm not sure why but it's what I'm listening to now.

Precious Roy said...

Rivalries wouldn't be bad, I just think you've got the best shot of getting people's attention when it's the top 4 (apologies to Villa). Of course you run the risk of getting something like the United v. Chelsea match from a couple of weeks ago. Too bad you can't schedule ahead of time something like the Villa v. Everton match from, what, November.

The NY Kid said...

wow - Gabby just missed a sitter

Spectator said...

So, as a Gooner, an Aston Villa replay against Doncaster is about the best I could hope for -- match congestion should make life difficult.

And yes I realize this guarantees a loss or draw against Cardiff tomorrow.

Mike Georger said...

Sorry but you gentlemen are dead wrong about hockey. The NHL's ratings on Versus and NBC are marginally higher than when the sport was last on ESPN. Plus, almost every team has their own local network, many of which bring in absurd ratings (FSN Pittsburgh routinely brings in ratings in the 20s for Pens games, and isn't even the highest rated team station).

ESPN promotes the shit out of the NBA, and regular season NBA games barely draw more than NHL games, when they are on a network that has a much farther reach. Promotion isn't everything.

The Fan's Attic said...

probably don't want to promote Fabregas right now either. and with torres and his recurrent injuries maybe shouldn't hitch your cart to him.

other than that...i agree.

Registering To Comment With Blogger Sucks said...

Phil, the Prem's decision to go after streaming football websites seems to indicate that they want to get their product into as few homes as possible. Maybe they think that the scarcer their product the more it will be worth.

Are you being sarcastic? Because if that's what they think, then they're correct. It's basic economics. High demand + limited supply = higher price. In this case, the supply in question is broadcast rights.

"Broadcast rights" is a product the EPL sells. Why should this seller sit by and watch others commandeer and distribute its product, with no compensation, thus diluting the product's value?

When an ESPN or whoever is contemplating a purchase of the EPL's product, the EPL is in a much better position when it can say, "This will be exclusively yours."

Imagine this EPL pitch to ESPN: "Hey, would you like to pay a gazillion trillion dollars for the rights? I know that NBC and ABC and Versus and CBS are already showing all the same games, but come on, just pay us anyway." That's exactly what this is, only it's not NBC-ABC-etc. showing the games, it's and

A regular broadcaster can't air EPL games without permission -- why should a be allowed to? Just because you get something out of it?

Sorry for the lengthy post, but the sense of entitlement that has taken root on the web just really bugs me. It is destroying entire industries, from music to journalism, and people just don't seem to understand the consequences of participating in this mass devaluing of content. In the long run, it's going to come back and bite all of us. I mean, it already is. We're thisclose to having a United States without a powerful press that can serve as watchdog on corporations and government. It could get a little scary.

Registering To Comment With Blogger Sucks said...

And let me anticipate a rebuttal: "But when more people can watch the EPL -- on streaming sites or anywhere -- more people become EPL fans, which is good for the EPL."

This can be valid -- to a point. But there's a threshold that gets crossed, where the promotional value of "free samples" is mitigated by the sales losses.

It's like the old, goofy argument about music file-sharing: "This is free promotion for artists and songs." Yeah, that worked out really well for the record biz. All that "free promotion," and now the industry is in tatters, because it ultimately couldn't compete with the "free" part of that equation.

The bottom line is that if there's an existing demand for your product, you don't need a lot of "free promotion" via "samples." There's no reason for the music business, or the EPL, to sit around contentedly watching its product get devalued by people who steal it then justify their theft by calling it "free promotion."