The English Premier League: A Bandwagoner’s Brief

I moved to Boston in August, and a month later the Red Sox won the World Series. You’re welcome, Boston. I moved to the US and within a fortnight was sitting at Fenway – the most American place anyone could care to visit, by the way – covered in peanut shells and asking a Red Sox die-hard beside me “which one is Ortiz?”

Which one is Ortiz? O tempora! O mores! I may as well have been wearing a pink hat.

But this is the thing: I know about sports. I love sport, as we call it in Europe. I pity people who do not enjoy sport. I do not trust people who do not like sport. I get sport. It’s just that baseball really isn’t a big deal over there.

Nobody on the entire continent of Europe cares about baseball. There’s enough other sports to be getting along with. To me, Ted Williams was that homeless guy with the amazing radio voice. “When you’re listening to the best of oldies, you’re listening to 98.9…” Ah yes, the voice of America right there. Silky smooth delivery, with a lingering aftertaste of…alcohol, ruined Thanksgivings, crystal meth.

Now, after a few months here in Beantown, I know exactly who the ‘real’ Ted Williams is. He’s the guy they named the tunnel after. Not sure if he was black or white, to be honest. Maybe I shouldn’t have moved to Boston. Maybe I should have moved somewhere where the baseball is so bad nobody cares. Like Boston in 2012.

Anyway, “which one is Ortiz?” got me thinking. Although a look of immense distress and tenderness crossed the face of my die-hard neighbor at Fenway that evening as he pointed out the massive concentration of charisma that could only have been Big Papi, it could have been worse. I could have pretended I knew what I was talking about. Please, America, please like me. Is there anything worse than the blow-in, the newbie, the bandwagonner, trying too hard? Better to be pitied than scorned.

Nevertheless, there are those who simply cannot help themselves. And those who cannot help themselves are those who need the most help. What follows is unsolicited, free-of-charge advice for American soccer fans who have taken to following the sculpted, lifted, burnished, inflated, lasered, Photoshopped-within-an-inch-of-its-life English Premier League. The cartoon dog that licks its own balls and looks up at you expecting applause. The same dog that tries to hump your leg as you are shaking hands with your in-laws. It never goes away. Inevitably, the Goose that lays the Golden Egg/Dog that Licks Its Own Balls is now available LIVE! on NBC. Soccer has gone lamestream.

“The English Premier League, home to storied clubs such as Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United, has a new television partner in the United States” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch of the three-year, $250 million NBC deal. Chelsea? A storied club? By any measure, Chelsea are not a storied club. Chelsea is a manufactured club, the wet dream of a man wearing a cheap watch on a massive yacht. If Sports Illustrated doesn’t know its football heritage, then what chances have the rest of them?

NBC has imported a team of expert pundits from English television to guide us all through the ins and outs of each massive, HUGE, MASSIVE! match. Although they would know better to suggest that Chelsea have a rich and remarkable history, these characters are so one-dimensional it is not a stretch to imagine them having arrived at NBC HQ by fax. Some of them have been punditting so long, they have essentially become little more than lo-tech talking appliances, like a fridge that sends a crude, verb-free text message when you have run out of milk.

So then, my advice, do not listen to the pundits. You might accidentally repeat something you heard them say, get it wrong and sound like an even bigger idiot than they are. Better to turn the sound down and listen to Cat Stevens or something. Better even to print off the following cheat sheet and learn it. It is helpfully entitled “20 Things to say When Talking About English Football that Makes it Look Like You Know What You are Talking About”

(Learn the phrases verbatim. Personal bias has been removed. If you can still tell what club I support, please collect your prize at the door.)


“20 Things to say When Talking About English Football that Makes it Look Like You Know What You are Talking About”


  1. United would have been better off giving the job to Martinez
  2. I can’t understand why [insert name of big club] haven’t gone in for  Ben Arfa
  3. Big Sam won’t be happy with that
  4. There goes Gerrard with one of his shite passes
  5. Torres is gone, completely gone, HE’S HIDING
  6. Cech has never really been the same since the Hunt thing
  7. Hunt knew what he was doing there (see above)
  8. No wonder Soldado can’t score with these inverted wingers
  9. Ozil, Jesus
  10. Chris Hughton is a nice fella but ….
  11. It just shows you how bad England are if Ashley Young is getting a cap
  12. Liverpool are always prone to the odd terrible result
  13. [insert name of struggling big-club manager] really needs to get some names in the window
  14. Well, obviously Sunderland and Palace are gone
  15. I can’t remember the last time Carrick beat a man
  16. Defoe just shoots from anywhere
  17. You’d expect Southampton to fade away at some stage
  18. Mark Hughes, complete spoofer
  19. That is an absolute disgrace
  20. There’s definite contact there, DEFINITELY


Get in there.

Neil Ardiff
Irish. Bookish. Oldish. Warmish.
Neil Ardiff
Neil Ardiff
Neil Ardiff

Latest posts by Neil Ardiff (see all)



  1. […] international and MLS games televised on national TV, the buzz on soccer needs to get out more. The NBC Sports airing of all English Premier League games that began on Aug. 17, 2013 is a move that shows the growing […]