Eleven years ago, I (Scott) found the Premier League. As an American fan of just about every sport I had ever seen, I had a new love. Soccer (forgive me for using the American term) grabbed my heart, and it still hasn’t let go.
The 2006 World Cup had just ended. The United States had a terrible tournament, so I quickly found myself rooting for England. After all, it is our mother land.
That squad included a young forward named Peter Crouch. I quickly became fascinated by his height and his skinny legs. It seemed like they might snap with every step.
After a quick Google search, I found that he played in the Premier League for a club named Liverpool. It is embarrassing to admit now, but that is how I first became a Liverpool fan.
Liverpool was pretty decent during the 2005-06 season. I saw their third place in the season-ending table, but I couldn’t find the playoff results anywhere. As an American sports fan, I was used to team sports having a regular season and then a playoff to determine the champion.
I got really confused. Chelsea finished the season in first place, but without playoffs, who had won the title?
When I realized playoffs didn’t exist in the Premier League, my entire sports fandom changed. I would never be the same again.
If you follow this blog, you already know how this story ends. We have highlighted over the past year how various American professional sports leagues could be better if they implemented a Premier League-like structure. As this calendar year comes to an end, I want to finally focus on the one sport that came so close but then got it all so wrong.
It’s what we in America call college football.
For you non-American sports fans, a word of explanation is in order. Amateur athletes who aspire to play in professional sports leagues usually play first in college. Colleges are the training ground for most professional sports. Young athletes are recruited to join and attend a college and then play for its sports team.
It creates a lot of problems, as you might expect. There is always a tension between being a student and being an amateur athlete. That, however, is a blog post for another day.
We Americans love our American football. If the National Football League (NFL) is the biggest sports league in America, college football is the second biggest. Since playoffs are so ingrained into the minds of American sports fans, it is surprising that college football never had one. Everyone wanted one for many years, but the sport resisted. Until 2014.
2014 was the year that college football became like every other American sport, and it hasn’t been nearly as good since then.
Eleven years ago, when I first discovered Peter Crouch, Liverpool and the entire Premier League, I learned that sports could be better without playoffs. I had always loved college football, and now that I had the Premier League as an example, I desperately wanted it to avoid adding a playoff. I even wrote a terrible book – soundly rejected by 11 book agents – about how college football would be better if it resisted adding a playoff.
In this series, I plan to recreate much of that terrible book (hopefully in a more readable way). By the end, I hope you are convinced that college football should not only eliminate its playoff system but should also pursue a Premier League-like structure, too.