LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Brad Friedel of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates the opening goal by team mate Rafael Van der Vaart during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on October 2, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Pre-season NBA basketball was supposed to start last week. We now know that regular season NBA basketball will not be starting as scheduled on November 1st. In all likelihood, there will not be NBA basketball for the rest of this calendar year, and there's a possibility that the entire season could be lost.
Which leaves a pretty large void in the lives of anyone who is spending significant time on this blog.
So what are you going to be doing instead? I noticed that Citizen Lawler's Law included links to some international soccer friendlies in today's Daily Clipper; and Citizen Eagleace's lament referenced his enjoyment of the Dodgers, UCLA and the NFL. So I started thinking... what, if anything, is going to fill the lockout-induced void for the Citizen's of Clips Nation?
The absence of a normal off-season had of course created a disturbance in the NBA cycle - which may not matter much to most people, but had forced me to make some adjustments already. Obviously I dove headlong into the EuroBasket tournament - but that was over in three weeks.
As it happens, I've begun watching the Premier League this season. (For those of you who don't know, that's the first division of English soccer, arguably the best soccer league in the world.) My relationship with soccer has been on again off again. I was heavily involved in the technology solutions for consecutive World Cups in the 90s (I was the Director of Technology Development of USA 94 and France 98) which gave me a chance to watch the highest level soccer after the applications were complete and in place. I attended back-to-back World Cup Finals in 1994 and 1998, two events I'll always remember.
Those experiences hooked me on the big soccer tournaments - I'm a fanatic for the World Cup every four years, I watch as much of the Euro Cup as I can, and I watched a fair amount of Gold Cup this year, not to mention the Women's World Cup.
However, the experience of watching major international tournaments has spoiled me a bit. Because the first soccer I had ever watched was of such a high quality, I find it very difficult to watch MLS soccer to this day. It's such a step down in terms of skill and precision, I just don't enjoy it very much. I don't have the same quality problem with the EPL.
Increased television coverage has of course changed my perspective on this question as well. There was a time not too long ago when you had to subscribe to some pay-per-view channel in order to see EPL matches. No more. I honestly don't know when Fox Soccer Channel first appeared on my FiOS lineup, but between FSC and ESPN2 (which began broadcasting some Premier League games two seasons ago, I believe), I now have the option of watching up to four or five EPL games per week. For instance, this weekend FSC is showing Manchester City v. Aston Villa, Everton v. Chelsea, Stoke City v. Fulham and Newcastle v. Tottenham while ESPN2 has the big one, Manchester United v. Liverpool. That's half the games available on my TV, and four of the five are broadcast live! Wow. For good measure, FSC throws in some Italian soccer from Serie A as well.
It's been strange, adopting a new league. For one thing, I haven't quite figured out who to support yet. As a long standing supporter of underdogs, I'm clearly not going to be a fan of Man United - that would be like rooting for the Lakers, or worse still, the Yankees. Nor do I really want to support the free-spending teams of Chelsea or Manchester City. The fact that I'm an American makes me pre-disposed to support a team like Everton (with Tim Howard in goal) or Tottenham Hotspur (with the ageless Brad Friedel, like me a veteran of World Cup 1994) or Fulham (with Clint Dempsey). The problem is that, even more so than the NBA, there's a clear distinction in the EPL between the haves and the have-nots, and teams like Everton and Fulham have little chance to finish even in the top half of the league. So I think I'm a Spurs fan (EPL only) - they're not going to win the league, but they've got an outside chance to finish in the top 4 and qualify for the UEFA Champions League, which would be a huge accomplishment. Besides, by rooting for Tottenham I maintain the proper dynamic with Chris Clark of the Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll, who is an Arsenal fan.
So that's my story - I'm now an EPL fan. I don't like baseball, I don't watch much college football, and I don't see myself watching much NFL, which I can take or leave. I'll certainly watch a lot more college basketball than I have in recent seasons. The Bruins open their season in earnest on November 11 against Loyola Marymount. My own beloved Pepperdine Waves (who unfortunately figure to be terrible again this season) open their D1 schedule in Tempe against Arizona State on November 15h, and make their own trip to Pauley Pavilion a couple of weeks after that. By the way, if you don't follow WCC basketball, this might be a good time to start. With BYU joining the conference it figures to feature the best college basketball this side of the BCS - so if you're jonesing for some hoops in the area, rather than flocking to Westwood, you might consider the trip to Gersten Pavilion in Westchester for an LMU game, or even all the way out to Malibu to watch the Waves (with a capital W). In addition to the Zags and BYU, St. Mary's has developed a solid program, and Citizen Michael White will be more than willing to espouse the virtues of the Portland Pilots for you.
What are you going to do to make up for the absence of NBA basketball? Let me know in the comments. Extra points for answers that go beyond NCAA football and the NFL, which won't do you any good in February anyway.
Go Spurs! Go Waves!