And to think, I never even got a chance to buy a Super League t-shirt. The Super League of European soccer came and went faster than you could say XFL. On Sunday, the rich and powerful team owners formed a cartel and announced that they were going to hoard the TV money every year and never be in danger of falling into the minor leagues, basically, the way they do it in soccer overseas when a team isn’t any good.
By Tuesday, the Super League was dead. The teams that had committed to it fled their plans when their fans came after them with pitchforks.
And now there is a celebration in Europe over how an uprising of local teams and neighborhood barbershop and pub owner and Average Joes all got together, fought off the greed and saved soccer. That’s fine. Whatever. But one thing is bugging me about this:
The word “Americanization’’ keeps popping up in the celebration, as if the American way of sports was just defeated. They seem to think that their pure system was being jeopardized by new, rich team owners from America who were blaspheming the church of soccer with American money.
They beat back the “Americanization.’’ I think they believe they just re-fought the Revolutionary War and won this time.
First off, the idea that the Super League model was so much like America, well, that’s true. In the U.S., it’s called the College Football Playoff. The five richest and most powerful conferences got together and made sure they could control the sport’s national championship and the billions of TV dollars that go with it. Oh they threw a bone at some smaller conferences, promised them a tiny cut and an avenue into the Playoff.
Hah. It’s a dead end. That’s how we ended up with Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Clemson this year. You might recall that little Cincinnati kept trying to get into the discussion.
And at one point, Iowa State, a Power Five team, had lost three games, including one to Louisiana-Lafayette by 17 points. Lafayette had a better record than Iowa State. Coastal Carolina had a better record than Lafayette, too, and a win over them. Guess what the rankings showed that week:
Iowa State 10, Coastal 12, Louisiana 19.
And at one point, it looked as if Ohio State was in trouble, under the rules set up because of COVID, of not getting into the Big Ten Championship Game and possibly being left out of the Playoff. Remember what happened?
They changed the rules. That’s right. They did it right in the middle of the season to help Ohio State. Sorry: The Ohio State.
Yes, the power base of college football is keeping all of the money and just allowing a slight opening for everyone else in the name of fairness. That’s what the rules called for in the Super League, too, in its 48 hours of existence.
But here’s a message for European soccer fans: Don’t get all high and mighty about the U.S. Yes, money talks here. But it also talks there. You’ve already taken the money from the U.S., as well as from plenty of other billionaires around the world.
You’ve already created the imbalance because the dollars were getting big.
So I’m not saying the Super League didn’t look American, I’m saying that you should go ahead and admit reality that you’ve already come over and joined the dark side, if that’s what you think we are.
The financial model isn’t working for soccer in Europe. They aren’t capitalizing on their opportunities anywhere near as much as American sports are on theirs. And with the losses that hit from COVID, the smaller teams are in danger. The Super League was going to provide prime matchups of top programs, the kind that people want to see.
The kind that a world audience would want to see.
That means more TV money.
Not to mention: The big boys are already getting bigger and the disparity is already growing. So sure, the Super League was stopped somehow, as even the British royal family and Prime Minister Boris Johnson were getting involved and standing up for the average fan.
That’s all fine. And it’s hard to argue with a level playing field. But there already isn’t one. There isn’t one anywhere. Maybe the Super League wasn’t that bad of an idea, but just needed to be fixed in the details of revenue sharing?
I’ll admit that it’s a little surprising how fast the power elite in European soccer just folded. It does seem heartwarming at first.
But the Americanization of soccer is already happening and is only going to continue. Don’t worry, Europe: The water is nice over here.
What I do know is that if Cincinnati had played Coastal Carolina in the college football national championship game, nobody would be trying to Americanize their sports.
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