Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Long March

photo by luigi morantevia PhotoRee

I find myself missing the regular EPL games on a weekend like this past one. Sure, there were some exciting games to be found, including Manchester United's 2-1 win over Southampton, as well as Birmingham's come from behind 3-2 victory over Coventry City, but all in all I found myself longing for Tuesday and the real action to start once again.

On the one hand, I acknowledge that there are way too many competitions in English football -- EPL, Champions League (for the lucky few), Europa League (for the next lucky few), FA Cup, League Cup, etc. -- so many, in fact, that the games and storylines begin to blend into one another. Is Birmingham City fighting relegation or playing for a Cup final?  Or both?

On the other hand, I love the constancy and rhythm of the English football season. One game after another, week after week, the cruel schedules march on. Only the toughest survive, but if your team doesn't, well hey, there's another competition brewing just around the corner.

All of those qualities and more were on display this weekend in the FA Cup. The cup schedule marches on, and even though Man United did, as well, I find myself less satisifed with their win than I did the mid-week victory over Blackpool. Though both games unfolded in a similar manner -- a disjointed, worrying first hour, followed by a furious comeback -- my sense of exhalation was palpable post-game Tuesday, while on Saturday I merely felt relief at the hoped for result.

Additionally, the weather this past weekend in South Florida made it doubly hard for me to really focus on the action at hand.  Saturday and Sunday were the type of achingly beautiful days that take your breath away -- 65 degrees (18 degrees Celsius), cool breeze blowing off the ocean -- making it difficult bordering on impossible to stay indoors for two hours at a time.  So I found myself doing what any sensible fan would do: I turned on the television out by the pool and cracked a beer to watch a couple games.

I guess what I'm saying in a round about way is that the regular season title means so much more than the cup victories (with the sole exception, in my mind, of the Champions League, which represents the European Everest of football's many summits). The eight month challenge that is the EPL, especially this season, in which it seems as if anyone can beat anyone (well, maybe not United, at least to date) has a certain grind-it-out, get-on-with-it brutality that cannot be denied. To stand at the end of the season, trophy in hand, means that your team was able to survive the long slog better than any other. To win a cup, on the other hand, merely means that your team was the best on a particular day, not necessarily week in, week out.

In any event, I'll take football in any way, shape or form. But mostly I'll take it in the form of the 2010/2011 Season EPL title. Bring it home, you Reds.

This is farlieonfootie for January 31.

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