Glory to the Underdog: Don't root for a top EPL side
I know, I know - the teams challenging for the title - the Chelseas and Manchester Uniteds and Arsenals of the league - are better. They play more crisp, more fluid football.
It's true - I won't lie to you. And if you're a total geek of the game, that's really attractive.
But you shouldn't root for them each week. You're better off picking a lower team - maybe a relegation-threatened side - and backing them all year long.
Let me explain. I've been following the Prem closely for some four seasons now. Originally, I liked Manchester City - they were up and coming, cash-rich, and had some of my favorite players in the world (Tevez, Agüero, and others).
But then I got bored. They win more often than not, but anything other than a title win is going to let you down. And what's the fun in that?
So, last season, I latched on to Hull City. They were a decent side, one who I figured would have to work hard to not get relegated, but would probably be safe when it was all said and done.
I was wrong - Hull were relegated - but that's not the point.
The relegation battle is more intriguing than the title race. Why? It features teams getting absolutely DESPERATE come the end of the season to steal even a single point.
Come the end of the season, when things get really tight at the bottom end of the table, clubs begin to realize what relegation means. Getting relegated a massive blow to a club's finances - the Premier League is the richest league in the world, and being a part of it means reaping the benefits of playing in huge stadiums like Old Trafford and the Emirates, and it means having teams like Arsenal and Manchester United play in your stadium. The TV deals are huge, too.
Often, relegation ruins a club for years and years. Only a few years ago, Blackpool and Wigan Athletic were playing in the Premiership. They got relegated; now, both of these clubs find themselves in League 1, the third division of English football. When you get relegated, most of your players - the good ones, at least - leave the club to stay in the Prem. And who could blame them?
When it gets really tight in March and April, this becomes clear to players and their managers, and teams begin to stretch themselves extra thin to beat the drop.
Sometimes, the fact that the players are slightly less great makes it more fun.
Why? Because you get to see players playing absolutely OUT OF THEIR MIND, way above their ability, out of love for the team and the cause. It happened last season with Hull with Stephen Quinn and Paul McShane, good-hearted Irishmen who put their hearts on the line for the club. Their efforts were eventually futile, but it was amazing to watch two players with minimally impressive careers go up against the biggest clubs in the sport and out-hustle and out-play them. The sweet moments are that much sweeter
I remember Hull's late-season win against Liverpool, which I thought would be enough to keep them in the Prem. Michael Dawson's header was one of the most exciting moments of the season for me, because even though it was just one goal, it was one goal that almost changed the entire outcome of the season.
The margins are SO small in the relegation battle. One point could do it - and that means playing for a draw, or scoring a late equalizer could make all the difference.
The EPL has more parity than any league in the world, meaning any team can beat any team at any time. Any given weekend, anything and everything is within the realm of possibility. So you're going to have some good moments, even if relegation is your eventual fate. Sometimes, heartbreak is OK
Excuse the over-used metaphor, but sports are like life. It's the truth. You're not always going to win.
Granted, this is coming from a life-long Mets and Jets fan, so maybe I just can't help myself but to pick a tragic story. It's fun to root for the underdog. This season, I'm gunning for Crystal Palace
I'm not happy about having to change my allegiance, but Hull's relegation really gives me no chance. I'll be rooting for Hull to return to the Prem next season, and will support for them again if they make it back up, but in the meantime I need a rooting interest.
I've selected Palace because they're an up-and-coming side. They're exciting, have made really good signings (Yohan Cabaye, Patrick Bamford, Connor Wickham), and they are good enough to challenge anyone.
Best case scenario? Palace somehow manage to sneak their way into the top 10.
Worst case? I'd rather not say.