You’d think they just hit the Powerball Jackpot the way these guys reacted to watching Leeds beating Watford. Not exactly a drilling a walk-off homerun/sudden death goal/overtime TD/golden goal, but an awesome moment for Hull City and their fans, nonetheless.
Now to get all meta and rain on their parade….
The point system that governs league tiers is an unfamiliar concept to Americans. At the expense of sounding ethnocentric, league promotions are just kind of a stupid endgame. The way it works, is the teams with the top two records in a sub-league automatically get promoted to the next league, leaving the third through sixth best records to battle it out in a final four type tournament.
Imagine the NBA Playoffs without the Heat and the Thunder. Imagine just throwing them in the finals without making them go through the playoffs? (Good thing we didn’t end up doing that.) Imagine if we watched LeBron celebrate his second NBA Championship inside a living room? Doesn’t seem all that exciting, does it?
Case in point: Hull City’s biggest moment this year came while sitting in front a television screen and not on the field. There’s something about that scenario that feels lame.
Don’t get me wrong, it happens over here. Making the postseason is often a matter of another team losing while your team nervously huddles around a locker room monitor. And, obviously, you have to win to get to that spot in the first place. So maybe I’m being an idealist, wishing that all triumphant sports moments could be a matter of controlling your own destiny. But one thing is certain: such moments should never end a season, as they did here with Hull City who will play in the Premiership next year. No questions asked.
It’s this sort of aversion to do-or-die moments that makes soccer hard for Americans to deal with (ya, I went there.) There is the oft reference hatred of ties, which we forced one of our own professional leagues (NHL) to drop, threatening to never watch it again. (It was the first thing they did coming out of the second to last strike season.) But then there’s this kind of stuff. Allowing “winning” to be defined by something other than beating the opponent in front of you.
Aggregate goal, anyone?
Once again, I’m not suggesting soccer change it’s culture for us. Nor am I saying that teams can’t ever rely on other teams losing to determine their own fate. I’m just reminded of the great cultural divide between the European and American sports psyche. Why don’t they actually use the golden goal rule? It seems like a perfectly simple solution to a rather uninspiring conclusion to a match. Matches that are often set up to end into mutually beneficial draws. Why aren’t the top two teams included in the tournament that determines promotion? Why are you protecting them from proving their the best in the npower Championship League?
Or is the drama of watching two otherwise unimportant teams finish 0-0 that compelling?
The answer, most likely, is that winning in the current system is more valuable than the act of becoming the winner. It just seems contrary to the point of “games” — rooted in a blind sort of pride that transcends sports in a way we can’t really fathom over here. European football is, in many ways, like war. Fans fight and riot and injure one another. The result of a season is just that much more a personal reflection for these people. In the US, sports are just a thing you do with your kids. They’re supposed to be fun to watch.
For the fans — not the players.