The 2016/2016 Premier League season was one for the books—actually it’s one for the movies. It’s almost a shoo-in that in the not so distant future, there will be a film made about Leicester City’s quite literally unbelievable rise to futbol glory. Their story is the stuff of legends and they are the toast of the soccer community as they were 5,000 to 1 odds to win the premier league title at the beginning of the season. To put that in perspective, the Cleveland Browns are only 200 to 1 odds to win the Super bowl next year. So if you think the Browns winning the Super bowl is impossible just multiply that impossible feeling by 25 and you have Leicester. It’s easily the biggest underdog story we have ever had in Sports, so why didn’t we hear more about it? Sure ESPN had to pretend they cared about soccer the week that the Foxes clinched the title, but leading up to that, only Premier League fans were aware of this incredible story in the States. Part of this is because soccer is still on its way to becoming a premier sport in the country, but a large aversion to the sport that was highlighted in Leicester’s title was America’s disdain for the tie, or draw.
This disgust with the tie came at a boiling point when ESPN personality Danny Kanell decided to voice his annoyance with ties in sports. The tweet came after Leicester City tied Manchester United which forced Tottenham into a must win against Chelsea later in the week. Tottenham went on to draw with Chelsea, handing Leicester the improbable title. This prompted the fury of Kanell:
This isn’t the first time he has complained about the tie in soccer. Back in 2013, after a United States Men's National Team tie clinched their spot in the 2014 World Cup he tweeted, “I cannot stand when anyone celebrates a tie. Same attitude as giving everyone a trophy for participating #mnt.” I say all this not to directly address Kanell; I understand his position on this because of his association with American football. Rather, this can open a dialogue about many Americans’ mutual frustration with the fact that a soccer game can end in a tie.
Much of America’s ridicule of the tie comes from their obsession with winning and losing. Every single contest must have a winner and loser. While it’s technically possible for an NFL game to end in a tie, the league has all but ensured that it won’t happen by having a 15 minute sudden-death overtime period that a team can win with just a field goal. In fact, the only two major professional sports in America that reward teams for tying are soccer and hockey. You already know where I’m going with this, but those are the only two sports not created in America. Why I am ok with a tie is simply because sometimes there are games that neither team deserve to lose (or in ugly cases, neither team deserves to win). So why force a winner or loser in a game that does not need one? There are also several cases that a team wins on a fluke or a mistake: this is becoming almost an epidemic as sports have increasingly increased speed over the years and it’s difficult for referees to keep up. Just to use a recent example, the NBA officiating report in game 5 of the Western Semi-Finals claimed that their referees missed five calls in the last 15 seconds of the game. The Thunder ended up winning the game but doesn’t it seem there should be an asterisk next to that? Yes, there are missed calls in all sports that affect results but how is this kind of win better than a tie? A win does not always mean that a team was better than the other or even deserved to win, it simply means something they had more points than the other team. I understand that this was a playoff game, so a winner had to be declared, but these kind of mishaps run rampant throughout the regular season.
The Premier League does not have a postseason, perhaps for this very reason. Are playoffs fun to watch? Of course. Do the best teams always win? No, which is exactly what makes the EPL and other European Soccer leagues so effective. In Premier League history, I would argue that the best team does indeed always win the title, and that’s largely because the league relies so much on ties. Take this year’s Leicester team for example: they tied 12 times. If most non-soccer-fan-Americans had it their way, Leicester would have to defend their regular season title with a postseason tournament. But what would be the point of that? They have already proven they were by far the most competent team in the EPL this season. The only reasons to have a postseason would be money for the clubs and entertainment for the fans. Once the American sporting community embraces the tie, soccer will naturally become an even more viable option for sports.
Author: Josh Thomas
We are happy to welcome Josh to our blog team. It's great to have multiple perspectives on soccer instead of just my own. To learn more about Josh and his love for the beautiful game, please click here!