Lord knows that in my checkered career as a journalist, I’ve filed the odd story constructed on the most precarious of angles—or, to let you kids in some insider nomenclature, “hooks.” So I read The New York Times’ unusual story about Burnley, the tiny, plucky team battling to survive among the jackbooted global brands of the English Premier League, with professional as well as sporting interest. The author leads with the suggestion that Burnley’s improbable saga—a team with a payroll budget that might as well have been collected from passengers on a single moderately crowded city bus has already beaten Manchester United and Everton—has attracted a new American following to the club’s claret banner.
And, hey—maybe! Burnley’s loss to Chelsea did feature in one of ESPN’s new early-morning Premiership broadcasts, which are already drawing bigger viewerships than prime-time MLS games. It stands to reason that at least some of the hundreds of thousands of viewers decided to pull for the underdog against Roman Abramovich’s valets. Some of those folk will stick with the little ‘uns as the season goes forward and gravity exerts its inexorable tug back towards regular meetings with Scunthorpe. Burnley is a great story, the kind all sports fans—especially American sports fans, reared in the land of Rocky and the salary cap—love.
Still…would it have killed to offer a single quote or anecdote supporting the central thesis of the piece? Killed? Instead, we are offered the following odd assertion:
Burnley’s emphasis on style may be why some soccer followers in the United States, especially older ones, share the perspective that this is a club, a philosophy, to admire. It tries to bridge an income gap that guarantees each of the Premier League’s 20 clubs a minimum of $50 million a season.
Whizziwhatzit? “Especially older ones”? Is this a veiled dig at all the gel-haired kids in their spendy Chelsea and Real Madrid replica jerseys who now crowd our nation’s once-lonely soccer bars? Is the author upset because he now must stand in line for Guinness behind strapping young d-bags in Cristiano Ronaldo kits, where once he could have enjoyed his midweek Carling Cup fixtures in silence? Has American soccer culture matured to the point where the truly old school can bitch about the feckless kids of today and revel in crusty sentimentality?
Maybe this constitutes good news, after all.