Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Category Archives: Sports

European Futbol Is Better Than American Football

Aguero Man Ups Against David Luiz

European Futbol is better than American Football. That’s something I never thought I’d write, think, say or feel. But, it’s true.

I’ve never been a soccer guy. I grew up playing baseball and basketball. While the soccer team was practicing, I was busy running cross country. In trying to watch or follow soccer games, I found them to be boring snooze-fests. Hockey, for all of its lack of actual scoring at least had mean beating each other up. There was “action.”

As a dad though, I’ve been watching both Cora and John play soccer. They started out in the kickers program and have quickly moved into “U” play. Cora, in particular has really taken a shine to soccer and it to her. She’s very talented and certainly better at 9 than I ever was, at any age. I marvel at her skills, her work ethic and love for this sport.

Each year, I pick 3 new things to do or learn. In 2016, one of those 3, was to pick a soccer team, follow that team and root for that team, in hopes I would become more inspired and knowledgable. I figured, at worst, I would be able to understand the game better, which would help me appreciate what Cora was doing on the field.

Never did I expect to become, not only, smitten with soccer, but to see it as superior to watching American Football. Before I get to the rationale behind such a proclamation, let me explain how I got here.

Two of my very good friends are die hard soccer fans. They support Chelsea and Liverpool. Several work colleagues are also fans of teams in the English Premier League. Specifically I work with or have had the opportunity to work with fans of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal. All of that made choosing the Premier League over other soccer leagues, quite easy.

So we have a league! But, we need a team. By default, any teams my friends and co-workers were supporting, were off the table. Half the fun in picking a team is the shit-talking and to pick a team someone else was already following would make that time-honored tradition more challenging.

Thus, I turned to the internet. I googled, “which Premier League team should I follow?” This lead to several quizzes. I took somewhere in the neighborhood of half a dozen quizzes to help narrow the field and hopefully lead to an obvious choice. The sum of these quizzes lead to a clear choice: Manchester City. In fairness, I would say, Arsenal routinely bubbled up as a choice that fit my answers.

After sharing the quizzes with several people, along with my answers, they understood how I arrived at Manchester City.

  1. They don’t have a storied history
  2. In soccer, money matters, and they have war chest
  3. They’re routinely in contention for the championship

But, they also rock the UNC Tarheel color of powder/baby blue. It was like fate.

So, Manchester City it was. I had a league and I had a team, but I knew nothing. So began my training, so to speak…courtesy of my 2 friends. For the first game of the Premier League season, I found myself at a bar around 6:30 AM, with my friend. We drank beer, ate breakfast, I asked questions, he answered, I asked more questions, he answered more, we drank more beer. 2 hours later, the game was over. We won. I was hooked.

Let me explain why I now believe soccer/European Football is better than American Football/NFL.

  1. There are NO commercials in soccer. None. Zero. They play 45 minutes of uninterrupted sport. They break for 15 minutes. They come back for 45 minutes. Think about that. No freaking commercials.
  2. Because of #1, the games never last more than 2 hours. An NFL game would last 2 hours (very unlikely), it could be 3 hours…it could be more. You never know.
  3. There’s constant unpredictable action. The keyword being, “unpredictable.” If it’s 3rd and 12 from your own 15, what do you think your team is going to do? I can tell you. A safe hand-off, a screen pass, or a designed roll out. What will the defense do? Easy! They will most likely back off, play safe, and ensure a punt will happen. It’s 100% predictable. Yes, things can happen, but for the most part, the game is scripted.
  4. Now, let’s talk about action. In a NFL game, where does the action come from? On the offensive side, you could argue it’s only with 4 players. The QB, the RB, the WR and the TE. That’s it. Defensively? The MLB, DE and CB. Realistically, on any given play, at most 6 players are involved in the action, so to speak. In soccer, sure, your Strikers do the bulk of the scoring, but every single person is involved in passing the ball, tackling, attempting an interception, playing for the counter-attack and so on. In the same way that West Coast basketball can be high energy with every player involved (think a Phoenix vs Golden State game), soccer is that, all the time.
  5. Because we live in the United States and for me, more specifically, I live in the Central Time zone, the games are on at 6:30 AM, 7:30 AM or 8:30 AM. Occasionally, they’ll be on at 10:00 AM. Games are generally played on Saturday or Sunday. What does this mean? Well, go back to #1. It means that by 8:30 AM, most game days, the game is over and the WHOLE day is still in front of me. Think back to college and your early morning tail-gating experiences for BIG games. That’s soccer, every weekend. You’re having a beer at 7:00 AM. You’re eating sausage, eggs and potatoes. You’re talking trash. You’re in your shirt or jersey and everyone knows what team you’re rooting for.
  6. This brings me to the people. I have watched Bulls games, Braves games, Rangers game and Giants games at bars. They’re fine. They’re fun. Perhaps the best bar experience was watching the Cubs World Series games at Chicago bars. The energy was there. But, it should be, it’s a World Series game. In all those experiences, I never made random temporary friends or felt a connection to other people at the bar. When you show up at a bar for your Premier League game, you instantly know who your friends are. They’re wearing the same colors as you. They welcome you in. They share in your anguish and if they’re fans of the other team they will in fact talk trash to you. The people make it fun. They make it worth getting up early for.
  7. Where as the NFL last 22 weeks or so, with 16 games, 1 bye and of course the playoffs, your soccer team plays year round. The Premier League is 38 matches, with roughly a 1-match a week pace. But, they also play in other tournaments. Your roller coaster lasts nearly an entire year. You’re pulled in for nearly 52 weeks. You care for 365 days.

Now, the above, while all true, does not mean soccer is perfect. In fact I have several gripes or things that still drive me mad.

  1. Too many games end in ties. I’m a big believer of wins and losses. The NBA and MLB have this right. Hockey and the NFL, do not. Every game should end up penalty kicks, if needed, to determine a winner, just like it happens in major tournaments.
  2. Your team’s jersey or kit as they refer to it (along with the shorts) changes every year. Literally, every year. Sometimes it’s a subtle change, sometimes it’s a major one. I could see how this is incredibly frustrating for fans. At the same time, this brings in boku revenue to the clubs, which help ensure NO commercials. So, yeah, I get it, but I don’t love it.
  3. Related to #2, this is sorta funny; they don’t have baseball caps. Think about it for second. Whether you follow the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL or a college team, the fitted cap is an iconic way to show who you support. They don’t do baseball caps. They do scarves. Scarves? WTF?
  4. You could argue that the concept of “Any Given Sunday” is a good thing…or a bad thing. If you have Durant, Curry and Klay and you’re playing the Sixers, you’re going to win 99 times out of 100. If you’re the Cowboys with Zeke, Bryant and Das, you’re going to win 99 times out of 100 when you play the browns. But, even when you have Suarez, Neymar and MESSI you can lose to Tottenham (aka a team who is very solid, makes the playoffs, but never wins the championship) 50% of the time Maddening.
  5. There are so many strange rules. The most puzzling is that a soccer field need not be the same length and width. You can play a team in January and play on a field that’s 100 meters x 70 meters, then play a team in February with a field that’s 110 meters x 64 meters. Could you imagine playing on a smaller field in Dallas and a bigger field in New England? Huh?

So that’s what I got. I’m sold. I can’t believe it took me this long to get invested. Something people have asked me is why I got into it? It’s a good question. I know I covered a portion of this in the intro, regarding my daughter and her interest and proficiency. But, there is another reason. In the same way, I took a wine class and golf lessons so that I could be more involved in professional settings outside the office, soccer delivers on the same need. If you find yourself in any city across the world, at a conference of business meeting and think you have nothing in common with anyone in the room, I assure you will, if you follow soccer. Bring up a recent game between your team and another or Mess vs. Ronaldo and instantly you’ll have a connection.

While it’s not the sport of kings it is a worldly sport with universal appeal.

Earning Your Keep

John talking with his coach

This weekend, John’s traveling team played in a basketball tournament in Lakeville, MN. On Championship Sunday, John didn’t play a single minute and I could not have been more proud of him, his team and his coach.

John’s in 2nd grade and playing “up” with the 4th grade team. The kids are bigger, faster and more experienced. At this level, you have to earn your playing time. You are not guaranteed time on the court. There are no participation medals. Well, there are, but that’s just how the tournaments are run, not representative of his team.

I applaud his coach for explaining up front at the beginning of the season, that you need to work hard in practice, but working hard doesn’t mean you get to play and it certainly doesn’t mean you win. Rather than pout or complain about a lack of playing time, John clapped, rooted and supported his team. He stayed engaged, watching, observing, learning.

It’s such a nice change of pace from the “everyone plays” approach that seems to be becoming more mainstream. There are no handouts in life (well, there are, and there are too many, but you get my point) and learning now, that you have to earn opportunity and then when given that opportunity you must take advantage of it, is surely something that will benefit him in the long run.

Alex Rodriguez vs. Alfonso Soriano

Quick disclaimer: I think Alex Rodriguez is overrated, over paid, doesn’t show up in the clutch, and is a whiner.  Ok with that out of the way, many people consider A-Rod (silly nickname) the best baseball player in the league, a sure-fire hall-of-famer, and destined to rewrite the record books.  Back in 2003, the New York Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.  I thought the move was silly and didn’t make sense.  Soriano made less and offered similar production.  Not to mention, the Yankees already had Derek Jeter at shortstop.  Well the Yankees didn’t call me up for my opinion and as such they’ve been “stuck” with A-Rod for the last 5 seasons.  During those 5 seasons the Yankees haven’t won a World Series, but the Boston Red Sox have won 2.  Just saying.

Ok, well I’m a data driven guy.  I love data.  With Soriano and the Chicago Cubs seemingly headed to the World Series (wouldn’t it be great if they won) it got me thinking about Soriano and Rodriguez.  I pulled the stats and I was flabbergasted. For the purposes of streamlining this comparison, we’re going to look at the following statistical categories: Salary, Games, Hits, Runs, Stolen Bases, RBI, Home Runs, Batting Average, OPS, and World Series titles.  Check this out:

  • Salary: A-Rod $120,389,252 (AVG of $24,077,850) vs. Soriano $46,900,000 (AVG of $9,380,000)
  • Games: A-Rod 743 vs. Soriano 681
  • Hits: A-Rod 845 vs. Soriano 799
  • Runs: A-Rod 578 vs. Soriano 461
  • Stolen Bases: A-Rod 104 vs. Soriano 125
  • RBI: A-Rod 592 vs. Soriano 423
  • Home Runs: A-Rod 201 vs. Soriano 166
  • Batting AVG: A-Rod .304 vs. Soriano .284
  • OPS: A-Rod .975 vs. Sorano .867
  • World Series Titles: A-Rod 0 vs. Soriano 0
A few things stand out to me:
  1. A-Rod made nearly 3X as much as Soriano did from 2004 – 2008
  2. A-Rod has played in 62 more games
  3. On the whole A-Rod’s raw stats are better than Soriano’s with the exception of stolen bases
  4. Neither player has produced a title

So on the surface, A-Rod seems like the better performer.  If your course correct for the games played differential, the numbers get within +/- 10% of each other.  For example Soriano averages 1 home run every 4.10 games.  If you scale out the home runs for Soriano to the same 743 games A-Rod has played you’d end up with 181 home runs.  Fascinating.

The real question though should be, “Is Alex Rodriguez worth 156.69% more (that’s the salary differential) then Soriano?”  If we assume the goal for the Yankees, as it is every year, is a World Series, then no.  But, let’s be serious, no one wins the World Series every year.  So let’s find a way to normalize the player’s value.  Thank god for win shares.  During the time period we are evaluating, Soriano had 98 win shares, while A-Rod had 151 win shares.

According to the win shares formula, A-Rod produced 53 more win shares. Based on the formula, 53 win shares, means A-Rod generated 17.67 more wins over those 5 seasons.  As a percentage he was 153% better than Soriano.  This is where the surprise came in.  Even though the raw numbers don’t seem to indicate A-Rod was worth 156.69% more money, his win shares seem to indicate he is.

For what it’s worth, I’d argue the Yankees would have been better off keeping Soriano and filling the third base hole with someone else.  But, that’s just me 🙂

MLB Baseball – Minnesota Style

Heading to a Twins game tonight; should be a lot of fun! Haven’t been to a real baseball game in a few years. Got some tickets down by home plate for only $50.00 a pop. Just goes to show you the difference between the NY and MN markets. Have to love the web…was able to purchase and print the tickets on line. No need for will call. Sweet.