Friday, May 20, 2016

An interesting year

As my junior year at OHS winds down, so is my blog. It sure was a lot of fun, and I hope to do one more  post by the beginning of next week. So many big moments in sport have happened over the past 5 or so months, so I created a timeline to put it into perspective (including links to ALL of my blog posts, in case you missed any):

December 18th, 2015: Detroit Tigers were in the midst of making big offseason moves (They later went on to sign OF Justin Upton)
December 26: 18/38ths of the way through the Premier League season, Leicester City sits just two points clear of Arsenal at the top of the league (Everyone thinks Leicester is bound to falter)
New Year's Eve: Michigan State is embarrassed by Alabama in the college football semifinal
January 24, 2016: After a run of three straight losses, Denzel Valentine (19 pts, 14 reb) and Bryn Forbes (24pts) led #11 Michigan State to a victory over #7 Maryland.
February 7: Broncos defeat the Panthers 24-10 in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning's last game.
February 14: Arsenal defeats Leicester City on a last-gasp Danny Welbeck goal, pulling 2 points behind first place.
February 16: The U.S. women's soccer team gets three wins to start off qualification for the Summer Olympics (and they will be playing in Rio this August)
February 29: The Tigers were playing their spring training opener, so I wrote a post about their legendary announcer Ernie Harwell.
March 13: MSU wins the Big Ten Basketball Tournament for the 5th time.
March 16: I did a preview of this year's March Madness basketball tournament, and picked Michigan State to win it all!
March 18 5pm: #15 seed Middle Tennessee State knocks of MSU in a historic first round upset.
April 8: "Detroit Tigers off to a Cracking Start" - The Tigers open the season with three wins, which is surely a sign of things to come?
Mid-April: Pistons are swept by Cleveland in the NBA first round and the Red Wings fall to the Tampa Bay Lighnting in the NHL first round.
May 2: Leicester City wins the Premier League defying the 5000-1 odds.
May 7: Nyquist wins the Kentucky Derby, claiming the first leg of the Triple Crown.
May 10: After attending my first Lansing United soccer match, I took a look at the flawed state of the American soccer system.
Currently: The Detroit Tigers are having a tough season with a 19-21 start, and need to turn around the pitching staff (other than Zimmermann, Verlander and the new Aussie they called up).

It has been disappointing times of late for my favorite teams. I hope the Detroit Tigers can right the ship and make a run at the playoffs, but I'm thinking that manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Rich Dubee should be fired. Ausmus may have a graduated with an A.B. in Government from Dartmouth, but his baseball smarts haven't proven up to snuff. It is time for a changing of the guard. Speaking of which, my beloved Arsenal fell well short of the title again, for the 12th straight season. Longtime manager Arsene Wenger's techniques once placed him among the best, but now he hasn't really caught up with the evolution of modern soccer. He is set to return for 2016-17, but current New York City FC manager Patrick Vieira, who formerly played at Arsenal, could be candidate to take over past next season. The Lions are, well, the same old Lions, and the Pistons should have another decent team next year. My best hope is for next season's MSU football and basketball teams with their talented young cores.

Lastly, I will leave you with some viewership statistics for my blog:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The (Continued) Growth Of Soccer In America

Soccer has rapidly grown in a popularity in America. In 2014, an ESPN poll showed that professional soccer ranked second to pro football in popularity among 12- to 17-year-olds. Major League Soccer (MLS), the top-level soccer league in the United States, was founded in 1996 off the success of the 1994 World Cup. Currently a twenty-team league, MLS teams' attendance are threatening baseball and hockey teams in their respective cities.

The successful platform of the big European soccer leagues stems from their rich history. The promotion and relegation system is how most of the world's domestic soccer leagues operate, but the American system is different. Teams only move to the MLS when there are more expansion teams added, but these are only to the old team linked by ownership and team name and barely resemble the prior roster and coaching staff. Prominent "pro/rel" activists such as Ted Westervelt have been leading the push for change to the American soccer league setup, but it seems unlikely the MLS owners would budge, due to a potential drop off in income. I believe the current system is hurting the popularity of Major League Soccer, as opposed to the more popular European leagues which capture over a million U.S. TV viewers each week. AFC Bournemouth, for example, was playing in the fourth-tier "League Two" in 2009, and worked their way up to the top level English Premier League starting this season. Now imagine if a team from Lansing, Michigan could do the same...

Lansing United (blue and white) takes on Ann Arbor FC in a season
opening exhibition [Personal Photo]
Lansing United is now in their third season and they look set to be playing in the NPSL, three levels below MLS, for many years to come. Lansing United plays against other teams from the NPSL Great Lakes West Conference, and in 2014 won the league and played in the NPSL national semifinals. Most of the roster consist of college players, with a few older players mixed in. I think it is important to support a local team  - that is why I root for the Detroit sports teams as well. This is opposed the type of fan that roots for Manchester United, the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Notre Dame football. It is easy to root for historically successful teams. As much as love my Arsenal (soccer team based in north London), I feel more of a connection to my local team. Lansing United had 556 fans at their season opener last Saturday, but had over 1,000 fans for their game against Detroit City FC last season. They are still a new team looking for more fans, so I'd suggest taking a look at the schedule, and thinking of going to a game.