April 2010

You Play To Win (Most Of) The Games!

As many of our valued readers know, I, Jon Levy, am a West Ham fan. It is my cross to bear, and even in the team’s current end-of-days scenario with relegation threatening, I still get excited for Hammers games, hoping I’m going to see Sandro Diamanti do something brilliant or Carlton Cole out-muscle an entire back line before executing a classy final touch to put one past the opposing keeper. But today I am utterly disgusted with West Ham United, and it has nothing to do with the on-field product/garbage that they shove down my throat on a weekly basis.

It was revealed on Friday that on March 27, West Ham United lodged a formal complaint to the Premier League over Fulham’s player selection in their loss to West Ham’s relegation rivals Hull City over the weekend. I am so sick of this shit! Fulham had played an FA Cup game three days before and were aiming to keep their players fresh for their Europa match in the ensuing midweek, so Roy Hodgson sat some of his regulars in an effort to keep them fresh and healthy for a run at UEFA’s version of the NIT. West Ham noticed what Hodgson was doing, and, in the wake of the positive result for Hull, filed a complaint with the Premier League?! Are you serious!? This is the same organization that benefited from Sir Alex Ferguson sitting some of his regulars against the team three years ago because Man U already had the league wrapped up. Carlos Tevez eventually struck in that match to save the Hammers from the drop that season. Pot. Kettle. Black. Infuriating.

This whole idea that it’s not fair or right for a team to rest players in preparation for a more important game or match has been spreading like cancer through the sporting realm recently, but it had to hit home with my favorite team to get me this pissed off. It’s okay for random people at the bar to tell me they loved some new M. Night Shyamalan movie, but when a friend whose taste I respect tries to sell me on the same formulaic crap with a “mind-blowing” twist that always comes at the one hour and 58 minute mark and usually involves water or something else out of Captain Planet… well that’s when it’s time for me to sit my friend down and explain a few things.

The concept that the team has to do their damnedest to win every single game is utterly ridiculous, and anyone who watches baseball knows this. But when it happens in sports that don’t have 162 game regular seasons people become irate, and quickly. “The Colts pulled Peyton Manning! They weren’t trying to win!” Listen up fan boy, your precious Colts were trying to win a Super Bowl so you could run your mouth about it at the office or in your liberal arts classes. If Peyton goes down in a regular season game you’re the one listening to crap from your coworkers or classmates, and thankfully you’re hearing it now anyway, but that’s what you get for being a Colts fan, I can’t help you there.

I also love the “I took my kid to his first game” argument. “It was Billy’s first game and Steven Gerrard didn’t even play!” This is the perfect opportunity for a great sports fan father to teach Billy about the disappointments of life. Shit happens, and kids should know that it’s going to happen to them.

The fact is that managers aren’t hired to win every game. They’re not hired to entertain you, and surprisingly enough they’re not hired to entertain little Billy either, whether it’s his first game or not. Coaches and managers are hired to win championships. It’s the same in every sport. That’s why you didn’t hear Detroit Pistons fans bitching after their 03/04 team became the first NBA franchise since… well since the Bad Boy Pistons, to win the title with defense. Ohio State fans don’t complain about a run-first team quarterbacked by Craig Krenzel that took home a BCS Championship* with a boring brand of football, and Evertonians wouldn’t dare question the well organized Lunesta-alternative that David Moyes throws on the field each season. And why is that? Because playing sound defensive soccer and scoring on one set piece a game gets Merseyside Blue into European play every year!

So obviously I could not stand to see West Ham filing a formal complaint against Fulham, who are trying to win the only championship that’s still a possibility for them this season. If the U.S.A. manages to take down England and Slovenia and somehow finds themselves in a position where they’ve got first in their group all wrapped up going into the Algeria match on June 23, you can bet Clarence Goodson and Brad Guzan are starting against the Africans, and that’s fine by me.

*Even a card carrying Hurricane Hater like me has to throw an asterisk on this one, pass-interference my ass.

Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at jon@yanksarecoming.com or @TYAC_Jon.

Jon Levy

  • Amy

    Nice asterisk — and I agree with the tenor of this argument, so much so, that I felt you should have just criticized one of the largest flaws in sporting culture as a whole. Not only do you play to win the game…uhm…championships…. when you don’t win– let’s stop rewarding you. Nothing is worse than the “participation trophies” that are all the rage now. My junior year of high school was my first experience with this. We went 6-14. That’s terrible, and it was the worst record in the history of girls soccer @ my high school. We had a banquet “honoring” the season (fine, I get it) and @ said banquet they gave us “participation” awards. That made me ill to my stomach. This is the type of stuff that ultimately engenders the formal complaint the Hammers filed– and you know what– it’s time to cut that stuff off @ the source. Good work Jon !