2012-2013 English Premier League Preview: Prologue
Remember the final day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season and how there were multiple games being played at the same time with playoff implications? Imagine that scenario, with all of the day's games being played at the same time, with the top two teams in the league deciding who would win the title, multiple teams below them playing for a berth in another tournament that greatly improves their financial situations due to increased TV revenue, and with two of the four worst teams in the league playing just to stay in the Major Leagues. That was what the final day of the English Premier League season was like back in May. Now we are just days away from kickoff of the 2012-2013 campaign.
To recap where we left off after last season, Manchester United and Manchester City (think of Manchester United as the Yankees and City as the Mets, if the Mets sprouted lots of talent and money and there was no Bernie Madoff all of a sudden) were tied atop the league standings heading into the day, with City ahead on goal differential. United won their match easily while, at the same time, City had shockingly fallen behind 2-1 to Queens Park Rangers, who barely managed to escape being relegated to a lower league, the Championship division. Then this, the greatest bit of theater in the history of sports, happened:
I remember watching this match live on a Sunday morning (full disclosure: I am a City fan, but won't let that get in the way of objective commentary over the next few days), expecting City to trounce the competition and to bring home the title easily. It looked that way early on, then it looked grim, I got depressed and, in just five minutes, that depression turned into sheer elation. I screamed, my dog ran into the next room, my neighbors told me to shut up, I fought back tears, then failed to fight back tears. But City were champions, and now we wait to see who will be crowned champions next.
For anyone who can't bear to watch soccer, what more could you ask for in a sporting event? People, especially college football fans, stress the importance of a sport's regular season: the regular season is what decides the champion. People want scoring: the league's top teams score more than plenty of NHL teams. But, alas, haters are going to hate. This column is not to convert them, it is to celebrate the highest level of the beautiful game.
To finish refreshing your memory, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur secured spots along with City in the lucrative UEFA Champions League, but Tottenham lost their spot once Chelsea improbably won the Champions League, automatically qualifying for the fourth English spot in next year's tournament despite finishing a disappointing sixth domestically.
Bolton Wanderers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers finished in the bottom three, sending them down to England's second division, the Championship Division. Reading, Southampton and West Ham United were promoted from the Championship to replace them, in a system that every American sports league should adopt. And just remember: all of what was written above, with the exception of Chelsea winning the Champions League, was all decided on the same day, at the same time. There is nothing more chaotic and exciting than that in sports.
Elsewhere, Luis Suarez and John Terry racked up racial abuse charges, Mario Balotelli set his house on fire by shooting fireworks off in his bathroom, and Joey Barton melted down so badly that he is suspended for nearly a third of the league's 38 game season.
Now that we have taken a look back, we can go forward. For today, a rundown of how this is going to work over the rest of the week. This preview will last 4 days, covering a new topic each day.
Day 1: New Kids on the Block – a look at the Premier League's three newest members
Day 2: Transfers Galore – a recap of the transfer window and its impact on the league's sustainability
Day 3: Players to Watch – who is going to take the Premier League over in 2012/2013?
Day 4: The Main Event – predictions on who will win, who will finish last, and everything in between
So lace up your boots, get your kit on, and sleep with one eye open (you never know when Joey Barton is going to strike), because the preview begins tomorrow.