We have a very special tradition every four years in which we come together collectively and elect our leaders in the US.* Billions of dollars were spent which is kind of nice to think about the people who were actually being paid. Some jobs, albeit temporary, were created and I’m sure thousands of articles and tens of books are being prepared to analyze all the numbers that are released. Which I think is cool, we have a unprecedented ability to take the numbers and the technology available and really analyze trends in voting patterns and tying that to social movements while keeping a gauge on the feelings of the voters who were expressing themselves on social media outlets. I mean think of all the ways you could use that information, not only in a political way but to influence areas with specific advertising or finding out ways to exploit consumer behavioooooooooring! I, not unlike millions of other Amurikins, were quite happy to see the end of the election cycle to finally see the ceasing of the seemingly endless advertisements, mailers, and especially the awkward conversations that were taking place. Pitting friend against friend and splitting families apart! And I’m sure everyone has that one friend who takes it a little too far, gets a little too preachy on one end or another, someone who definitely “drank the Kool Aid“. If you can’t really name that friend then I’m sorry, you are probably that person. And you are terrible.
*Voter turnout numbers appear to be hovering around 120 Million, nearly a 10% drop off since the elections in 2008 and representing something close to 40% of the population. Now the population figures show children and elderly, both who are ineligible to vote** but some places are reporting of “eligible” voters the figures are around 60%. So yeah. That still kind of sucks.
All kidding aside, I think that there is definite room to change the election process. There is an inherent simplicity and beauty in the popular vote. It is taking the vote of all the citizens (who choose to vote) and tally who is the winner. Unfortunately this is not how presidents are elected. There is this kind of weird thing called the electoral college (perfect explanation here). So what we have is kind of deviated democratic process. Don’t like it, but that segments nicely to the really important part of this post: Soccer.
So this season hasn’t been the best as far as my personal soccer fandom. On the one hand I’ve had the opportunity to attend several games at Livestrong Sporting Park* which is just an awesome, awesome experience. If you ever have the opportunity, I would highly recommend a match. The atmosphere is always buzzing and there really is not a bad seat in the whole stadium. The Legends area is growing pretty nicely thus far especially with the addition of the Hollywood Casino this year. On the complete other end, top seeded Sporting KC crashed out of the playoffs earlier this week, unfortunately not able to make up a two goal deficit from the first leg in Houston.
*There is a real discussion about what is to become of Livestrong as both a brand and a major sponsor of a professional sports stadium but that will have to be left for another day.
Two legged playoff matches are a fairly regular fixture for league championships around the world, though the structure is a bit different in the MLS. Most leagues run concurrent competitions which means teams seem like they are constantly playing (especially the better teams) which draws lots and lots of revenue. Plus that means that soccer can be shown pretty much everyday. They are not hampered like the NFL which is limited (legally) to Thursday/Sunday/Monday. For example, in England this week, Premier League matches were played Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. UEFA Champions League played Tuesday and Wednesday. Europa League was Thursday. Friday begins some of the other Leagues in France and Germany and it rolls onward into Saturday’s Premier League. So a team will be competing to win its domestic league (think like our regular season) while simultaneously vying for a league cup (playoff format) or for some of the better teams, international glory as well.
The MLS is structured similarly to the other major professional leagues in the US in that it runs a “regular season” which determines the seeding for the playoff format. The two-legged format plays one team hosting and then switching in a second game. Spreads the game out and kind of gives the opportunity for both teams score some revenue from home tickets and television. Oh and something, something competitive balance.**
For Sporting KC, another disappointing early exit at the hands of Houston after a pretty great regular season. I am glad that KC does have a good sports team to follow though. With the (in order of embarrassment) Chiefs, Command, Royals, T-Bones all flailing around the last several years it is nice to have something to be proud of in Sporting KC, despite the frankly ridiculous name.***
**A good example is baseball and basketball (MLB and NBA respectively) who have 5 or 7 game series. This format not only ensures the aforementioned revenue streams but also gives the theoretically better team to prove itself over multiple matches. So its not just a one-off. It is important to note that probably the best and most dramatic tournament is NCAA’s March Madness Tournament which is a single elimination tournament. The combination of “amateur” players and the tendency for a single game to swing dramatically one direction or another fuels what might be a perfect tournament.
***The CHL team Missouri Mavericks were in the playoffs the last couple of years and actually went to game 7 of the semifinals last season. I like watching hockey but hockey strategy eludes me. It is one of those things where actually playing the game helps to clarify rules and makes it easier to understand strategies. About as far as I got in strategy for hockey was to hit everyone and shoot a lot. Thank you Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey.
Furthermore, my favourite soccer team, Liverpool FC is having a terrible season as well. They are sitting 12th of 20 currently. Quite a long drop for a team that has the second most Premier League titles (18) and had consistently been top 4 for the better part of 20 years. They are currently under new management as club legend Kenny Daglish stepped down at the end of the season after failing to inspire the squad to much success. The US owners, a bit reluctant to splash the cash, were not able to give new manager Brendan Rodgers a second striker outside of the polarizing and often brilliant Luis Suarez. There is a winter trading window where hopefully this can be remedied. The season though looks to be in shambles a bit. My expectation is if everyone stays healthy, Liverpool climbs back into a Europa spot and maybe if all plays nicely wins the Europa this year but its hard to imagine. YNWA!