OK, it’s soccer. It’s the MLS. WHO CARES, right? Well, if Orlando City owner Flavio Augusto Da Silva has his way, a great many humans will care a great deal soon. A very great many humans. And a very great deal. Mr. Da Silva told the Spanish-language, Real Madrid-focused publication Marca that … (Hang on. Bear with us. This is tough to even think about, let alone write. It’s so damn ludicrous.) Da Silva, who already signed Brazilian semi-retiree Kaka this past season, now has his sights set on … (No, really. We thought this was from Onion Sports when we saw it. It’s THAT freaking ridiculous.) Cristiano Ronaldo. [caption id="attachment_1195" align="aligncenter" width="474"] I am Cristiano. Everybody who is not Cristiano sucks. That is right. You, too. Yes, you. You suck. Because you are not Cristiano. Only I am Cristiano.[/caption] “Hopefully, we can sign him for this upcoming season,” Da Silva told Marca. “We’ve always heard that he’d like to come to the United States to play.” In other transfer news, we’re hearing the Laredo Lemurs, defending champions of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, are trying to work a deal for Mike Trout. [caption id="attachment_1196" align="alignleft" width="261"] Where else are you going to see a Laredo Lemurs logo today? And it's on a post about Cristiano Ronaldo. Life, man. You just never know.[/caption] Also? The CFL’s Montreal Alouettes are all hot-n-bothered with Tom Brady and will submit a transfer bid to New England in January. Oh, and the Manchester Magic of the English Professional Basketball League? Yep. They want Lebron. All right. Let’s say Da Silva isn’t living in a dream world. After all, David Beckham came to America and blah blah blah. It’s SOCCER! WHO CARES?? WHY ARE WE EVEN WRITING THIS?? Still, though. What if Da Silva really believes what he’s saying and he’s not just having a go at the good people of Madrid? Let’s figure out what it might take to get the best soccer player of the 21st century into Orlando City purple next season. A cash bid would start – start – at $100 million. That’s just to buy the right to negotiate a contract with Ronaldo. That’s pocket change for Real Madrid, which splashed out far more than that for former Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale two years ago. But, as we say, $100 million is just a start. We’re thinking Da Silva will need to sweeten the deal. Let’s throw in, we don’t know … lifetime passes to Walt Disney World for every Real Madrid season ticket holder? Oh, and instead of Orlando City, the team will now be called Ronaldo City. In fact, the city of Orlando will now be called the city of Ronaldo. OK, that’s the transfer fee settled. Now, about Cristiano’s salary … NOPE. That’s all we’re writing about soccer for today. What time do Pittsburgh and Baltimore kick off?
[caption id="attachment_1018" align="aligncenter" width="474"] Like it or not, now that NBC has extended its deal with the Premier League another six seasons, English soccer is here to stay. Illustration: Steve Hill[/caption] You need to pick a team from the English Premier League. Pick a team and love it. Hate it, too, sometimes, because that’s the nature of the sport they call football. But pick a team and support it, because as much as you love your current U.S. teams – and love to hate your rivals – you haven’t experienced true sports passion until you’ve channeled your attention toward the English game. A few things you ought to know: The top tier of English soccer is, as mentioned, the Premier League. There are 20 teams, and they play each other twice (home and away) during the 38-game, nine-month season. While the top tier of English football has been contested since the First Division was founded in 1888, the formation of the Premier League in 1992 moved the culture away from the rampant hooliganism that marred the sport in the 1970s and ‘80s and toward a more corporate image, bolstered by big TV contracts. In the U.S., NBC just negotiated a six-year extension of its deal to broadcast every game of the Premier League season on its cable and broadcast properties. The English game is here to stay. Oh, a couple more things. There is no post-season. When the regular season ends, the champion is crowned. Also, there are two domestic tournaments that teams from every English soccer division compete for each year – the League Cup and the Football Association (FA) Cup. In addition, the top five or six teams in the Premier League compete in ongoing, season-long tournaments with teams from other European leagues – the Champions League and the Europa League. The league takes a few weekends off during the season for “international breaks,” during which the players who are good enough compete for their national teams in friendly matches or qualifiers for competitions such as the European Football Championship (the Euro Cup). Also, there's this: The three Premier League teams that finish in 18th-20th place are relegated to the second division (called the Championship) for the ensuing season. They are replaced in the Premier League by the two teams that finish at the top of the Championship, along with a third team that wins a playoff among the third-sixth-place teams. This is known as promotion, and it means the teams enjoy a SUPER HUGE payday (as much as 60 million pounds) and get to play with the big boys for at least one year. Got all that? Good. Because now it gets a bit more complex. How, exactly, does an American go about picking an English team to support? Well, start by acknowledging that it might be more fun to simply choose one of the two MEGA teams from Spain – Barcelona or Real Madrid – and enjoy their respective romps through that country’s relatively weak La Liga schedule. If you love winning, if nothing else really matters to you, if you gravitate toward high-salaried superstars who are guaranteed to post video-game-like performances match after match after match, by all means follow Real Madrid or Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo. Lionel Messi. Either one could be considered the Michael Jordan of soccer. Or maybe one is Jordan, the other LeBron James. Whatever. They’re great, they win all the things, and (yawn) … sorry, got a little bored, there. But … If you want passion – true passion – the kind of passion that forces you to wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday or Sunday morning for a pregame show … go for the English game. You won’t be sorry. Do yourself a favor this weekend. Find a local pub/sports bar that shows Premier League games on the telly in the morning. Do a Google search for your city and, say, Liverpool or Arsenal fan club. That should help you find the places you’re looking for. Set your alarm Saturday morning and head down to the pub to catch the 7:45 a.m. ET Chelsea-Arsenal London Derby (local rivalry games are called “derbies,” which is pronounced “darbies”). Yes, it’s early. But listen – defending champion Chelsea is mired in an early-season funk that has them flirting with the relegation zone, and London derbies are always a fantastic spectacle. It’s a good introduction to the league, if you have not already been caught by its history, passion and – yes – the beauty of it. So, back to the question at hand. What team is right for you? We’re not going to try to re-invent the wheel here. We’ll come right and tell you that Tottenham Hotspur is the official team of the Smack Zone, and that our bitter rival is Arsenal. It’s like Red Sox-Yankees on steroids, that rivalry. We love it. Furthermore: Come on you Spurs! We still miss this guy, Gareth Bale, who took his talents south to Real Madrid for a record transfer fee of $134 million in 2013: [caption id="attachment_1019" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Gareth Freaking Bale. He's taken his talents to Real Madrid, but they still miss him at Tottenham.[/caption] (We've been ordered to insert a disclaimer here: No one else at Smack Apparel gives a crap about Tottenham Hotspur! – Smack Apparel Management) OK, then. Moving on ... So, here’s the thing. A lot of publications already provided handy, dandy guides on how to pick your Premier League team. We’ve decided to help you out by listing a few of the most useful, starting with the recent Buzzfeed quiz: What Premier League Club Are You? Here’s one that helps you pick a team based on your favorite rapper: Choosing a Premier League Club Based on Your Favorite Rapper. Here’s one from USA Today that provides oddly relevant non-sequiturs for evidence: Your Guide to Picking a Favorite Premier League Team. And here are three more that take a bit more measured approach to helping you with the selection process: How to Pick a Premier League Team and Not Look Like a Fool. (From Slant.) A VICE Sports GUide to How to Pick an English Premier League team. The New Fan's 2015-16 Guide to Picking a New Premier League Club. (From NBC.) And here’s a video of a cat that got loose on the pitch during a Liverpool-Tottenham match a few years ago: [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keOEmSCiPI8]