If this story involved practically any sport other than soccer in Britain, Hollywood would probably be salivating over the potential movie rights.
The best way I can think of how to explain Havant & Waterlooville’s FA Cup run to most Americans is to imagine that there is a gigantic, nationwide baseball tournament that occurs once a year and includes all major league teams, all minor league teams, and a bunch of twilight and rec league amateur and semipro teams full of local people who have day jobs and play just for the heck of it. Now, imagine one of those local twilight league teams has somehow advanced to the third round of the tournament, where they have just somehow knocked off a decent Triple-A team, and now they will be playing the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the next round.
Since I’ve been staying home with the baby, I’ve been watching an awful lot of English soccer. I’ve discovered that there is absolutely nothing worth watching on network and most cable TV in the middle of weekday afternoons, when the kid typically takes a nap. Luckily, we get the Fox Soccer Channel and a five-hour time delay between here and England, which means that night games pop up on the tube live in mid-afternoon. It beats the snot out of soaps and Oprah, that’s for sure. Combine that with my having spent eight years making a living out of covering and promoting college sports for a school with often nationally-ranked men’s and women’s soccer programs, and with my grandmother being from Manchester — home of the Red Devils, mind you — and it makes sense that I’ve gotten hooked on watching Barclays Premier League and FA Cup games very quickly.
While I would love to see Havant & Waterlooville pull off one of the biggest sports upsets of all time against Liverpool in the next round January 26, they’ll almost certainly just wind up being sacrificial lambs to the team that piled five goals on Luton Town in just over one half yesterday. Still, I’d bet the players on Havant & Waterlooville will look back fondly on the chance to play in such a less-than-once-in-a-lifetime game no matter how lopsided the final score becomes. Although, if Liverpool plays in the next round like it did in its first go at Luton last week, I suppose anything could happen.
I thought going into this week that I’d like nothing more than to see Liverpool get axed from the tournament live on TV by a lower-tier League One club teetering on the brink of financial meltdown and relegation to League Two. However, the infinitesimally small possibility of seeing Liverpool get eliminated by a non-league team of part-timers would be even better (note to confused Americans: Liverpool-Manchester United is probably a bigger rivalry than the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in baseball over here).
Tags: Barclay's Premier League, FA Cup, Football, Fox Soccer Channel, Havant & Waterlooville, Liverpool, Liverpool FC, Luton, Luton Town, Manchester, Manchester United, Premier League, rivalries, Soccer