An American who enjoys watching and playing sports tries to get a grasp on the European way of crowning a champion.
Whenever I go back to the States people often ask what it is about America I miss the most. They always wonder if it's the food, the music, or perhaps the people. And I do miss these things, for they do constitute a completely different culture, one that is richer than most people from Europe give it credit for. But these things are but window dressing for such a competitive person as me. No, the one thing that I miss mostly is the almost endless hours of professional sports which play out across many different channels every day from midday till midnight.
Take the NFL, or American football, as Europeans know it. On Sundays from September to January, the first game begins at 1pm (13:00) and the last game ends around 12am (0:00), NY time. There may be a break in the action from 7pm to 8pm, sufficient time to cook and eat a cheeseburger or steak, and leave the dirty dishes in the sink for your wife, girlfriend or mom. On Saturdays the same opportunity exists with college football, with many more games on the TV, the exception is the games begin earlier and end later, without any breaks.
Baseball, that one game that no European will ever understand unless they live in a baseball playing country for a decade or so, has 162 regular season games. They play half the year, continuously. After they have completed their regular season the playoffs begin, the top 8 teams fighting it out to crown a champion. But to win in the playoffs in baseball, one team must win four games out of seven, to move on. The same is true in basketball and ice hockey where the top 16 teams make the playoffs after an 82 game regular season. Recently, due to the parity in the different leagues and sports, the best team in the regular season is not guaranteed success in the playoffs. It all depends on which team gets hot at the end of the year. The cream rises to the top, no lucky punch. This can be good or bad. I guess it depends on if you are the favorite or underdog. Even the Super Bowl champion in the NFL must win a minimum of two games just to reach the final. A person living in Chicago or New York never has to go more than a few years before they are the champion in something. So with these things in mind, the finality of the DFB Pokal and Champion's League is very foreign for me.
With all of these playoffs and "second seasons" in the USA, it is difficult to place all of your emotion in a final game-unless it is the seventh game of a series tied 3-3, or the Super Bowl. If your favorite team has a chance for a title it may take a month before their dream is over, or achieved. In the Bundesliga, wouldn't it be great if the top 4 teams played for the title in a playoff? It would generate energy, take our minds off of elections and economies and of course, most importantly, make money. The champion would be a complete champion, able to have lasted the season and win at the end.
But the way soccer is set-up, and I must admit I like it that way, is that a final 90 minutes (120 minutes plus a penalty kick shoot-out if we're lucky) is all that stands between two teams when they are playing for a trophy. The build up of the game and tension within the game can leave even the calmest person in a complete state of anxiety.
Munich's own FC Bayern stand poised to take an impressive double. Both series stand tied at 3-3. The deciders are on the next two Saturdays. It has been a wonderful season. Is it too much to ask for both matches to go into extra-time? I would like to see the season go on just a little bit longer.
I would not know what to do with so much time between the end of this season and the start of the next, if it were a normal year. This year is an even year, so it is not over yet! I can watch the European Championships! My team has a great chance in that one to!