Evan Ream vs. Matt Ream: An EPL Game


I've never been particularly interested in the English Premier League.

It's not that I don't like all forms of soccer -- I'm the guy who drove six hours round trip to watch a team from Armenia play a fourth division team -- it's just that for the majority of my soccer watching career, I've gravitated towards watching American soccer.

For my brother, Matt, though, the Premier League is the professional soccer he probably consumes the most. Matt and his friends (who are mostly Liverpool fans) constantly text each other about the EPL games they're watching, their various fantasy leagues, and the status of Liverpool.

Meanwhile, I probably watch 3-4 EPL games each year, mostly with my rec league soccer team. This year, I'm looking to change that, and so I borrowed an idea I heard on the Double Pivot Podcast to hopefully incentivize me to consume more Premier League.

I've never subscribed to the dogma in this country that the EPL is the strongest league in the world (I think it's likely that it's simply the most culturally similar of the top leagues and thus we're drawn to it), but it's certainly the most relevant. This makes it important for me to learn more.

So here's the game:

With two people, randomly decide who selects first, and then alternate picking teams from the EPL until none remain. Each player will end up with 10 teams. I've slightly changed the way we picked teams, but it's very similar to the way the podcast did it. At the end of the season, whoever's teams have earned more total points in the league standings wins. Simple, right?

I love this idea because it requires minimal effort -- I can follow to the games closely, or simply check the table once a week to observe my progress. There will be no issue of me failing to update my lineup three weeks into the season or forgetting about the trade deadline.

Now for the fun part. The prize for the winner of the Double Pivot Podcast was the loser had to read a soccer biography or autobiography of the winner's choice and then review it on the show. I enjoyed the possibilities of this idea and put it forth to my brother. He agreed, but suggested more "prizes" more frequently. So we split the season up into four quarters.

Quarter one is comprised from matches 1-9, quarter two is comprised from matches 10-19. And so on. The prizes?

Quarter one: The winner picks out a soccer-related t-shirt (up to a $30 value) and mails it to the loser who then must adorn said shirt in a post on this website as well as Facebook. Then the loser must reimburse the winner for his financial efforts.

Quarter two: The winner picks out a soccer biography or autobiography that the loser must pay for, then read and review on this website.

Quarter three: The loser must find and watch United Passions and review it on this website.

Quarter four: We haven't figured this one out yet and are taking suggestions. Email me at evanream3@gmail.com or send me a Tweet @EvanReam if you have an idea.

Overall: The loser must read 50 Shades of Grey and most definitely NOT review it on this website.

Because I know next to nothing about the Premier League (what happened to Leeds???), and because I really don't want to read 50 Shades of Grey, I set out early yesterday to research ahead of our 7:30 p.m. PST draft.

And by "research," I mean "Google 'where will each EPL team finish in the 2016-17 season?'"

From there, I found three different predictions from major publications as well as the title odds from two betting websites. I wrote down the name of each team in a chart and then placed a number, one through twenty, next to the team in accordance to where the publication or betting site ranked them.

After this, I plugged in each team's final standing from last year, added up each number, and then placed the team with the lowest number into my "No. 1" ranking on my chart. The second lowest number became my "No. 2" team. And so on.

It should be noted that this sort of method of aggregated predictions doesn't actually work that well, at least according to a recent episode of Freakonomics Radio that I listened to. According to the show's host, Stephen Dubner, alleged "experts" are actually fairly poor at predicting sports results, likely because there's very little actual incentive for them to be correct in their predictions.

I'm sure Dubner is right, but still.

With my 20 rankings, I then moved teams up or down a few spots based on additional research. If two clubs were the same in my eyes, or at least close, I tended to value teams higher if they weren't playing in European competition than the teams that were. If neither team, or both teams, were, I evaluated their rosters and manager and made an arbitrary choice.

Then I moved Sunderland A.F.C. and West Bromwich Albion down a few spots each because they both played in Sacramento and were both fucking boring.

Here's the final rankings I came up with:

1. Manchester City

2. Chelsea

3. Manchester United

4. Arsenal

5. Liverpool

6. Tottenham Hotspur

7. Everton

8. Leicester City

9. Stoke City

10. West Ham United

11. Southampton

12. Crystal Palace

13. Middlesbrough

14. Swansea City

15. Sunderland A.F.C.

16. A.F.C. Bournemouth

17. Watford

18. West Bromwich Albion

19. Burnley

20. Hull City

I can't wait to see how far off I am from the final table, but first, a few points about what I found:

  • Nearly every poll or ranking really like Manchester City to win and really liked Hull's relegation prospects.

  • There was a fairly certain consensus of who would contest for the top four.

  • I probably ranked Middlesbrough too highly. Yolo.

I have no idea how this game will turn out, but my theory is that selecting the top teams isn't nearly as important as avoiding the really bad teams. This isn't a good justification by any means, but Aston Villa finished 17 points below any team last year, while Leicester City only earned 10 more points than second-place Arsenal. We'll see if this idea proves correct.

So over FaceTime with Matt last night, we gathered to pick our teams. In order to decide who went first, I shuffled (apparently this is really loud over FaceTime) my double deck of cards from The Paris and asked Matt to pick red or black.

He picked red.

The card was black.

It was the eight of clubs.

With the first selection, I chose Manchester City.

With the last selection, he "chose" Hull City.

Below, our teams of teams.

Evan's team:

A.F.C. Bournemouth

Burnley

Chelsea

Leicester City

Liverpool

Manchester City

Middlesbrough

Southampton

Swansea City

Tottenham Hotspur

Matt's team:

Arsenal

Crystal Palace

Everton

Hull City (lol)

Manchester United

Stoke City

Sunderland A.F.C.

Watford

West Bromwich Albion

West Ham United

I'm happy with my team. Matt says he isn't happy with his. He didn't come up with a list and literally forgot that Tottenham was a team when it came to his third selection. He says he would have picked them instead of Everton. We'll have to look back on this later to see if that ends up helping him or hurting him. If he has to watch United Passions because Everton shit the bed, so be it.

I'm excited. I hope I never have to learn what 50 Shades of Grey is actually about.

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