Late fall is transitioning into early winter. Leaves are on the ground, Halloween has come and gone and weâ€™ve now officially entered Turkey month.
And still, thereâ€™s still no basketball.
It feels a little strange to me. College hoops are coming soon, but the likelihood of a full NBA lockout looms larger with each passing day, much to my subconscious dismay. I donâ€™t wake up yearning to see some Lakers-Celtics action on TNT primetime or anything, but when I really think about it, I definitely do miss the entertainment the league brings
Plus, I miss my hometown Chicago Bulls, who indisputably were approaching a near peak of the NBA â€œawesome-meterâ€ last year.
But the absence of a formal professional basketball seasonâ€”which gives a lot of hoop stars the chance to kick back and relaxâ€”reminds me of yet another reason why European soccer is so fantastic; by now, you surely arenâ€™t surprised Iâ€™m bringing it full-circle.
European club soccer begins in mid-August and ends in mid-May. Besides a week off here and there, teams play consistently (38 league games and other tournament games in addition) year-round. So basically, these guys are playing competitively at least nine months of the calendar year. Assume most of July is spent training; that only leaves half of May and June for most players to relax and finally take a well-deserved rest.
But why do I say â€œmost playersâ€ and not just Â â€œplayers?â€
Each summer, the World Cup, European Championships or qualification fixtures for one of the two consume May and June. When it comes to the top-quality soccer studs, the end of a club season merely means the continuation of their international duties.
It gets a little confusing, I know, especially since a lot of people tend to confuse international (in this sense meaning non-American) club teams with national teams (a team that represents an entire country).
Hereâ€™s an example.
If I were to say, â€œClint Dempsey, a talented midfielder, plays for a team called Fulham in England,â€ youâ€™d understand me just fine. But if I said, â€œClint Dempsey plays really well for both Fulham (an English club team) and the U.S. national team, anyone somewhat unfamiliar with the framework of soccer would go cross-eyed, and fast.
A player like Dempseyâ€”born and raised in Nacogdoches, Texasâ€”is American. So, when the United States competes in friendly or more significant soccer competitions like the World Cup, Dempsey is included in the squad, barring any injury.
However, in scoring 40 goals and assisting 15 in just fewer than six years of English Premier League play, heâ€™s one of the Statesâ€™ best soccer ambassadors overseas. So in other words, he suits up for his country when needed, but the rest of the time, he bears an enormous commitment to his employers, Fulham, with the London-based club team paying him over $65,000 weekly.
How can you not respect that kind of work ethic? Nearly 10 months of every European soccer playerâ€™s life are devoted to â€œnext weekâ€™s matchâ€ and for a select few, their trade is an almost yearlong obligation, every year.
With soccer being such a staple in the cultures of Spain, Italy, Germany and England, the possibility of a lockout or game cancellations is non-existent, a fact which bodes well for the soccer supporters in those countries.
And maybe, with the NBA taking a backseat to bargaining and argumentative banter, U.S. sports fans, too, will take a little more time to delve into a game thatâ€™s always around and never fails to deliver.
Featured photo: Tom Hevezi/AP