Another day, another winless result for Kevin Keegan and Newcastle today as his side managed to earn a 1-1 draw at fellow bottom-feeder Birmingham City. Michael Owen's oh-so-masterful toe-poke into the back of the net levelled the score in the second half and both teams came away with a point, a point that could turn out to be valuable at the end of the season.
Let's be honest though. There is simply NO WAY that Newcastle United should be in any danger of relegation. Compared to the rest of the teams in the fight to stay up, Newcastle has more experienced, more talented players and while they are by no means a good team, they're better, at least name-wise, than the likes of Birmingham, Sunderland, Fulham, Derby, Bolton, etc.
With the start of baseball season in the US fast approaching, here's what I'm wondering: Is Newcastle really just England's version of the Chicago Cubs, perhaps the most lovable losers in American sporting history? For those who don't know, the Cubs are a Major League Baseball team and like Newcastle, it's seemingly been an eternity since they won a championship even though they've had the resources to do so and been close numerous times. Both teams have passionate, bordering on rabid, fan bases and sell out every home game, no matter how well or how poorly the team is playing and where they are in the standings.
Some quick facts about each team:
Year of Founding: Newcastle-1892; Cubs-1876
Championships Won: Newcastle-four; Cubs-two (first division titles only for Newcastle, World Series only for the Cubs)
Last Championship Won: Newcastle: 1926-1927; Cubs-1908
Stadium Capacity: Newcastle-52,387; Cubs-41,118
Percent Capacity Filled Last Season: Newcastle-97%, Cubs-98%
Average Division/League Finish in the Last 10 Seasons: Newcastle-9th (out of 20); Cubs-4th (out of 6)
"Curse" on team?: Newcastle-Yes; Cubs-Yes, Curse of the Billy Goat
Fan Nickname: Newcastle-Toon Army; Cubs-Bleacher Bums
I would argue that the Cubs have been more successful in the last five seasons, having appeared in the playoffs twice and winning two division titles (playoffs in the National League involve four of the league's 16 teams, three division winners and one wild card), while Newcastle has bowed out of both the UEFA Cup (on multiple occasions) and Champions League with barely a whimper.
What's more is that the Cubs' future looks bright with the talent they've brought in and a decent minor league system. Newcastle, on the other hand, are going in the opposite direction faster than it takes Didier Drogba to fall on the ground without contact during a game.
If you're a Newcastle fan, come on, I want to hear you. What does your club need to do to turn the corner? What are you expecting in the future?
I salute you for being a fan through the tough times; unlike many people who hop on the bandwagon of teams who routinely win like Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and others, you've stuck with your team and will continue to support them until your dying day. Cubs fans are the same; my dad is a Chicago native and he'll root for the North Siders until he can't anymore. Neither Newcastle nor the Cubs has had much to brag about in terms of winning, especially lately, but both have that passionate fan base that is like a family. For three hours every day in the summer or for 90 minutes from August-May, these fans can go to a game and throw all of their problems and worries away and watch their team play.
Newcastle United and the Chicago Cubs. Two different sports, two very similar teams.
Monday, March 17, 2008