The Dead Pool

Instead of bringing Aaron's comment thread to a standstill, I'll just stay in my corner of the catbox. But there are a couple of things about the Scary Across the Mersey I'd like to address.

It's bad enough that anti-American prejudice has infected Liverpool, but to see a High Court decision based purely on bigotry is very disheartening. Just because Tom Hicks is an American doesn't mean he deserves less consideration than any other successful, upstanding businessman. I urge all of my fellow American sports fans to support Tom Hicks and his fight against anti-American discrimination.

Sorry - just testing to see if there's a God. If I get struck by lightning after hitting "post" - we'll know. (Of course, He might just be sitting up there going, "Right, that's another one on the list, pal.")

Some Liverpool fans who pay attention to the American sports landscape may be tempted to cheer on the New York Yankees as they face the Texas Rangers, the baseball team Hicks owned before he Liverpooled them. Vagaries of bankruptcy and whether Hicks has anything to do with the Rangers anymore aside, I would strongly urge Liverpool fans to reconsider such drastic action. Let me show you in pictorial format what this would mean:

Well, okay, my daughter's in the room, so I can't really draw the picture for you. But picture Hitler in a Manchester United shirt vivisecting a puppy. (Don't worry, I'm pretty sure she doesn't read well enough to know what vivisection is.) Anyway, that's pretty much the Yankees. On a good day.

Not that the Texas Rangers deserve anything better than a cactus catheter, especially if you are judging by former owners. I'm just saying that the enemy of my enemy is still Sauron.

Oh, and go easy and calling the new owners "Yanks." Yeah, they're from Boston, but Boston baseball takes being called "Yankee" about as well as a South Carolina state senator.

Anyway, Aaron also brought up that the threat of relegation is making John Henry nervous about buying Liverpool. Clearly, these aren't the nerves of a steel-drivin' man.

Fortunately, I have the cure for all relegation fears. I have taken the top 96 teams in England and Wales, and divided them into four regional conferences as outlined below. After the regular season, the conference champions, with maybe four or so wild cards, would have a small playoff tournament. At last England would have a true champion, instead of the mythical champions they've had for the past century or so.

The allure of this system should be instantly obvious. No longer would fans suffer the pain of being unable to compete for the title. No longer would clubs be deprived of lucrative local rivalries - I believe the English phrase is "trilbies" or "bowlers" or something hatlike.

Every game would be meaningful, of course, because the local aspect of my conference system ensures that every week there is a local rival. It would also cut down on travel costs considerably, and the savings could be put towards ground improvements or superior players.

But I think the greatest advantage would be the chance to finally apply the lofty ideals seemingly favored by promotion and relegation partisans. Finally, all of England's clubs (and three Welsh clubs) would be able to compete on equal footing. There would be no more empty rhetoric about each club theoretically being able to compete for the "first division" championship - which currently can only be done after years of slogging through lesser competition, and with the expenditure of millions of ecus or whatever play money they use over there these days.

I can only assume that NESV will suggest these changes, and I fully expect that the Football Association will see the superiority of the American system and adopt it without hesitation. I can only wonder why Hicks and Gillette, knowing that the American system works more effectively, didn't suggest it themselves. I suppose they were too deferential to worn-out traditions.

I don't expect to see any opposition to this plan, certainly not any sensible or logical opposition. I'd be extremely disappointed if someone said something like "But Chelsea would destroy Stevenage, they shouldn't even have to bother with them." Are these clubs not part of a pyramid? Aren't they all theoretically Premiership material? We shouldn't accept Manchester United's word for it that they're superior to Burton Albion - they should prove it on the field.

Unless all this talk of fairness and justice is just hypocritical, empty-headed frippery. Surely that can't be the case. Therefore, I look forward to England's immediate acceptance of the American conference system.

Northwest (Prince of Wales Conference)
Accrington Stanley
Blackburn Rovers
Blackpool
Bolton Wanderers
Burnley
Burton Albion
Bury
Carlisle United
Crewe Alexandra
Everton
Liverpool
Macclesfield
Manchester City
Manchester United
Morecambe
Oldham Athletic
Port Vale
Preston North End
Rochdale
Stockport County
Stoke City
Tranmere Rovers
Wigan Athletic
Wrexham

Northeast (Lord Kinnaird Conference)
Barnsley
Bradford City
Chesterfield
Derby County
Doncaster Rovers
Grimsby Town
Hartlepool United
Huddersfield Town
Hull City
Ipswich Town
Leeds United
Leicester City
Lincoln City
Middlesbrough
Newcastle United
Norwich City
Nottingham Forest
Notts County [correct name added because of correction, now corrected]
Peterborough
Rotherham United
Scunthorpe United
Sheffield United
Sheffield Wednesday
Sunderland

Southwest (William McGregor Conference)
Aston Villa
Birmingham City
Cardiff City
Cheltenham Town
Coventry City
Bournemouth
Bristol City
Bristol Rovers
Exeter City
Hereford United
Milton Keynes Dons
Northampton Town
Oxford United
Plymouth Argyle
Portsmouth
Shrewsbury Town
Southampton
Swansea City
Torquay United
Walsall
West Bromwich Albion
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Yeovil Town

Southeast (Ebenezer Cobb Morley Conference)
Aldershot Town
Arsenal
Barnet
Brentford
Brighton & Hove Albion
Charlton Athletic
Chelsea
Colchester United
Crystal Palace
Fulham
Dagenham & Redbridge
Gillingham
Leyton Orient
Luton Town
Millwall
Queen's Park Rangers
Reading
Southend United
Stevenage
Tottenham Hotspur
Watford
West Ham United
AFC Wimbledon
Wycombe Wanderers