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It ain't cricket
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Author:  ADKbrown [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  It ain't cricket

I don't follow soccer, but it seems to me that settling the World Cup by a shootout is akin to settling the World Series by a home-run derby. Why not keep playing, however long it takes?

Author:  Wayne Countryman [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: It ain't cricket

I agree. Teams might not get five shots on goal in 90 minutes, then blast potshots against the lone goalie.

Tennis came up with the tie-breaker system decades ago.

Pro football's OT system is worse than college football's, in that the loser of a coin flip might never touch the ball again.

Score one for baseball.

Author:  Matthew Grieco [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 12:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

I've realized something over the course of the last few World Cups: I love the World Cup, but I don't love soccer. Bill Simmons (ESPN's Sports Guy) wrote about this at some length in the most recent ESPN magazine, but it's a sentiment I've felt at least since 2002.

I love the World Cup for the international drama, the life-or-death feeling that the games create, and the shock value of an unexpected goal. It's a fun exercise in harmless jingoism. I watched about 90% of the games in this Cup. So I'm an absolute fan of the spectacle FIFA gives us every four years.

But soccer itself? When you take away the grandeur of the World Cup stage, it's apparent what a deeply flawed and arbitrary sport it is.

I know of no sport where close, subjective calls by referees do more to control the outcome. Sure, a baseball ump might screw up a big call now and then, but the overall effect is exponentially greater in soccer because goals are so precious compared to runs in baseball. One miscalled strike or tag in baseball will be canceled out so many times over the course of a season or a series that we can easily remember the rare Don Denkinger-sized gaffes that decide a championship. In soccer, decisions like that happen in every game. Because it's so hard to score under the best of circumstances, good play can't overcome bad officiating in soccer as it can in the major American sports.

Then, as you mention, there's penalty kicks. How anticlimatic was it to see Italy win that way? As my surname might suggest, Italy was my favored side other than the USA, but it wasn't particularly fulfilling to watch the victory. Soccer purists, for reasons that elude me, abhor sudden-death overtime as a cheap way to decide a game. It's not ideal, I'll concede, but someone has to win and sudden death is a great deal better than PKs. A big way to improve soccer would be to make overtime sudden death and give each team unlimited substitutions after the first 30 minutes of overtime.

There's also the red card rule. I can understand sending the man off, but it's silly to make his team play a man down for the rest of the game. I realize that the rationale is that he brought it on his team by breaking the rules, but as noted above, the calls are too subjective to impose a penalty of that magnitude. Let the offender's team put someone in his place. Dock them a substitution if need be, but keep the sides even.

I won't even start on the diving and the begging for fouls by faking mortal agony. Enough has been written elsewhere about that.

So why is soccer the world's most popular game (as we in the minority of countries where it is a minor sport are constantly reminded)? Many will tell you that it's because it's the best sport. Never believe it. Soccer is incredibly popular because soccer is incredibly simple. It can be played in any climate and with minimal equipment. You need a way to mark the lines, and you need a ball. Everything else is optional. Many other sports are richer, more complex, and more interesting, but require extensive equipment or particular climates to play. Soccer also has the simplest rules of any major sport, so it transcends language and age barriers.

For all of these reasons, I think those who are expecting club-level soccer to catch on in the United States based on World Cup ratings will be sorely disappointed.

Author:  wordygurdy [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:52 pm ]
Post subject: 

I can't possibly be a fan of any sport that accepts a tie as a result.

If you're interested in an entertaining look at the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos, check out the new documentary "Once in a Lifetime." I saw it last night and found it pleasant enough.

Author:  Matthew Grieco [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 4:13 pm ]
Post subject: 

wordygurdy wrote:
I can't possibly be a fan of any sport that accepts a tie as a result.

Once again, this is something that works for me at the World Cup level but keeps me from seeing the appeal of club soccer. In the short round-robin first round of the Cup, the draws can be as exciting and as hard-fought as victories. But pay good money on a regular basis to see my local team play to a 0-0 draw? No thanks.

Speaking of the word "result," it's come to my attention that in soccer, that word means a win or a draw. I have been corrected for calling a loss a "result." It apparently has a narrower meaning than "outcome." Weird, eh?

Author:  wordygurdy [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 5:38 pm ]
Post subject: 

Matthew Grieco wrote:
Speaking of the word "result," it's come to my attention that in soccer, that word means a win or a draw. I have been corrected for calling a loss a "result." It apparently has a narrower meaning than "outcome." Weird, eh?


Author:  jjmoney62 [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 9:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

Sounds like it's either jingoism or imperialism. Tough choice. The vast hordes outside our borders are such simple folk ....

Author:  Matthew Grieco [ Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

I can understand how one might take my comments that way. But there's no changing the fact that soccer really does require simpler equipment than other sports, or that the American climate is uncommonly suited to baseball, or that you need either a frozen lake or an expensive rink to play hockey, and so on.

I'm certainly not xenophobic. I'm still insatiably curious to learn cricket.

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