Thursday, July 06, 2006
Viva la France!
Contrary to some tongue-in-cheek comments made in my youth, I really don't hate soccer. I've been watching a fair bit of the World Cup lately and it's hard to deny the talent and athleticism that has been on display. To be able to use one's feet--fairly blunt instruments--to achieve such precise ends is really impressive. And as my dad pointed out, there are no fat soccer players--no one that you might look at and say, "That guy is a professional athlete?" in the way that you might in baseball (John Kruk? Bartolo Colon?) or golf (John Daly? Craig Stadler?).
I'm even okay with the fact that the U.S. isn't the best in the world at the sport. It's probably even a good thing. One can be patriotic and still recognize that other countries have strengths that we don't. It promotes a healthy national humility and an appreciation for the fact that other people love their countries and traditions too.
Still, there are a few sticking points that I just can't get past.
1. Why does the team awarded a penalty kick get to select who will take it? In yesterday's France-Portugal match, Zidane got to take the penalty kick even though he wasn't fouled. Ostensibly, a penalty kick is awarded because a foul in the box likely impedes what would have otherwise been a good scoring opportunity. But the guy who was fouled would have had the opportunity, not Zidane. So why does he get to take the shot? If Shaq is fouled in the act of shooting, the Heat don't get to have Dwayne Wade take the free throw. And in hockey, penalty shots are taken by the player who is fouled. Why is it different in soccer? I don't get it.
2. Way too much flopping and "writhing in excruciating pain" (a funny characterization of which can be found here.) I understand that drawing key fouls is an important part of a lot of sports. (Football and basketball are surely no exceptions here.) But the degree of acting in soccer is so obvious and ridiculous that it's distracting. I don't know how many times I've seen someone carted off in a stretcher looking like he might never walk again, only to be sprinting back onto the field in 30 seconds. The one thing that soccer has going for it is that you can get a yellow card for flopping. They should use that penalty more liberally and give it retroactively for overacting as well.
3. There should be at least two referees per game and probably three (in addition to the linesmen). All other major sports have more referees and those officials have far less ground to cover than soccer referees. Too often the soccer referee has to make a call that he can't possibly have seen clearly enough to make. Why that should be is beyond me.
In any case, I told my friend Jared that I'd root for France since he is currently living in Paris and I thought it would be cool for him to be part of the victory celebration. So, "Viva la France!"