” I want to like the sport so badly, and every time I watch it I’m disappointed. It’s so frustrating to watch people dive, flop, and act hurt when they’re clearly not.”
My good friend Bryson continued “where is the pride? Where is the integrity? It’s an embarrassment to you, your family, and your country. It disrespectful to the fans, your opponents, and most of all, the game.”
Bryson has several great points. To the new fan that grew up on American television and American sports, things like flopping and complaining can be turn offs to liking the beautiful game. And as much as I want to defend soccer, I just can’t anymore. It’s not because I’ve given up on my first language, it’s because defending it would be futile as I’ve realized that soccer isn’t built for an American audience.
As Americans we want clarity and conclusion in our sports. That’s why we’re used to instant replay and challenge flags. However in soccer, that isn’t the case. On the field the referee is the judge, the jury and the executioner. His decisions are final. And like every other man not named Jesus, he is prone to make mistakes from time to time.
Why do you think the three most popular American sports are laden with replays and reviews? We want to eliminate the possibility of human error. Touchdown inconclusive? There is an instant replay for that. Sure this reduces the possibility of a mistake, but it also removes a layer of humanity.
Last year the Green Bay Packers lost against the Seattle Seahawks on a touchdown that clearly wasn’t a touchdown. Fans were livid and for day’s afterword, all you can see on Sportscenter besides Tim Tebow was the replay of this final play.
What made it worse was that it wasn’t reviewable. As fans, we couldn’t rely on the crutch of replay to overturn such a horrible call. I think that’s what made the fans even more upset, was that the system we put in place couldn’t save us at this moment.
But if that’s how mad football fans were over one no call, imagine what soccer fans must go through! Can you imagine being an England fan and watching Diego Maradona score with his hand?
Speaking of handballs, Thierry Henry still hasn’t been forgiven for his winning assist that eliminated Ireland from a 2010 World Cup spot.
So where does diving play into all this? Why is it so prevalent? Well, when you don’t have replay and one man makes all the calls, you need every advantage you can get. If rolling around for a bit can you and your team a free kick, why not fall? I’m not defending it, as it’s an ugly stain on the game, but it’s part of the sport. Luckily for the fans, several federations are taking increased steps to discourage and punish diving. England and Spain are two leagues that can retroactively fine players if it was determined that they dove or simulated.
Another reason why Americans stray away from soccer is that the sport is not made for television and breaks. The game goes for two 45 minute halves, with one 15 minute half time. Sure at the end of each half there may be added time, but that doesn’t compare to the number of stops in traditional American sports. Hell, the NFL even has designated TV timeouts.
We Americans are used to interruption. Our attention constantly shifts between the television, our phone, a bowl of food and conversation.
Have you ever sat through a soccer match? It’s literally a group staring at the television for 45 minutes straight. It’s impossible to expect people that are used to checking Facebook every five minutes to sit through a “boring” soccer game.
Soccer isn’t perfect. But then again, neither is life.