Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Powerplay: The Beautiful Game

Soccer, by far the world's most popular sport, has a tough time getting the attention it deserves in North America.  Why?  As a former soccer coach, I believe there are two reasons for this besides the obvious fact that we already have four major league sports for it to compete against.  First, soccer fans have learned over time to appreciate the intricacy of the play, as much as the exhilaration of the score.  We here in N.A., on the other hand, have a shorter attention span and seek instant gratification, ie. frequent scoring, to keep our beer-blurred minds on the game.  Basketball feeds this inner need the most, followed by football.  Baseball is most akin to soccer in intricacy, except the players are not in constant motion and things like rain delays, pinch hitters and beer guts need to go.  Hockey can be low-scoring but is, of course, the fastest and toughest game in the world (and quite popular outside N.A. as a result).  The second (and more important, I believe) reason that soccer is under-appreciated is, quite frankly, the dives.  In N.A. we are not accustomed to professional athletes rolling around on the ground in pain and then bouncing back up to play with full intensity 30 seconds later.  So here's my solution to both problems: FIFA should adopt a 2 minute "mandatory medical penalty" anytime someone claims to be hurt and rolls on the ground for longer than 10 seconds without some other penalty being called by the referee.  Hey, whiner, off you go!  That way they can get the treatment they (claim to) need, and for two minutes their team would play a man short.  Just think, proper medical treatment, and a frenetic two minutes on the field - both problems solved and manliness restored to the game.  But, you say, that sounds like a hockey powerplay!  Exactly.