Oh, so the American imperialist is here to tell us how to run our beautiful game. Hurray! That is, of course, sarcasm. I spit on you!
Hereís the thing. Weíre really warming up to soccer here in The States. I’ve heard the World Cup ratings are rivaling those of the NFL, which is by far our most watched sport. I play poker every day in Vegas, with yanks from all across the country and they all seem to have really gotten into this world cup. And a lot of them follow European teams too. Soccer is no longer just for tools who ride 20 speed bikes and eat Toblerone.
Itís football! Why donít you call it football, like everyone else, you fat asses?
Because, like Australians, we already have a game called football. What should we do, call them Football 1 and Football 2?
No… but why not call your game pigskin or something, and call football football?
Itís the fault of the British, really. Our football games are derived from rugby. The Brits call rugby football. That used to be what they called it most of the time. So we called our versions of that game football too. Then when soccer came around to our neck of the woods, we had to call it something different. Because we didn’t want to be like the Brits and have eleven different sports with the same name. OK? Can you let this go now?
And you still love Bay Watch and Manowar. But we can learn from each other, nonetheless. And what you’re going to learn from me today is that diving/cheating/acting like a bitch is a plague that makes soccer a dramatically worse game than it should be.
Oh, yeah, we kind of know that already. Itís like that gutless candy ass Arjen Robben knocking Mexico out of the world cup by acting like someone stepping on his toe had caused his spinal chord to spontaneously explode and ďearningĒ the decisive penalty kick.
Right. Hereís a clip of Arjen Robben playing soccer, in case any of our readers didn’t see the play in question. So we agree on this.
I have to add, itís not just the soccer flopping itself, and the fact that games are decided by play acting, rather than soccer playing. Itís the fact that such a great number of contested plays are cut short when one of the players takes the easy way out. Why fight through a difficult, physical challenge, when you can feign a punctured fallopian tube and perhaps get a free, totally uncontested shot in a penalty kick? Itís actually the smart thing to do, assuming you lack heart and balls.
Well, this is one of †the best parts of sports. Now, I know youíre probably never going to like American Football. Iím not trying to convert you to our sport here. In fact, Iím a convert to (mostly) liking your sport. But I want you to watch this video of my favorite player ever, Walter Payton. What makes this stuff so cool is that heís in these spots where it seems like he has no chance, but then he fights through them anyway. Yes, it is possible to keep going after someone makes contact with you. Now, most of what he is fighting through is legal, though early on youíll see a player in the red team punch him in the back of the head. Even in American Football this is illegal and he could have flopped to the ground like a pansy, but he just kept running. Make a mental note of that. But for now, letís just glance at what a great athlete who is determined and focused on fighting through his opponents can do.
Thatís pretty cool, but I think rugby players are tougher than football players because they have less padding.
A debate for another day. But I guess the same thing applies with rugby or Aussie rules, as far as fighting through your foe instead of looking to the ref to bail you out of a difficult challenge. Now think how many great plays we miss in soccer, where if only the player had tried his best, he could have pushed through the defence and made an incredible play. But instead, he thought something like, ďwell, thereís maybe a 5% chance I can beat this guy in this situation, and maybe a 15% chance I can get a bogus penalty, so Iíll try for the bogus penalty. Plus, that way I wonít have to deal with the other guy outplaying me. Not only trying for the bogus foul more likely to work, itís easier on my ego.Ē
But alas, there is no solution to the problem.
Thatís where youíre wrong my friend. The solution to the problem is to make playing your hardest the rational thing to do, and flopping like a bitch the irrational thing to do. Both for your self-esteem and for your chances of winning.
But how can you do that?
Simple. The penalties for a foul and the penalties for simulating a foul should should be reciprocal. If you take a dive in the box, trying to get your team an undeserved PK, the opposing team gets a PK instead. If you take a dive outside the box, the other team gets a kick from that spot, if itís on your half of the field, or the opposite spot if itís on their half of the field.
I donít think you understand how severe a penalty kick is.
Yes I do. Thatís why trying to earn one by cheating should get one for the other team. If the penalty for robbing a bank were a $500 fine, everyone would rob banks. The cost of committing the crime must be as great or greater than the reward of pulling off the crime. Thatís how you deter crime.
But people still commit crimes in the real world.
True, but the real world is a whole big complicated mess. This is just a sport, with clear and fixed objectives, where the rewards for successfully breaking the rules are far, far greater than the cost of getting caught breaking them. So everyone cheats constantly.
But many fouls are in a grey area.
True. As with PKs, reverse PKs will only be called in the more flagrant circumstances. For example, Mexico would not have gotten a PK for Robbenís dive.
So how does that really solve the problem?
Because, players will fear the reverse PK. Think about it. If you ran the risk of a reverse PK, and someone stepped on your toe, would you unleash the histrionics to convince the ref that the guy unleashed a Muay Thai kick to your shin? What if the ref missed the toe step and only saw your arms flailing about as you tumbled through the air, seemingly over nothing?
You’d risk the PK going to the other team! Hmm… thatís a good point, especially for someone educated in American public schools.
Moreover, imagine the reaction a player would get for costing his team a critical game by earning a reverse PK, when he could have tried to push forward for a goal. As it stands now, your fans are generally going to be kind of ambivalent about your dives. They wonít like them, but theyíll forget about them if they get a victory. The opposing fans are going to hate you, but they already hate you anyway. Imagine the eternal ignominy that would beset someone who got his team out of the world cup by earning a reverse PK because he was too much of a pussy to take on a challenge and try to score. Same thing for a critical club match.
And this leaves players little choice but to… actually try their best.
Yes! When contact is made, you are best off fighting through it. Even if a foul occurs, wildly embellishing it carries a serious risk, so why would you do it? Now the player in a difficult spot has a different calculation. Letís say, he has a 5% chance of fighting through it. A 15% chance of a bogus penalty. And even a 10% chance of a reverse PK. Keeping in mind that the reverse PK might lead to him having to enter the witness protection program. What is the rational thing to do?
Fight through it.
And now, you have fewer bogus penalties, and more players struggling and scraping through even the toughest challenges, and occasionally making miraculous plays that never would have happened otherwise. And games will more often be decided by playing the game and less often be decided by theatrics and referee errors.
But what if refs call reverse PKs by mistake?
It will happen. I think not very often, because it is easier to see when little or no contact occurs than to judge how severe contact is a a great distance. And thereís not really any way that the defender can fake a dive on the part of the offensive player, the way the offensive player can fake contact by the defensive player.
But it would suck for a game to be decided by an erroneously given reverse PK.
It would actually be good for it to happen once in a while. That way, even when there is minimal contact, it is against the interests of the offensive player to embellish or fake injury. If the ref misses the contact, the player risks a reverse PK and really will have nobody but himself to blame. Take Robben against Mexico. There was contact, barely. But Robbenís embellishment earned the PK. But suppose the ref had missed the initial contact, seen Robbenís dive and given Mexico a reverse PK. Would anyone feel bad for Robben? What would his argument be? ďSure, I was trying to trick the ref into giving us the game unfairly, but I accidentally tricked him into believing the wrong thing!Ē Well, boo-fucking-hoo. So again, the most intelligent course of action for a player becomes to fight through contact and even fouls. Keep going. Keep trying. When you fall, get back up. This is when great things happen in sports.
But there might STILL be reverse PKs awarded incorrectly.
Itís a certainty, because humans are fallible. But guess what? PKs are already wrongly awarded regularly. They determine games regularly. So given all that we’ve said, with diving and crying made much riskier the entire situation is going to become much less common under my system.
Letís say that today, we have 100 players take a partial or complete dive hoping to cheat their way to a PK. And letís say it works 20 times. Thatís 20 PKs that should not be. Plus a bunch of hard fought battles that were bailed out on, depriving the fans of the chance to watch them.
OK, I follow you.
Now letís add the reverse PK. Weíll say that the 100 dives goes down to 30 dives. And weíll say their are an additional 20 situations that look like they might be dives but arenít. I think thatís being generous, since itís hard to see something that is materially not there. Remember, reverse PKS are rewarded for egregious dives, not dives like Robbenís, at least not intentionally.
At the refs make errors at the same rate, of 20%.
Correct. And 20% of 50 is 10. So weíve gwe’verom 20 bad PKs to 10. No matter how you slice it, thatís an improvement.
You are kind of pulling those numbers out of your ass, though.
Sure, sure. But they illustrate a point. If the threat of a reverse PK dramatically reduces the number of dives and embellishments, which it certainly would, the total number of wrongly awarded PKs would plummet, even with the occasional unjust reverse PK. The problem of diving would be reduced, so the whole situation would occur less often.
And, on top of that, the occasional reverse PK being rewarded incorrectly would discourage people from embellishing when minor contact or a foul did occur, because the player would be putting himself in position to be hit with a reverse PK, in case the ref missed the initial contact. So even in instances where neither a PK or a reverse PK was warranted, players would be more willing to go at each other and try their best.
Yep. And so, everyone just plays the goddamned game.
Thank you! I was pretty skeptical, but you have fixed ďsoccerĒ as you call it. Is there anyway we can repay you?
Can I use your healthcare system?
But of course! For rescuing the sport of soccer from a plague of histrionic pansies, I hereby grant you lifetime access to any healthcare system in all of Europe!
Great. I’m going to eat this whole pie.