June 29, 2006

Why Diving Makes Soccer Great: Slate's Sports Nut writes in defense of soccer's biggest villians.

"American sports are loaded with comic set pieces—a hockey player tossing his gloves for a ceremonial tussle or a baseball manager kicking dirt at the umpire. Like tumbling soccer players, these performers act to provoke sympathy or indignation. The difference is in the style of emotional drama. In most American sports, the theatrics are aggressive. They are not operatic displays of vulnerability. To appreciate diving, we must sympathize or scorn the injured player—we must get into the melodrama."

posted by Amateur to soccer at 02:54 PM - 22 comments

"Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry, arguably the world's best players, will stay on their feet at all cost for the sake of a beautiful pass or a brilliant run at the goal." I guess he wasn't watching the France v Spain match, where Henry fell to the ground clutching his face after Carlos Puyol lightly brushed his shoulder going for the ball. That free kick led to the winning goal from Les Bleus. Made me want to punch the cheating little shit in the head.

posted by afx237vi at 03:23 PM on June 29

Ummmm, no. If I wanted to "appreciate the players vulnerabilities", I'd watch him on Oprah. Instead, this commentator seems to take the opposite approach that there's something wrong with being big and strong, so the little guys have to act like a bunch of pansies. My main argument about the flopping wouldn't even be it's inherent fairness, as much as it's no fun to watch a game being interrupted for 30 seconds every two minutes while some guy rolls around holding his ankle. And then see same guy back up and running full speed again in a minute. Also, unlike basketball, where a flop can add two points out of 100, in footie, that one flop could score the game's only goal. Maybe some guys are OK with knowing they won because they whined to authority, doesn't do much for me. What I learned from the Italians: When you flop, fall on the ball and grab it with both hands, the ref has to call something....

posted by LostInDaJungle at 03:24 PM on June 29

When you flop, fall on the ball and grab it with both hands, the ref has to call something.... I hate hate HATE it when players do that. There was a player booked for handball for doing exactly that a few days ago and I was cheering at the TV. Seriously, along with players taking the ball into the corner and blocking the attacker at the end of the match to waste time, that is my #1 football pet hate.

posted by afx237vi at 03:58 PM on June 29

Rarely do athletes tumble without being touched at all. Usually, they embellish contact to make sure the referee notices a foul, not to deceive him completely. My favorite counterexample of a player that did just this thing all the time is Rivaldo. There was that time where he took a shot in the leg, and then after a bit of a delay, he acted as though someone had plunged steel needles into his eyes. What a douche. It irritates me that Brazil so universally gets a free pass because they play la joga bonita, when their squad is ridden with as many fakers as Italy's or Argentina's is.

posted by psmealey at 04:01 PM on June 29

dont forget the mexican wc teams, not this years, but the previous teams might have been the biggest fakers and crybabys i ve ever seen on any pitch, it made me sick. henry's foul/flop was a risky move, his team got rewarded for it and there was some obstruction from puyol, but it happens in every game at some point, just have to deal with it and continue to play, or cry like the mexican teams.

posted by sauceysays at 04:17 PM on June 29

psmealy: My favorite counterexample of a player that did just this thing all the time is Rivaldo. There was that time where he took a shot in the leg, and then after a bit of a delay, he acted as though someone had plunged steel needles into his eyes. I just wrote about that on my blog. It's the king of all dives. Unparallelled. The worst thing about diving, IMO, is when it's done by great players. Rivaldo and Henry - immense talents lowering themselves to that kind of crap. Do they go back to the hotel at night and think "oh yeah, I did a terrific dive tonight" or do they actually realise that the whole world saw them and laughed at just how fucking pathetic they are? Rivaldo is one of the best players of the past 10 years without a doubt, but what comes into my head whenever I hear his name? His sublime first touch, or that night against Turkey where the whole world united in their ridicule of him?

posted by afx237vi at 04:39 PM on June 29

The pink card idea is brilliant.

posted by catfish at 04:50 PM on June 29

Thierry did pull a nice stunt (later claimed that he grabbed his face as a reaction to the GENERAL PAIN-yeah right). In Les Bleus' defense, though, Puyol used his elbow to block Henry out and in fact fouled him, whether the fall was totally embellished or not. They would've gotten the free kick and the outcome would've been the same. Still a shame to see someone of Henry's class acting like such a child. Big fat pink card. Until now he actually took pride in distancing himself from that aspect of the game. Saturday against Brazil should be one of the best finals games we've seen in a long time in the WC. Remember 86.

posted by ocmojo at 07:43 PM on June 29

Well, I don't have any time for diving, and especially for the rolling around on the ground in fake pain. But I also don't have any time for fake (goon-on-goon) fighting in hockey, flopping in basketball, or the big dramatic charge to the mound in baseball. It's telling, to me, that none of that bullshit happens when you and I and our friends get together to play a game. It's only at the highest level -- when sport and entertainment become blurred -- that these rituals become "part of the game."

posted by Amateur at 07:57 PM on June 29

In Les Bleus' defense, though, Puyol used his elbow to block Henry out and in fact fouled him, whether the fall was totally embellished or not. Possibly. Puyol's shoulder/elbow/forearm seemed to come with the natural movement of his body and was a glancing blow, so we'll never know if a foul would have been called. I despise Arsenal but have always enjoyed the beauty of Henry's game. That is now history. And I found out the same day as the Spain-France game that there is no Easter Bunny. Life, as I knew it, is over.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 08:10 PM on June 29

Diving or 'simulation' was supposed to be eliminated at the last World Cup, according to those laugh a minute guys from FIFA. As a player, there's nothing worse than the opposition cheating and getting a penalty. In our local league, one of the Byron Bay strikers was particularly adept at falling over from the 'push from behind' in the penalty area. Luckily we get the same referees most weeks. 'I've seen you before', the ref said as he pulled out the yellow card, to much hilarity (on both sides). So, as spectators, we all know who the usual suspects in the professional game are - so why don't the referees?

posted by owlhouse at 08:58 PM on June 29

I agree Henry fell way too easily and embellished way too much, but it will take way more than one incident to say I don't love the beauty of his game. People like Henry are too few to make such a statement.

posted by Ricardo at 11:10 PM on June 29

What Amateur said, except that I enjoy the fighting in hockey. There's also no way that diving is exclusively something that happens in the professional game. I've experienced it in the amateur Sunday morning league game as well, and it's bloody annoying.

posted by squealy at 03:09 AM on June 30

I don't really care about offside goals, or even shots that cross the line and aren't given as goals, but FIFA, UEFA and the national FAs should make use of video technology to issue retrospective bans to players for "simulation." As mentioned, Rivaldo received a suspension after the game in 2002 for his stupid face clutching antics, (like anyone could make him uglier anyway), so the precedent is there and simulation is one thing the referees are instructed to control every tournament, so the will is there too. I think we all know what Fabio Grosso did against Australia and, prior to his injury, Michael Owen had a chance to do the same thing for the third conescutive world cup, but those sort of "earned" fouls are not going to go away until FIFA develop a brain-attached intention chip. We can do nothing about those. We can, however, send a message to Rivaldo, to Henry and to the likes of Van Bommel, who went down clutching his face some several hours after Figo's headbutt, (that would be irony - the video evidence unable to reprimand Figo, but nailing van Bommel), and we should. The playerts may even like it - players like Arjen Robben who would shed their Boy-who-cried-Wolf reputation as a result and might find that they're then given penalties for receiving shoulder-high karate kicks in the area. After the Spain game Henry said "In my mind, I am not a diver." Well, that's nice Thierry, but here on Earth, we think you dived and we have the video to prove it.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 03:29 AM on June 30

Saturday against Brazil should be one of the best finals games we've seen in a long time in the WC. I am really looking to it as well. Btw, who on earth is Frank Ribery, and why had I never heard of him before this World Cup. The guy is just a rocket.

posted by psmealey at 04:35 AM on June 30

Henry's dive was pathetic, it was cheating and it directly led to the French winning that game. What bullshit. The contact, light as it was, was created by Henry not Pujol, who had position. It shouldn't be a foul if someone runs into your back. This is why I can never truly love football. ..although I will, begrudgingly, watch the rest of the World Cup ;) Who else wants an Argentina-Brazil final?

posted by sic at 06:52 AM on June 30

Who else wants an Argentina-Brazil final? Not me. I want England-Ukraine.

posted by squealy at 07:00 AM on June 30

That would be exciting.

posted by sic at 07:55 AM on June 30

Sam Donellon, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News has this idea (Might need to register to read the rest of the column)... If a player stays on the ground for more than 10 seconds, he misses 10 minutes of play. Two such occurrences of prolonged agony, and he must be removed from the game. No need for a medical report. Should [video replay show a] dive produce a yellow card, the faker would begin his next game with a yellow card in tow. Should the same player be judged twice to have jaked it, he would be suspended a game.

posted by SummersEve at 08:11 AM on June 30

I like soccer just the way it is: better than ever.

posted by Hugh Janus at 08:24 AM on June 30

I was rooting for the French until Henry was stuck in the eye by a non-existent elbow. How could a player of his caliber be willing to win a game in that fashion? My biggest beef with dives is the way they eat the clock and cut off the rhythm of the game -- especially when the diver lays on the ground as if dead, is taken to the sideline, grabs some water, jumps back up and runs back in. A diver who takes more than a minute to get up should be kept out of the game for 5 or 10 minutes. Make them risk something when they flop around in agony.

posted by rcade at 09:03 AM on June 30

I don't think there's a good rules-based solution. Any new rule that's instated potentially risks even worse unintended consquences. FIFA has probably learned from American sports in that every time you try to tinker with a sport, it ends up making it just a little bit worse. The game is perfect the way it is. I think, as always, the solution to this one blight on the game is both better refereeing (I never saw such nonsense in games officiated by Collina, for example) and heaping more derision on players that do it. Henry might never have been known for diving before, but this incident will certainly be hung around his neck for the rest of his career. Not to say that he won't get more roles in Spike Lee movies, but I think most of these guys care about having such labels.

posted by psmealey at 09:12 AM on June 30

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