12 June 2010

Remember: The American Word For American Is "American"

It's World Cup time come again, and the excitement is palpable as all the papers recycle all those same old stories.  This will be the year Americans love soccer; really, shouldn't the game where you use your feet get to be called "football;" all those soccer playing kids now grown to adulthood will sit riveted to their televisions watching adults play their childhood game (an argument never made for hopscotch); etc.; etc.; etc.  This year the big evidence is that Nike spent as much as $100 million producing an admittedly really cool commercial about the World Cup and that ABC/ESPN paid $100 million for the rights to broadcast the 2010 and 2014 in the US in English.  (Tellingly, Univision paid $325 million to broadcast the same games in the US in Spanish.)  These are apparently big numbers for soccer, although they are ridiculously small for the US.

And that's the point.  The rest of the football loving world should be doing everything it can to keep us convinced that soccer is a boring, pointless sport played solely because it's better than the alternative, which is sitting huddled in misery in some foreign country (oops, redundant).  In fact, I suspect that this is what actually is going on when some bloody foreigner tries to explain the joy of a 1-0 game, in which not a single goal was scored but which was won by that odd tie-breaker kick-off thing that looks like nothing so much as a pre-game warm-up drill.  I'm reminded of a criticism of Quiditch that pointed out that having the game end when the snitch is caught is like having a basketball game end when there's a knockout in a boxing match being held next door.  Soccer suffers from exactly this problem:  you could end it at any random moment (the score being much the same throughout) and then run that warm-up drill that has almost nothing to do with the actual game, in which, we're told repeatedly, the point is the beautiful passing and athletic jumping and falling down and pretending to be hurt....  Sorry, got lost there for a moment.  Where was I?

And that's the point.  If America really got excited about football, we'd just take over.  I'm not saying we'd always win the World Cup.  I'm saying that the World Cup would be run to suit us.  For instance, today, the US is playing England at 2:30 pm Eastern time, which is 7:30 pm in England.  If ABC/ESPN could actually get decent ratings, they would have paid a billion dollars for the World Cup, which is about what NBC paid for the last Olympics.  (The NFL is guaranteed about $4.4 billion per year in tv revenue through 2014, even if they don't play a game in 2011 when the CBA is up.)  For a billion dollars, FIFA would do what it's told, and the game wouldn't start until ABC wanted it to.  As demonstrated by the on-going NBA finals, that's 9:00 Eastern time, or 2:00 am English time.  So, if the rest of you all ever want to see a World Cup game in prime time again, without three times as many commercials, without cheerleaders (I assume foreigners don't have cheerleaders), pray that the US doesn't suddenly learned to love soccer.

Of course, it's always good to pray for something that's bound to happen anyway.

P.S.  Apparently, they don't do that tie-breaking thing at the World Cup.  Who knew?

62 comments:

erp said...

With the miracle of video recording, fans can watch whatever they want whenever they want. What difference does it make when the actual game is played.

BTW - I love your allusion to hopscotch, IMO a very underrated sport.

David said...

Sports are so valuable to tv networks for two reasons. First, they draw a broad demographic. Second, people watch it live.

Peter said...

During yesterday's game between England and the U.S. (which I watched as "Brit vs. David" and therefore hoped both would lose), the announcer was bubbling about the growth in soccer in the States and at one point claimed there were 19 million Americans involved (I actually thought at first he said 90). I was impressed until I checked these stats which show the actual figure among youth is three million, half of whom are girls. Does AARP sponsor a lot of soccer?

The standard explanation is that it can't compete with other, more traditional sports, but there may be a second reason why it isn't taking. It seems to be the favoured sport of parents who would really rather their kid played the piano and ran triathlons, but who grudgingly accept that team sports may be "good for socialization skills" provided they are "fair". There is a lot of Oprah-inspired stuff the sport is associated with like the soccer Mom syndrome, gender-integrated leagues, no scorekeeping, etc. My city got a little international notoriety last week when a local house league instituted a new rule that any team that opened a five goal league automatically lost the game. The coaches were issued instructions on how to avoid this shame, including such howlers as encouraging their players to kick with the wrong foot. Nobody could answer why a team wouldn't just kick five goals into their own net and and then swarm one another in an ecstatic victory celebration.

The league defended the rule huffily and said only 1% of parents were opposed. A few days later, like all good liberals, they caved unapologetically and the rule was rescinded in favour of a mercy rule. What kid with promise is going to put up with that nonsense? As a ball hockey coach, I know all parents are pains in the butt, but my soccer colleagues have it the worst.

Brit, I really, really did try yesterday. I watched it all and tried to get into the flow, strategy, etc. The announcer was English and doing his best to excite me. At one point he called it a "free-wheeling, back and forth game". I know what that means in hockey, but here it seemed to mean the ball kept sailing back and forth the length of the field from long and admittedly beautiful goalie kicks to the opposing defence. When offensive players got it, it meant they kicked it out of bounds artistically.

Next up: Algeria vs. Slovenia. Be still, my beating heart.

erp said...

When did equality under the law and equality of opportunity morph into equality of results in tests, games, life, etc.?

It reminds me of science fiction story I read a long time ago -- can't remember the name of the story or author -- about a society that had taken "fairness" far into the absurd and physically handicapped people born with superior skills and boosted people who fell below the norm.

At the time, I thought it very fanciful.

David said...

erp:

Harrison Bergerson, by Kurt Vonnegut, of all people. How ironic that he'll end up being best known for a hard libertarian story.

Brit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brit said...

Whereas listening to North Americans go on about how dull is soccer every 4 years is endlessly fascinating to us.

Re: penalty shoot outs, that's only in knockout games after extra time. They're a v unsatisfactory way to resolve tied games, but they're the least worst discovered so far and have the advantage of being torture. In the English FA Cup pens are only resorted to after a replay.

Erp - we watch it in pubs, live and boisterous.

Peter - it was a rotten game for neutrals and not much better for the partisan. Usual failure of nerve by our boyz, but then it is hardly surprising when you understand that the News of the World today devoted pages 1 - 7 to the Hand of Clod.

I seem to remember you wrote something very similar after the last world cup or Euros was it? Not sure what you expected to change in the meantime. Would a 4-3 thriller have converted you into a soccer lover? The most common scorelines in professional football everywhere are 2-1, 1-0 and 1-1. You either accept that or you don't, and if not, the game's not for you. 5-4 thrillers do happen, but not often, it's best not to expect them.

If you really honestly truly do want to give it a try, the world cup is the worst for football but best for Occasion. The best football for football's sake is in the English or Spanish leagues.

That's also where all the money is - the US couldn't buy it even if they could afford the world cup.

Peter said...

Brit:

Yes, I sense that the game might be more exciting at less exalted levels because of mistakes or greater risk or whatever. The same is true about American professional football, which often seems to get duller and duller as the season progresses because of excess perfection and too few blunders. The opposite seems to be true about hockey or baseball, though, or college football.

4-3 games would be a great improvement, not only because goals are the one true beauty of the game, beause they would keep hopes of comebacks alive. I suppose the hardest thing I find about the World Cup is that, once the favourite scores, the chances of the other team pulling out anything more than a draw (which is intrinsically like lunchbag letdown in most other sports) are slim to nil. Unless one is lucky enough to be facing an English goalkeeper, that is.

Brit said...

Well funnily enough the quality at the top of the English Premier League and Spanish La Liga is much higher than at the world cup. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man Utd etc are like supergroups, with the best players from each country - and of course they play and train together all the time whereas national teams are thrown together a few times a year - football is a team game in which clever attacking football is based on players being on each other's 'wavelength'.

The reason the World Cup produces matches that are on average duller than league games is that there's much more riding on each particular game, which means players are inhibited and the priority is not blundering, a la English goalkeepers.

erp said...

Thanks David, I think I'll re-read the story and see if I still think it's fanciful.

As for watching sports, I guess it's a guy thing.

Peter said...

Brit:

OK, just as long as you don't blithely assume it's all because North Americans don't "appreciate" the skills of the game. I find the footwork mesmerizing, I just wish it wasn't so circular. The stamina is mind-blowing and you could give me a DVD of the best soccer goals ever for Xmas anytime.

erp:

I wouldn't be in too big a rush to politicize this coddling mentality. It may correlate roughly with the liberal/conservative divide, but there are a lot of social factors involved too. We're all Freudians now and we all think our kids' psyches are as fragile as fresh eggshell. One big difference today is both smaller families and the trend for parents to turn out for each and every game, and therefore project their protective instincts and neuroses onto every struggle and heartbreak. I know lots of people who I know or suspect are conservatives, mainly moms, who think learning how to compete and handle adversity is an important lesson every other parent's kid should learn.

We cons may value the benefits of military service more than the libs, but I don't think that means we would necessarily be better than they at watching our kids go through basic training, let alone man a trench in a war zone.

David said...

Peter: You should suggest that the kids on the losing team get to spank the kids on the winning team.

I have a friend with a 12 year old who plays in the intramural basketball league in Amherst MA, a far-left college town memorably described by Tracy Kidder as having a good school system and a foreign policy. They don't keep score. But my friend says that the kids keep score very carefully and know exactly who won, and by how much.

Also, Brit could undoubtedly trounce me in a soccer match, due to a combination of native athletic ability, physical conditioning, knowing how to play the game, and showing up.

Brit: Actually, I don't think I said it was boring, or suggested changing the game. If I were to suggest changes for the American market, it would be to lose two players per team and raise the height of the goal 12-18 inches. It's tempting to monkey with the offsides rule, but a complex, impossible-to-apply-accurately-on-the-fly, game-changing rule is important to give fans something to argue over.

I agree with you entirely that the premier league will never have more than a small cult following in the US.

Bret said...

David wrote: "...raise the height of the goal 12-18 inches..."

Exactly. And make it wider too. I'd also get rid of offsides entirely.

Indoor soccer was very exciting and the games were always packed in San Diego. Typical scores were like 7-5. So it is possible to tailor a soccer-like game for the United States that could sell.

Brit said...

"get rid of offsides entirely"

LOL. This is what I most enjoy about the quadrennial Yank soccer-opining. Look, the simple reason you don't like soccer is because it's not in your sporting culture for historical reasons; ie. the same reason we don't like ice hockey or baseball. There's nothing intrinsic about the game itself.

But do keep coming up with the theories, please. David's explanation of the effect of penalty shoot-outs, not realising they are only used in unusual circumstances, is actually better informed than most. My absolute fave was dear old Duck on cricket, who upon learning that Bradman had an average of 50 declared that the sport had 'serious problems with its defense'.

Look out for my thesis on how basketball could be massively improved and sold to the European market by increasing the number of players to 11, lowering the basket and making it much wider and squarer, and forbidding players to use their hands...

Peter said...

Now, now, Brit, don't be churlish. David and Bret are just channelling that quintessential American impulse to improve. I mean, what other country would arrive on your shore with massive, overpowering force, smile disamingly and say to you: "Hi, we're from the States and we're here to help you."

David said...

In fact, as befits a nation of tinkerers, we're always tinkering with the rules. Football changes the most from year to year and no one would care if European basketball leagues changed the rules and, in fact, the NBA explicitly uses international appeal as a reason to change the rules of basketball.

The only outlier is baseball, where any suggestion to change any rule is insisted upon by half the country as absolutely necessary to basic fairness and resisted by half the country as marking the absolute end of the United States as a nation. See, for example, our recent nine-days wonder after a blown call at the end of an otherwise perfect game.

Brit said...

Sure, football is tinkered with all the time (yellow card offences; definition of 'level' in the offide rule etc). Cricket is tinkered with every year.

But the tinkering is done from a position of understanding rather than sweet ignorance.

David said...

Have you met the Internet?

Brit said...

Heh. I was going to say that the gap between "Why do you have the offside rule, doesn't it spoil the spectacle?" and "I would get rid of offsides entirely" is the size of the Atlantic.

But then I realised that was grossly unfair, remembereing how much you enjoy British hacks lecturing you on your healthcare system and gun laws...

Bret said...

Brit wrote: "But the tinkering is done from a position of understanding rather than sweet ignorance. "

Ever watch indoor soccer? Do you not think that getting rid of offsides would increase the number of goals per game?

Brit said...

I play it every Sunday morning, Bret. It's very popular here. 6-a-side football is not soccer, it's 6-a-side football. You could try to sell that to the US audience, but it wouldn't be 'adapting' soccer, it would be selling 6-a-side football.

Since you ask, I will explain why the offside rule exists in soccer. It's because without it, there would be no spectacle at all. I mean, it's not like the Football Association just pulled it out of their arses for a jape. (actually, here's a history)

You can, just about, have a decent game with 21 mates in a park without enforcing an offside rule. But that's because you'd all be playing as if there was an offside rule, ie. you would play in an approximate 4-4-2 formation or some variation thereof. The reason for that is that the object of playing with your mates is to have a decent game.

The object of professional football, on the other hand, is to win matches. If the offside rule were abolished, teams would not need a midfield, they would instead pack the opposition penalty area with big men. Because the opposition would do the same, this would force them to also pack their goalline with big men. You would then have two clumps of big men jostling in each other's goalmouths, with the ball occasionally hurled from one end of the pitch to another.

Sometimes some of the men might run after the hurled ball in a clump. This happens a lot in parks when you see under-10s playing. We call it "Kick and Rush".

It's called Unintended Consequences.

Bret said...

Having the ball (and people) near the goals more of the time is of course the whole point of getting rid of offsides - the ball needs to be near the goals as much as possible for there to be more scoring. Also note that I'd get rid of offsides in conjunction with making the goals much bigger which would enable scoring from much farther out and that would keep the game from being too concentrated right at the goal. I like the basketball model where each team scores more often than not when they have possession. I'd like to see scores like 23 to 18.

Changing the name would work for me too. "Soccer" is kind of a stupid name anyway and I think part of the reason it doesn't catch on here and nobody else calls it soccer anyway. There's no reason the name or the rules should match what the rest of the world does. Americans simply do not have the disposition to ever be interested in the world's version of futbol.

I've played soccer, coached children's soccer, and watched way, way, way too much soccer, so I do have a rough idea of how the game works.

joe shropshire said...

Nice game, very entertaining. And nothing wrong with the sport that the Foreigners Get an Extra Goalie rule won't fix.

Brit said...

Beyond satire.

Hey Skipper said...

The reason soccer will not catch on here is that scoring is so rare as to be almost a fluke, rather than an intended outcome.

I don't know if the stats have changed any since the last time I payed attention, but something like 85% of games at anything like a pro-level are decided 1-0, nearly all the rest are a tie at the end of the game.

Which is then either not decided, or done so through penalty kicks which are as much about luck as anything.

So, a vast majority of the time, the moment the first goal is scored, you may as well head for the car park; as for the rest, I doubt if guessing the winning team based on a coin toss would be as successful as waiting for the outcome of penalty kicks.

Compare to American football: games with a three score differential going inside the last four minutes are still up in the air, particularly if a couple are field goals.

Activity, no matter how beautifully performed, is not the same as action.

The difference (IMHO) is structural: basketball, soccer and hockey are fluid possession games. Hockey, one way to score has scarcely anymore market penetration than does soccer.

Basketball (which often has little reason to watch before the last period) is a fluid possession game, but has three ways to score. More market penetration than soccer & hockey.

Football, a combination of defined and fluid possession, has four ways to score, and dominates the rest. The cross product of scoring means and possession types means that other than lopsided games remain suspenseful until the very end.

Unlike pro-level soccer, I'll bet games where a team has recovered to win outright from a two score deficit are famous because they are so rare.

------

This morning I was in the hotel restaurant over a semi-leisurely breakfast, and tried to watch the World Cup game between (IIRC) the Netherlands and someone else.

I don't know what the heck those noisemakers are that the spectators have, but I'd rather listen to howling cats claw chalkboards. At 3 am.

It is a good thing for the American side of the gun argument, and the TV, that I a) don't own a gun and b) wouldn't have had it with me in any event.

Brit said...

I've rather lost sight of the aim here.

I thought the aim was to get Americans to embrace soccer a bit more because it is the world game; and it would generally be a Good Thing if Americans were somewhat less sporting isolationists.

Bret's solution - to create a whole new sport almost, but not quite, completely unlike soccer - doesn't seem particularly coherent on that score.

Or is the aim simply to cram yet another money-making entertainment into America's already overcrowded televised sports market? In which case, sure, American MegaSoccerPlus might work, but what's the point? May as well stick to NFL, NBA and Nascar.

What is interesting is the American urge, a la Skipper, to analyse the mechanics of the game itself and explain why Yanks are too attention-deficient to enjoy it. All bollocks, I'm afraid. It's just not part of your well-established sporting culture, and it's nigh impossible to force something in other than as a minority pursuit. Same reason football's not big in India, where cricket utterly dominates.

When I went to a baseball game in Boston a few years ago I was vaguely expecting home runs to be hit quite frequently, as sixes and fours are in cricket. If I remember correctly Houston hit one and the Red Six hit none the whole game. I did not therefore announce that the game was intrinsically flawed, I merely deduced that fans appreciate the sport for structural elements which, as a novice, currently eluded me.

Brit said...

I do of course mean Red Sox - that was a typo rather than sheer ignoramousnous.

Brit said...

Skipper:

Unfortunately, apart from your well-made complaint about the South African vuvuzelas, everything about that comment is wrong including the proverbial "and" and "is".

It is unimportantly wrong on the stats. Though true that 1-0 is the most common scoreline, "85% and the rest draws" is miles out.. 2-1 is close behind 1-0, and 2-0 is third.

It is more importantly wrong in that it starts from the wrong place. When discussing the sport which is by far the most popular in the world, it makes little sense to try to explain why that sport is inherently prone to unpopularity.

Has it not occured to you that the very scarcity of goals - ie. the very high value of the sport's 'currency' - might be part of its appeal? You ain't experienced a cheer in your life until you've been in a packed stadium (or indeed, pub) when your team snatches a late goal to win 2-1. Now that's a SCORE. Nor have you really felt sporting panic until, hanging on desperately against stronger opposition, the enemy striker breaks through for a one-on-one with your goalkeeper that will almost certainly elimiate you from a tournament.

The Bud-swigging neutral wallowing in his sofa might be mildly more diverted if, a la Bret, the goal currency was devalued to the point where they were scored as often as basketball points; but you'd lose those moments.

The analysis about multiple ways to score doesn't stand up for a second unless you invoke highly dubious American exceptionalism - ie. you claim that American sports consumers are basically a different species to, for example, British ones.

History is the key factor.

Our other major sports are rugby and cricket, both of which have more ways to score than football. Football is the most popular because it is the working man's game and is intrinsic to our culture and national mythology.

When football was plagued by hooliganism and went through a dark patch in the 1980s, there was a brief craze for American Football, and British and then European leagues were started. But even with its mighty Four Ways to Score, it faded back into obscurity when soccer put its house in order in the early 1990s; because football still was Our Game.

Even if soccer caught on in the US - it could happen if, for example, the USA won the world cup - the best you can expect is a 1970s style MLS craze, with a hardcore minority sticking with it after the novelty wears off.

Peter said...

Brit, I don't think North Americans are as isolated from the "world game" as much as you say. There are about three billion Asians who don't seem to care much about it either.

Skipper, your "ways to score" theory is mind-blowing. I never realized football's popularity hung on the heart-stopping thrills of the field goal. I just can't figure out, though, why the most popular of them all isn't chess.

Brit said...

You'd think that, wouldn't you Peter?

But no, it's true that there is nothing exceptional about soccer not being the national sport. See most former British colonies where cricket and rugby dominate, again for historical reasons.

Where the Americans are exceptional is in the contempt/reverence divide for soccer, which seems to broadly follow the right/left political divide. That football should be the Sophisticate's sport of choice is anathema in Britain, where it is determinedly working-class and anti-pretension. In Britain, from a class point of view rugby is the soccer and soccer is the NFL.

Bret said...

Brit,

Do you only watch mens professional soccer or do you ever watch other varieties? For example, college (men's and women's), or high school (men's and women's).

Brit said...

Good God no; even I draw the line somewhere, Bret.

(We don't have that college business here)

Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

What is interesting is the American urge, a la Skipper, to analyse the mechanics of the game itself and explain why Yanks are too attention-deficient to enjoy it. All bollocks, I'm afraid.

It might have been bollocks had that been what I was trying to say.

Which, to repeat, was this: the underlying nature of soccer is most similar to hockey (sharing no mechanics with soccer), which has, apologies to Peter for pointing this out, tiny market share south of the border.

Now, why it is that Americans appear to prefer defined over fluid possession games is a question that might be answered by habit, or attention deficit, or that defined possession games with more ways to score entail far greater likelihood to come from behind.

If Yanks prefer that sort of thing — for whatever reason — then soccer will never be more than a niche sport here in the US, no matter rule changes about the size of the goal or offsides. Or even adding cheerleaders.

It is unimportantly wrong on the stats. Though true that 1-0 is the most common scoreline, "85% and the rest draws" is miles out

Sorry, I got that wrong.

What I meant to say (which I realized at 5 am) is that 85% of the time, the team that scores first wins. I think I am on firmer ground here, although certain claims aren’t available from your stats site. (As a guess, though, by definition, any score to nil means first score won, at least 50% of the games go to those who score first. Extrapolating to the other 50% suggests at least 75% of games go to the first scoring team).

Has it not occured to you that the very scarcity of goals - ie. the very high value of the sport's 'currency' - might be part of its appeal?

Of course it has. But knowing with fair certainty who will win based upon knowing nothing more than who scores first means that come from behind victories in soccer are vanishingly rare. I’ll bet this also, although perhaps to a lesser extent, of hockey.

In contrast — and I am implying no superiority here, only noting the fact — in football there is essentially no relationship between the team that scores first and the one that wins. Even being three scores up going into the last period is far from an insurmountable lead, as my wife the rabid Steelers fan will only too ruefully tell you about last season.

The analysis about multiple ways to score doesn't stand up for a second unless you invoke highly dubious American exceptionalism - ie. you claim that American sports consumers are basically a different species to, for example, British ones.

My primary claim is that multiple ways to score, combined with defined possession, lead to greater opportunities to come from behind. (My claim that football has four ways to score is wrong, there are actually five: touchdown, field goal, safety, 1 point conversion, and 2 point conversion).

So, I think that the vanishing rarity of come from behind victories in soccer — which is, in turn, intrinsic to the game — is one crucial element in limiting its appeal here.

No doubt because Americans are attention bereft Bud swilling porkers.

Bret said...

Brit,

The reason I asked is that I greatly prefer watching women's college and even high school soccer. (And no, it's not because I like looking at the women).

The scores are much higher primarily because the goalie's just aren't big enough and strong enough to totally cover as much of the goal as the men pros do.

That part, at least, could easily be duplicated for men's pro by making the goals bigger. I, at least, would then find watching men's soccer more enjoyable.

Peter said...

Skipper:

Got any guesses on why Texans like sports with lots of ways to score while Minnesotans are content with just one?

Hint: Why does hockey has a higher market share in Sweden than Spain?

Hey Skipper said...

Minnesotans are content with just one?

Oops, that's right. All the Vikings fans are from south of the Mason - Dixon Line, which is why the market share for hockey is so much higher than football in the Great White North.

Brit said...

Bret - or we could insist that goalkeepers be midgets.

joe shropshire said...

Fine by us Yanks, so long as you teach your midgets to catch the ball. Catch the $%^&!@ ball! Don't let it hit you in the hands and then just roll away someplace. Catch. the. god. damned. ball.

That's Dad's voice in my head, by the way. Throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball. You're just going to have to wait until Americans of my age have all died off.

erp said...

Peter, I just learned from my granddaughter that in her premier soccer league in suburban CT, the rules is if one team is leading by six points, they can't score again until the other team catches up.

The kids don't think anything of it!

Peter said...

Just to irritate Brit even more, I'd like to suggest we North Americans agree that, while soccer is an unbearable snore, the vuvuzelas are super cool and we're looking forward to seeing them at football and hockey games.

(Brit: Spain vs. Switzerland? That was worth watching.)

erp: Mercy rules (or individual limited goal-scoring rules) can be very good things for pre-teens where defence skills haven't developed and the difference betwen a star an ordinary player is wider than it will be in a few years. Controlling competition in an age-appropriate way is to be commended. Trying to root the impulse out, not so much.

erp said...

Peter, I think I've lived too long.

Hey Skipper said...

FWIW.

The US / England match got 14 million households, 4 million of them on a Spanish cable channel.

Game 6 of the Stanley Cup, just over 8 million.

Brit said...

Yes that was a good 1-0 Peter, though the competition needs Spain.

Erp - perhaps it's another guy thing, but it's the difference between non-competitive (where nobody is allowed to beat anyone) and uncompetitive. There's nothing competitive about prolonging a thrashing, or as I believe the US parlance has it, 'running up a score'. When you've knocked your opponent down you pick him up again, you don't rub his face in the dirt.

In kiddies' football the usual way of handling this is to 'swap the teams around a bit' at half-time, in a subtle way which fools nobody.

Peter said...

Skipper:

FWIW:

The Canada/U.S. Olympic hockey final was watched by 27 million Americans (and 23 million Canadians out of 33 million!).

Wanna step outside?

erp said...

Brit, if sports isn't about winning, why not just engage in non-competitive exercises like calisthenics or aerobics instead of games which keep score?

Brit said...

It is about winning; but it's also about learning sportsmanship. Competitive is good; running up a score is uncompetitive.

This isn't ungraspably subtle, is it?

erp said...

It's not ungraspingly subtle, it's ungraspingly ridiculous. Is there an grand entity who decides when a team is "running up the score" and when the team is playing as hard as they can aka competing. Why is five or six points ahead unacceptable? Why not four or eight?

This whole concept comes from making teams open to all comers, instead of picking the kids with the best athletics skills, so teams are, more or less, equal in ability. Kids without natural athletic ability, should practice to hone their skills in the hopes of “making the team.” When everybody makes the team, the point is lost.

Sportsmanship is playing by the rules and not taking unfair advantage by cheating or underhanded tricks. Being a better player, but holding back is not good sportsmanship, it's condescension.

Equality of opportunity is what we should promote, not equality of outcome.

Brit said...

Must be a guy thing.

Or maybe its just American exceptionalism.

erp said...

Brit, why does a discussion about homogenizing the outcomes of children's games turn into a snark about American exceptionalism, especially since we are, to my dismay, apparently not exceptional on this issue.

David said...

Erp -- He's still a little annoyed at our 1-1 victory

Hey Skipper said...

The Canada/U.S. Olympic hockey final was watched by 27 million Americans (and 23 million Canadians out of 33 million!).

Wanna step outside?


Oh, for Pete’s sake.

The 1999 Women’ World Cup Soccer tournament drew 20-40 million (perhaps depending on which axe was being ground) viewers.

Since then?

What this demonstrates is that, so far anyway, in the US soccer and hockey play to niche markets unless nationalism is involved.

(Unless it even more powerfully demonstrates that, with only a couple exceptions, women’s professional sports are a very bad investment idea.)

Brit:

It is about winning; but it's also about learning sportsmanship. Competitive is good; running up a score is uncompetitive.

This isn't ungraspably subtle, is it?


No, it isn’t. But the modern invocation of that notion can be atrocious.

When I used to play, when one team achieved a dominant lead, those who spent most of their time riding pine found themselves on the field.

Or (perhaps until) the game was called on account of mercy.

Either way, fine.

But suburban CT seems intent on proving that letting soccer moms decide the rules is a world class mistake.

Brit said...

Well funnily enough Americans are exceptional when it comes to 'running up a score' as a sign of bad form. In soccer here it would be considered bad form to let up and stop playing seriously even if 5 or 6-0 up. The worst thing would to be start 'showboating' (playing keepy-uppy in midfield, running with the ball on one's head etc - aka 'taking the piss') - in which case it is considered quite acceptable to kick the showboater vigorously up the backside, if you can catch him.

But I thought we were talking about pre-teens - in which case the coaches would try to keep things competitive, since 20 goal trouncings do nobody any good. A good rule there is "three goals and in", which ensures the superstars have to take a turn as goalkeeper.

That's obviously different from the 'we're not keeping score and prizes for everyone' mentality which has erp in such a tizzy.

erp said...

Skipper, aren't you proud, as I am, that our soccer team didn't "run up the score" in World Cup match, but stopped scoring after a sportsmanlike tie?

Brit, you might like to read "Harrison Bergeron," a short story by Kurt Vonnegut (it's in an anthology called "Welcome to the Monkey House." It depicts very well why I'm in a rage about how the left has turned fairness on its head.

BTW I choose to assume that you don't know the definition of a tizzy rather than you deliberately chose to be insulting.

Brit said...

Please don't take 'tizzy' as an insult, Erp, your ability to sustain a near-permanent state of rage against the American left over so many years and issues has long been a source of admiration and comfort for me.

erp said...

Perhaps the link was defective and you still don't know what tizzy means because if you know the definition,
A state of nervous excitement or confusion; a dither, saying one is in one is an insult.

So which is it?

Either you still don't know what tizzy means or you are being deliberately insulting?

Brit said...

Teasing rather than insulting, erp. Joshing, ribbing, you know; this happens a lot amongst the post-Judds. Another guy thing, perhaps.

But humble apologies if you've been offended; I obviously misjudged.

Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

But I thought we were talking about pre-teens

Adult leagues such as softball have a mercy rule — typically 10 runs.

Good coaches knew when to put in the weaker players, and never let anyone gloat.

The rest needed kicks up the backside.

I watched a bit of WC last night; saw Serbia’s opening score on Germany. Amazing, to my relatively unpracticed eye.

Brit said...

Skip - as long as you avoid England it's picked up a bit in the second round of matches, as usual. Argentina's 4th against S Korea was nice; and the Brazil goals against the mad commies were great - the first a cleverly curled finish and the second a magic pass which we would always describe as 'defence-splitting'.

Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

Would you please explain the penalty that nullified the US's game winner?

I saw it replayed several times, and couldn't suss it -- no surprise there. However, the commentators couldn't, either.

Also, it appears that the ref doesn't have to specify what the penalty is.

Why is that?

And doesn't it open the refs up to game fixing? (Which, SFAIK, while potentially a problem in any sport, seems more likely to afflict soccer.)

Brit said...

For a pull on the defender. Harsh but these things are often shades of grey. Football is hard to match fix because individuals can't easily determine the outcome. Refs could but at this level they're so heavily scrutinised on video that it's v improbable. That ref probably won't get any more games after the group stage.

Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

Thanks.

Do you think there should be instant replay on some ref calls (a la American football), or more refs on the field?

For instance, your explanation of the why behind the offside rule makes sense, but if I was the HDWIC, I would have two refs on the field whose primary job was to call that penalty.

Also, should refs have to specify the penalty? After my question above, I happened upon Volokh (a legal blog with a soccer enthusiast on board). From the comments, it wasn't clear if the ref even saw the grab (which would burn the ref), or if he did, saw the defender's precipitating foul (which is the breaks).

Brit said...

Ah Skipper, you hit upon some perrenial debates there. FIFA has stubbornly resisted video replays on the grounds that the game's flow would be ruined by constant interruption. Where it's most likely to come in first is for determining cases where the ball might or might not have crossed the goal-line. There have been experiments this season in the secondary European knockout competition with two extra officials (assistant refs), standing behind the goal at each end of the pitch; the results have been inconclusive so far.