Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Not a Soccer Fan

As people who follow my blog, my author page https://www.facebook.com/authorJeffLaFerney?ref=hl, or my Sports, Movies, Books, and Music Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sportsmoviesbooksandmusic?ref=hl know, I’m an English teacher, an author, and a former athlete and coach. My blog topics range all over the place, but right now my mind is on soccer. It’s World Cup Soccer season, and I’m not a soccer fan. I know, lots of people are, so my intent isn’t to offend soccer fans with this blog. It’s to tell why I don’t like it personally. It’s simply my opinions and perceptions, shared with anyone who is willing to read them. Because I’m being bombarded with soccer images, “highlights,” etc., I decided to tell my four biggest pet peeves about soccer. I’ll get right to it.

Pet peeve number one is simple. I know it’s a generalization…I know it’s a stereotype…but soccer fans around the world seem to me to be dangerously crazy—deranged to the point of absurd violence. Here in America, we have loads of different sports to watch. We get so much sports coverage that we’re bombarded with images, but there is rarely a violent incident at a game. We rarely see riots, stampedes, murders, and other senseless violence at our sporting events, and we have far more events than other countries. My first problem with soccer is the perception that its fans are overly zealous to the point of demented recklessness. I typed in a Google search for “soccer riot images” and there were literally thousands of them—police in riot gear, stadiums on fire, people being carried out on stretchers, stampeding fans plowing over innocent spectators, tear gas, armed police beating fans with sticks, blood. I typed in “American football riot images,” and the same soccer images came up. There wasn’t one with American football players that I noticed. To me, if my life is in danger when I go to a game, there is a problem with the atmosphere of the “game.” I don’t think an entertainment sport should be a life or death event.

Pet peeve number two becomes more personal. The game is such that there is very little scoring. I can respect that the pro soccer players are fantastically talented, but when Sports Center only has to take fifteen seconds of its thirty minute program to show virtually all of the professional goals scored from the previous day—all over the world, I think—to me it demonstrates an adequate reason to not like the sport. And when the majority of goals are scored directly from corner kicks, free kicks, and penalty kicks, I have to wonder what all the other running around for ninety minutes is all about. On a field that’s approximately two acres big, with gifted players, and with a goal that’s eight feet high and 24 feet long (a hockey goal is four feet by six feet), no one seems to be able to get the ball in. You need evidence? I Googled the average score of a soccer game. I don’t know if I got the “right” answer, but the “best” answer given was the winning team averages 1.63 goals and the losing team averages .54 goals—2.17 goals a game. You need more evidence? In any other sport, does the announcer yell, “Gooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!” for thirty seconds or more when one is finally scored? Goals are so rare, that announcers practically hemorrhage when they see one.


Pet peeve number three has to do with stoppage time. For some reason, the clock doesn’t stop in a soccer game, but a referee is allowed to determine how much extra time is to be played at the end of each half. How does he decide? “The most common reasons include time taken to make substitutions, the treatment of injured players, and deliberate acts of time-wasting by individual players. The referee decides how much stoppage time, if any, should be added at the end of either period.” I guess it’s random—some sort of judgment call one man makes based on what? How much energy he still has? And the irritating thing is….it used to be a secret. No one knew how much stoppage time was granted, let alone how the referee decided upon it. And the time wasn’t put up on the scoreboard for anyone to see. And zero on the clock wasn’t and still isn’t the end of the game. They can play on if the referee thinks they’re making adequate progress toward a scoring attempt. Can you imagine a referee in an American professional football game (the NFL) keeping a secret clock that only he knew about, and then at the end of the game, the players played on without knowing how much time was left? So Payton Manning would line up at center from the ten-yard-line, down three points, and while directing traffic for thirty seconds and while changing the play three times and while giving seventeen hand signals and while shouting out “Omaha” twice, the referee could blow the whistle and say, “The game is over. I just decided. We’ve had enough stoppage time. You made two hand signals too many and don’t seem to be making progress toward the goal line. New England wins!” My son has informed me that stoppage time is now displayed on the scoreboard, and that I would have known if I ever watched any games. Someone—probably someone who didn’t like soccer—convinced the rest of the knuckleheads that displaying the time should be a normal and acceptable practice in the world’s most popular game. But why don’t they just stop the clock when it’s deemed necessary? The ref could just blow a whistle and make a hand signal. And then when the clock hits 0:00, he could blow his whistle again, and the period could be over like in other sports that actually have scoring as part of the competition.

My fourth pet peeve makes all the others pale in comparison. I hate, hate, hate that soccer players flop and act like they’re dead. This happens all the time in an attempt, I suppose, to persuade the lone referee who can make a call that something horribly awful just happened. This is either cheating, in an attempt to draw out a yellow or red card for the opposition…or it’s cheating, in an attempt to give the cheater’s team some sort of free kick so they might attempt to score the only goal they can possibly score…or it’s cheating so the player can rest. After all, there will be stoppage time later when he might not be so exhausted. Everyone knows this is happening, and any true football, hockey, basketball, boxing, wrestling, X-games, or baseball fan (whatever American sport whatsoever) is irritated by the absurd fakery. Let me give two examples from this year’s World Cup. First, U.S. offensive star, Jozy Altidore, suffered a life-threatening hamstring pull—apparently. He was running, pulled a hamstring, grabbed his leg, fell on his back, and nearly died—I guess. He never moved. Too much pain, certainly. He lay on his back like he’d suffered a heart attack. He never tried to sit up, roll over, or stand on his good leg. A hockey player could have had his leg ripped off, and he would have continued playing. Jozy? He needed a stretcher. Six men tried to lift him and failed. Jozy didn’t help whatsoever. They had to tip the stretcher sideways and slide him in because Jozy was too injured from a pulled leg muscle to move any part of his body. Now, I’ll give him credit. Unlike other stretcher injuries I’ve seen in soccer, he didn’t get to the sideline, bounce off the stretcher and run back into the game, but days later, I saw him jogging with his team. Here’s video evidence of the horrendous injury and stretcher humor.

The other example is Luis Suarez’s biting incident. I’ll show you some pictures, but I have to hand it to Luis. He has quite a set of choppers. He’s been gifted with an incredible set of teeth, so I can understand the need to use his gift. His nickname is Dracula…and The Cannibal…and Chewy Luis. So he ran down the field and chomped into his opponent’s shoulder. The victim, Giorgio Chiellini, was in such agony that his legs discontinued working, and he fell to the ground like he was shot in the head or possibly hit by a truck. I watched Mike Tyson literally bite part of Evander Holyfield’s ear right off. Holyfield stayed on his feet. A soccer player would have had to be hooked to emergency IV’s and transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Amazingly Chewy Luis also fell straight to the ground in an attempt to persuade the referee, I assume, that he was illegally shouldered in the teeth, rendering him temporarily lame. When poor Chiellini finally managed to stand again, he was able to run all over the field (I guess he wasn’t hurt so badly after all), showing the bite marks. The skin wasn’t even broken. No blood. Just a mark.
I’ve seen hockey players take a stick across the face—broken nose, blood dripping—and keep playing. Football players have collisions that could kill someone, and they get up and play on. They don’t run around the field showing off their bruise (generating who knows how much stoppage time). Can you imagine a catcher, after taking a 100 MPH foul tip off the shoulder, being sympathetic to the soccer player with bite marks? Can you imagine a professional basketball player who just took an elbow to the teeth being sympathetic to the Cannibal who was rolling around the ground, holding his fangs because he bit his opponent too hard? Can you imagine anyone besides LeBron James or Paul Pierce getting carried or wheeled off the court and then heading straight for the scorer’s table again to re-enter the game?

Honestly, I have my reasons for not liking soccer. If you’re a fan, you’re not alone, but I’ll watch almost any other sport before I’ll watch soccer.