Monday, June 21, 2010

diving in soccer

(image c/o Shrunken Mind)

Yeah, it bugs me. In World Cup, and in futbol leagues around the world, guys take comically fake dives in order to draw a foul whenever they can, as incredulously gawked at here by the New York Times today. Supposedly it's a major turn-off for many American viewers because it comes across as unsportsmanlike and an affront to masculinity to feign injury to tug at the heart strings of the refs. John Doyle at The Globe brushes off those complaints by making an argument about how the need for moral uprightness in sports is a distinctly Anglo thing, but he opens himself to the same Anglo-centric charge of which he accuses American viewers.

The real problem with American "tut-tutting" over soccer dives and the Times' treatment of it as some strange, foreign ritual is that -- news flash! -- it happens in American sports all the time. Anyone watched a basketball game in the last, I don't know, 30 years? At both the college and NBA levels, your average hoops game is filled with foul-drawing theatrics to rival Ronaldo's finest performances. How about a football game (yes, even the hallowed sport of manliness and sportsmanlike conduct!) where a defensive end got anywhere within 5 yards of the kicker? Christ, at least in FIFA you can get yellow-carded for diving; in football and basketball there is no penalty for make-believe.

In America as in other countries, the culture of sports dictates that teams play to win by any means at their disposal, despite all the lip service paid to sportsmanship. Anything not explicitly against the rules is fair game, and anything that is explicitly against the games is still done if there's a decent chance you won't get caught.

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