World Cup Post-Script

Via Dave Sez, a Sports Illustrated columnist says that Zidane’s head-butt was understandable because of all the flopping other players do:

So Zidane slammed a guy. He lost it. Writers all over the world are competing with themselves to heap scorn on France’s greatest player. You know something? I don’t blame him for getting sore. Almost every time I could find him on the screen, he had someone tugging at his shirt, tripping him or messing with him in some sneaky way.

The problem is he doesn’t hit the canvas as the rest of those prima donnas do. So the ref must figure nothing is happening. Sure, he should have held off on the head butt, but to put the defeat of his team on his shoulders is a reach.

That’s certainly a different take on the matter. I haven’t watched Zidane enough to say one way or another, but to an American sports fan, the flopping does appear excessive and annoying.

The head-butt was still pretty stupid.

Comments

  1. #1 Ray
    July 12, 2006

    And, you know, it’s not the first time he’s been sent off for violent behaviour. 14 red cards, including another for a head-butt, and one for stamping.
    To be honest, I don’t think Americans get football’s position on the contact/no-contact spectrum.

  2. #2 Walt
    July 12, 2006

    It’s not a soccer post without someone in comments patronizing Americans ability to understand the game.

  3. #3 RPM
    July 12, 2006

    At least he picked the right fucking asshole to do it to. Materazzi is a douchebag. Do a youtube search for Materazzi to see the highlight reel of his dirty play (I tried including the links in my comment, but they were causing it to be flagged as spam).

    As for the diving — it’s understandable to be a diver and it’s understandable to play dirty. I don’t agree with either diving or dirty play, but it’s downright hypocritical to be a dirty diver. Either be a bitch or play rough; you can’t have it both ways. That’s why I hate the Italian team: they’re asshole sissies.

    Sorry for the cursing. I won’t feel bad if you delete the comment because of my language.

  4. #4 Chad Orzel
    July 12, 2006

    To be honest, I don’t think Americans get football’s position on the contact/no-contact spectrum.

    I think we just have an entirely different conception of the contact/ no-contact spectrum. There’s a sort of tough-guy ethos that condemns flopping even in our non-contact sports (baketball and baseball), and praises “playing through pain” and the like.

    The closest thing to the flopping and diving you get in the World Cup would be the Dukie dive, where a defender in basketball will pitch over onto his back at the slightest contact, in an attempt to draw an offensive foul. This is (quite rightly) regarded as a little bit cheap at best, and hasn’t been quite as effective in recent years as it was for a while in the late ’90′s.

  5. #5 Ray
    July 12, 2006

    There’s also a ‘playing through pain’ thing in football – every team has their heroic pictures of players in bandages, or people playing on with broken bones (less common now that subs are allowed). Look at Christiano Ronaldo – the diver everyone loves to hate, but he stayed on the pitch against Holland for as long as he could.
    What I mean by not getting the contact/no-contact spectrum, is that the US has games that are on the extremes. Either everyone charges happily into each other or they barely have reason to touch at all. Football is right in the middle – there will be contact, but the kind of contact is limited. People will fall down, and get kicked, and get pulled – and it will often be quite painful because of the lack or body armour. So “all the flopping” is partly diving, sure, and also partly being genuinely hurt because of collisions at high speed, and also partly players not feeling any obligation to keep standing up when they’ve been fouled because, you know, it’s a *foul*. Why should you ignore it?
    (and it’s not like the NFL guy is going to follow your trackback, but he should really know that players are obliged to leave the pitch on a stretcher if treatment is taking too long. IIRC, the rule introduced at USA ’94 was that once the stretcher came onto the pitch the player had to leave on it. Referees want to get the game going again as soon as possible. So yeah, players will often get off the stretcher immediately and return to play as soon as they can. )

  6. #6 false_cause
    July 12, 2006

    I suspect if you force a World Cup player who falls down appearing to be injured to stay off the pitch for 5 minutes, soccer will look greatly less painful.

  7. #7 Ray
    July 12, 2006

    I don’t watch a lot of American football, but it seems to be a very stop-start game. 10-30 seconds of running around tackling and throwing, then everyone gets up and gets in line again. Or there’s a five minute break for a kick. Or everyone on the pitch comes off, and is replaced by completely different players.
    I suspect that if American football saw completely uninterrupted spells of play that lasted more than a minute, you’d see a lot more players taking their own sweet time getting up – even, astonishing as it may seem, if they hadn’t lost any limbs.

  8. #8 Koray
    July 12, 2006

    Horrific argument. Zidane is at the end of his career and he’s dealt with all kinds of dirty defenders throughout. It was an intense game for him and he was frustrated beyond thunderdome, so he lost it.

    I agree with the SI writer that Balboa was a horrible commentator; he frequently said things like “he had to take him down” where the attacker was nowhere near the goal. Fouling someone could be your intention perhaps once or twice a game. Most of the time it’s accidental. He was also obsessed with people’s heights.

    Soccer is a contact support, and as any defender who got bumped by Shaquille O’Neal knows, even though you are not knocked off your feet, you still are at a disadvange trying to do what you want to do. In the NHL, you can skate right into a guy and hit him as long as not much time elapses before he gets rid of the puck and you slam into him. It is just an admission that we can’t officiate any of these contact sports, and every now and then either a guy will be hit too hard without being fouled, or somebody will flop at the lightest touch, etc.

    One of the things about to keep in mind about fouls in soccer is that players mostly get tripped when they are not expecting it at all (ok, the defender next to you may foul you, but exactly when?). This causes all kinds of bad falls. You are also probably fouled at the peak of your dash, so you are a bit exhausted as well. It is no surprise that they take some time to get up, even though they look just fine afterwards.

  9. #9 Ponderer of Things
    July 12, 2006

    I disagree with journalist as well. Perhaps it was a provocation – but then it was a rather successful one. Zidane loses his temper, gets removed from the game, Italy wins. Zuzu is a professional, and too old to fall for this kind of stuff. I was shocked to see it – not because it was “vicious” as many reported, but simply because it was incredibly stupid for Zidane to do it. I was glad to see him removed and I think he didn’t deserve the title. It doesn’t matter what was said before that – he lost his cool and that’s unprofessional. He will never be considered along with Pele and Maradona.

  10. #10 Erik V. Olson
    July 17, 2006

    I don’t watch a lot of American football, but it seems to be a very stop-start game.

    It is. Pauses aren’t minutes long, except in very exception cases, but it is very much a “run until the ball is downed, reset.” The players get more rest than this, however, because of the specilazation of defense and offense — more than half the team sits.

    However, they expend a great deal of energy in those short bursts — American football, energy wise, is a game of power, not endurance. Part of the reason football is slow is the no-stop, no-sub nature of the game. You can’t run full tilt for 90+ minutes without collapsing.

    I think Chad nails the problem Americans have with flopping. We’re taught to “walk it off” when we get stunned or have the wind knocked out of us. Hard plays are expected, and pretending you’ve been hurt when you haven’t isn’t part of the game.

  11. #11 Ray
    July 17, 2006

    But in American football, when a guy runs into you, knocking you off your feet, and stunning/winding you, he’s playing fair and that’s just part of the game. In soccer, when someone takes your legs out from under you, *he is cheating*, and there’s no reason why you should just pretend it didn’t happen.

  12. #12 Chad Orzel
    July 17, 2006

    But in American football, when a guy runs into you, knocking you off your feet, and stunning/winding you, he’s playing fair and that’s just part of the game. In soccer, when someone takes your legs out from under you, *he is cheating*, and there’s no reason why you should just pretend it didn’t happen.

    This is why, names aside, the proper analogy isn’t between soccer and American football, but between soccer and basketball. Basketball is the American sport with rules closest to soccer, in terms of contact– contact between players on opposing teams is strictly illegal, but inevitable.

    And even in basketball, the American sports ethic is to shake off and play down the effects of contact, not to play-act and feign agony in an attempt to draw calls. There are basketball players who flop, but most fans and other players take a dim view of that sort of behavior– the expectation is that you should take the hit, and score anyway. Getting the foul call is a bonus, not the goal of the play.

  13. #13 Ray
    July 17, 2006

    I’m not as familiar with basketball, but this is why I suggested that soccer occupies a place on the contact spectrum that Americans aren’t very familiar with. Because contact with players on opposing teams is not strictly illegal – shoulder to shoulder is fine, and contact in a tackle is fine – just strictly regulated.
    Plus, (again, not especially familiar with basketball) I think football players tend to collide with more momentum than basketball players, and the collisions are with feet and heads, not arms, so there’s less control and more potential for real pain.

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