I missed the first 15 minutes of yesterday’s World Cup final because it was inordinately difficult to find a tv showing the game at BWI airport. There are tvs all over the place, but they’re all locked into playing a pre-recorded loop of CNN programs, without even a news ticker that could give score updates. I did eventually find a spot at the bar in a Mexican restaurant, and managed to watch the middle portion of the game. I missed the last 15 minutes of regular time and all over the extra time because I was on a plane back to Albany.
I was planning to write up a recap of what I did see, but I see that Brian Phillips at Slate did it for me:
While Spain’s 1-0 win over the Netherlands capped a tournament that was frequently marvelous, the immiseratingly dull final could only have been pleasing to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s twinkle-eyed president, who grinned along from the sidelines with visions of TV shares dancing in his head. Like Super Bowls, World Cup finals seldom make great games, but this one transcended mere nongreatness. It was a kind of perfect storm of undesirable match traits–a lurching, diving example of the elements that can conspire to make a soccer game boring.
His description matches my impression while watching pretty much exactly: there was a lot of pushing and grabbing, much of it un-called, but what was called was generally a yellow card. After a while, the Spanish in particular started flopping extravagantly, figuring that if they could get the referee to call anything at all, he was eventually going to send off a Dutch player, and open things up for them. It was ugly and frustrating to watch.
The tournament as a whole ended up with (if I’ve counted correctly) 16 ties and 145 goals, making Tom Spencer the winner of the Uncertain Principles World Cup Contest. Congratulations, Tom, and the rest of you, come back in four years to try again.