Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Dreadful Game

It didn't take long to remind us ignorant soccer haters what it is about the game we so loathe.

Answer: everything.

The US and England was hyped to the moon and I fell for it. Even cutting short yardwork to make sure I was inside at the specifically mentioned “1:30” game time I had been hearing all week.

Of course, game time was really 2:30, so I swallowed good chunks of Mike Tirico and some other dude I've never seen doing pre-game.

Oh. Sorry. Pre-”match”. Soccer lingo.

Some ninety odd minutes and orange slices later, we had an entirely un-satisfactory 1-1 tie for all of that hype and build-up.

The British side was pissed. The Yanks were sheepishly happy. And I had dozed off to the drone of the vuvuzelas.

Soccer is just as bad to watch as it was when I left it, which was four years ago at the last World Cup. You know, the one where the idiotic Frenchman headbutted an opponent costing his nation the Cup. Don't ask me about the rest of that year's tournament. That's all I remember.

Right off the bat, this year's Cup fell into comfortable cliches. Two games. Two goals. Two ties.

Ah yes, but I know. If I only had the requisite soccer knowledge and global sporting intellect, those 2 goals would have been the crown jewels on a subtle and complex tapestry woven by the 22 players on the pitch.

But I don't. I'm American, and I prefer my sports to be interesting.

The reasons why soccer hasn't “caught on” here as a spectator sport are obvious. And the rest of the world isn't changing it for our sake. A decision with which I concur. You'll never convert us anyway, so why mess with a winning product everywhere else?

There are many stupid things about soccer, but the lack of scoring remains the stupidest.

A 1-0 deficit, and your side is playing with the burden of 11 elephants on their backs.
A 2-0 deficit and you are now just out there getting some exercise.
A 3-0 defeat and the newspapers back home will call you an “embarassment.”

This level of scoring just doesn't make sense.

It is so hard to score in soccer, it would be like basketball played on 30 foot rims.

Soccer eliminates the most fundamentally exciting thing about sports: the comeback.

There are no comebacks in soccer. If a team comes back to win a game after going down 3-0, it'll become local lore on par with a Loch Ness Monster sighting.

“Ah, yes, laddie. 'Member da time when Tottenham came back aginst ManU ta win dat one, four da tree?”

“Sure do, laddie. Octoober ninth, nine-teen-fifty-one. Da greetest dah in Hotspur histray!”

My humble suggestion for soccer would be to do away entirely with “off-sides.” I mean, how bad would the game look in comparison to now? You have 11 guys, so do we. If a guy is cherry picking, you might want to mark him. Spread out the players, open some lanes, allow for some over-the-top passing.

And for god sakes, get the goal count comfortably into the 5 to 4 range per game.

A quality effort for a soccer team usually produces perhaps 10-12 goal scoring “chances.” Not necessarily shots, or even shots-on-frame, but just a dozen moments where you actually say: “Hey, in theory, this team might score here.”

Assuming 20 quality chances per game total, over 90 plus minutes, that's barely one every five minutes.

And soccer fanatics like to rip the NFL for all of the “breaks in the action.” Child, please.

Hey, huddles in football don't last 4 minutes. And you can score from anywhere on the field.

Either team.

In spectacular fashion.

What a shock soccer has never caught our fancy in America.


  1. Not that I endorse this, but their rebuttal might be that close, low-scoring games ratchet up the tension and excitement, not unlike a Pedro vs. Clemens pitching duel.

  2. I think one of the biggest problems is the lack mixing of nationalities here in the states. I am working over in Korea at the moment and going to the bar for the games is great fun with all the various countries coming out to "support" their country. The USA England came here was great fun with good banter thrown about. Back stateside you have no one to mock when their goalie gives up that easy goal....

  3. And the proper response to that nonsense is that there is only tension when there are true scoring opportunities which occur as often as a bowel movement. The rest of the time the ball is being bounded about endlessly seemingly with no specific purpose. Soccer is just is. I am not a hater. I have tried. I'd rather watch gymnastics. Seriously. Figure skating...more interesting. I can't think of any remotely mainstream sport(and I am being extremely loose here) that is less exciting. Perhaps long distance running.

  4. Cut the field in half width-wise, shorten it by 20 yards, cut it down to 7 on 7 and eliminate the off-sides. That could make soccer work in the US. Not that the sport everyone else loves so much should do that just for the US. But it's the only thing that would work. Hell while there at it add in a penalty-box to create power-plays. That would be ok. Anything to open the game up and reduce the nothingness of 90% of the field and create scoring situations.

  5. that davis wouldn't put up with that noise.

  6. Google "1999 uefa champions league final" for a miraculous comeback. So, they do exist. Problem is, it was 11 years ago! Comebacks are rare. Also, as Americans, we like statistics- just check out USA Today's sports section. In soccer, a player's stats are just no. goals, and caps (i.e. international games).

  7. You are absolutely right, Czabe. All you have to do is change a few rules of the game to make it more popular in America.

    First of all, what soccer needs to do is let the players use their hands to throw the ball to their teammates in order to move it closer to their goal (which should be a long line located 10 yards from both ends of the field).

    Now, if you still insist on kicking the ball, then you can designate two players from each team to be the official team ball "kickers". Although they will not be the most popular players on the field, they will be a throwback to how the game used to be.

    Also, stretch out two opposite sides of the ball to make it easier to throw (but ironically, harder to kick).

    The field needs to do away with boring squares. Instead, the "pitch" needs some extra lines drawn parallel to the "goal" lines. This is purely for aesthetic purposes but it also makes it easier to follow the game.

    Next, they should allow more physical contact between the players. Of course, due to the physical, and sometimes violent contact, the players will need some extra padding [i.e. thighs (optional) and shoulder pads]. Maybe even a helmet - just to be safe.

    Speaking of uniforms, players should wear bright colors and tight pants. This is only to keep the attention of female viewers and give them a reason to root for a team.

    Now that's what I call FOOTBALL!!!

    -Malcolm in Corpus Christi

  8. I've got a friend who loves soccer. He just moved to Chicago, so I introduced him to playoff hockey. He was out of his mind with the scoring opportunities. I may have ruined him as a soccer fan.
    I have never understood why more shots aren't taken. Look what happens when you put it on net. Bad-shot, goalie makes a mistake, Goal! The US had 4 shots on goal in 90 minutes. One shot every 22.5 minutes. England had twice that many. so they took a shot every 11 minutes and 45 seconds. Breath-taking. Their Goalie, Green, had 3 saves in 90 minutes. I see why they don't keep that statistic.

  9. I've heard your suggestion of doing away with offsides 4 years ago, during the last World Cup. I understand your argument, but I am not in agreement. To give the explanation in a single word... tradition (a word that is also heavily applied to golf, the other game that originated across the pond). Changing that rule would dramatically alter the strategy of the game and force it into a new era, detaching it from the tradition and beauty of the game that exists today.

    I agree with the point made in your blog - the reality is that soccer is fine as it is today. The sport thrives in the rest of the world and doesn't need the Americans to survive. Soccer is niche market in the USA, it's never going to become big here and I'm perfectly alright with that.

    And please (everyone!) stop bitching about having to watch the USA-England match, the result of it, or any future matches! You don't want to watch it, fine, change the channel. Or even better, turn off the TV and get your lazy ass outside on a summer afternoon. Maybe play the sport that you like. And don't go around telling people, "oh, soccer sucks" and bash it all the time. Your ignorance and lack of appreciation doesn't give you a ticket to be a jackass. So shut up and go about your business. I don't go bashing other sports because I dislike them. And I don't impose the game on others, so let's move on.

    The World Cup is once every 4 years, so just relax and give us this month to enjoy the sport.

    (added thought): I lobby for the name change of American Football to "throwball" or "handball", etc. Czabe, I know you're a man of logic and common sense, so do I really even need to argue my case?

  10. i'll stop bashing soccer when the soccer heads stop telling me how ignorant i am for not loving their boring sport. have your tournament - blow your plastic horns - enjoy yourselves - just shut up already about how much i should be appreciating it. not to get political, but its just like barry obama's stint as usa ceo - ok - ya won - cool - i accept that he's ceo but i don't have to like it.

  11. Too funny...I love sports, american football and soccer as my 2 favorites. I honestly don't care if you don't like soccer. It's already caught on here. 18 team MLS league that makes money. Dozens of pro's now in Europe. Advertising and tv deals out the wazoo. Unbelieveable tv ratings for the Cup. So, haters, WE DON'T CARE about you. I LOVE reading this crap from you folks every few years. Makes me laugh on a Monday as I sit here at work. Thanks!

  12. Czabe, I'm as American as they come, and I'll take a 0-0 draw in soccer over a 1-0 baseball snoozer any effing day. Also as for your exciting 100 yard interception clip, how many clips could I show of a handoff cloud of dust and no gain? I love football, I love rally racing, and I loathe baseball and basketball, the latter two because of boring games and idiotic off court/field politics.

  13. "For god sakes" or is it "for god's sake"? I'm going with the second one.

  14. We get that you don't like soccer. Tell us something new today. Tell how the NBA Champion is actually the world's champion. That's always a good one.

  15. Awwww...all the wittle soccer fans are upset that their sport is not well received in the U.S.

  16. Where did you get that, Ben? Got a little problem w/ reading comprehension today, or is the baby talk a sign desperation to try and show Czabe how cool you are?

  17. Yes, it's true, soccer does truly suck. Offsides is a stupid rule; it's akin to not letting a wide receiver get behind the safety for a wide open deep touchdown. It's a slow, plodding game that is almost as exciting as curling but with less action. If Euros and Euro-wanna-bes dig it, go nuts. Just don't wait for me to watch a thrilling 0-0 tie; it'll be a long wait.

  18. you think my comment was directed at you? If so, why? Gotta soccer inferiority complex do we? Also, why do you feel the need to lash out at me personally when all I did was generalize unspecific?

  19. And Bushmen...If you have ever read any of my other comments on this site it would be painfully obvious that I don't give a rat's ass what Steve Czaben thinks of me.

    1) Fans. They're not cheering events on the pitch, they're just constantly making noise for no reason. It sounds like a swarm of bees descending on the stadium...which, come to think of it, would actually add some real interest.

    2) Histrionics. If a player goes down like he's just had his leg broken, bring out a portable x-ray machine. And if the leg is not really broken, shoot him.

    3) Scoring. Don't let the goalie use his hands. Problem solved.

    4) Offsides. Draw a line on the field just like in great there.

    5) Timing. Meticulously time the game, just like in every real sport. Every time the x-ray machine is brought on the field, stop the clock, then restart it when the hearse drives off.

    The rest of the world could learn a thing or two from the U.S. when it comes to sports (note the plural).

  21. Ben, you're a trip. I do read your comments and laugh my ass off at them because I do love the way you rip Czabe. Just giving you grief back, which obviously came out out the wrong way. My apologies. There really should be a sarcasm font...

    anyway, again, I've got no problem w/ soccer haters. My life-long friends are devout NASCAR and baseball lovers, and I just don't get either one of them.

    I just find it weird that people go out of their way to slam soccer but not really any other sport, as they all have their issues...

  22. Thanks Bushman. It's all good, we're cool. I also don't understand the attraction of NASCAR but baseball is my favorite sport. Soccer people tell me that if I understood or appreciated all the nuances, strategies, and little things about soccer then I would like it more which is exactly what I tell baseball haters. So I guess the moral of the story is like what you like with a passion and damn all the nonbelievers.

  23. I can't stand people who just because they don't like a sport say with authority "______ isn't a sport" Jim Rome does it all the time with soccer and it's pathetic. If you don't like soccer, fine- your call. It isn't as if there aren't other sports to follow in the U.S. Follow those, but don't go out of your way to say soccer sucks or it isn't a sport. It is a sport, an awesome game, and if you want a higher-scoring sport then go friggin watch arena football and let us enjoy the World Cup, jeezus...

  24. Ben, I know Baseball has their own "World Cup," but if they were able to get it and make it on a scale of the soccer Cup, I'd be glued to my set as well. Kinda surprised the powers that be, as well as you baseball folks, aren't looking at this tournament and asking, "Why don't we have this?" I think it'd be huge.

  25. A post by someone who doesn't understand the Sport at all.

    If Offside was scrapped there would be less goals, as 5 defenders are enough to keep 10 players from scoring a goal easily (look up Ariggo Sachi ac milan on this one)

    Football/Soccer is way better still than watching overweight/drug junkies of your american sports,
    .. oh what, they are only some of them? well its the same with goals, most football games are exciting, This is world Cup teams are nervous and don't want to loose hence overly defense early on.
    Watch Spain's matches you'll see.

    And ya, i don't wat 10 adverts in 5 min, ridiculous, time wasting in US sports, Soccer players are way more fitter and athletic, try running that much with only really 1 solid break. and keep your concentration and body eye co-ordination intact and team morale.

  26. This will surely piss Czabe off.

    NPR: only right-wing nuts hate soccer.

  27. Yes, we all care what NPR has to say.
    If you like soccer, watch it. It bores me, so stop trying to convince me that if I only understood it, I would love it.
    It's a sport for 12 year old girls to play.

  28. I agree with my man Varun, especially with the 97 commercial breaks it requires to get through a mid-september non-conf college football game. I hold soccer in great regard. The same regard as basketball, football, hockey, baseball, motorcycle road racing, golf, (as some of my favorite examples). You have to know the intricacies (good & bad) of each & appreciate them. Listen... I love being an arrogant American sh*t-talker, but a third of the planet follows the World Cup with great passion. Soccer is a great game, without debate. And you can always bang through a game in two hours, unlike the Yanks / Sox afront to baseball. Injury time is retarded, though. It always drove me bonkers in games where the ref decided to let play go on for what seemed like an eternity. That is soccer's only flaw. Flopping is just going to happen with Euro-ish players & pussies (see Ginobili, Calderon and Flop-Master Pierce). Hockey players, you're bad-asses.

  29. Never saw your blog before. But this was spot-on.

    "Ah yes, but I know. If I only had the requisite soccer knowledge and global sporting intellect, those 2 goals would have been the crown jewels on a subtle and complex tapestry woven by the 22 players on the pitch."

    Thank you for that. Every time someone tells me about the superiority of soccer, it's always about artistry, or nuances, or some such language which always strikes me as grasping at straws. Or, that it's such a great universal game, only requires a ball, poor people can play it, etc. None of this ever explains to me why I should want to watch it. Great, it's ideal for children. Playing hockey or football is expensive, all the equipment and so on. Soccer is egalitarian. But that doesn't make soccer interesting.

  30. A columnist from SI wrote a back page column (in the early 90's I believe) titled "Why I hate soccer" or something close to that. It was brilliant, and is absolutely dead on today. I suppose this thing called Google might be able to find it. So Google it and if possible, read, if you hate soccer like I do...:)

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  32. Not sure if this will be read, but I'll give it a try. Was on my way home today (7/11/18) and had ESPN 980 on long enough to here Steve Czaban's sarcasm about the Crotia vs England World Cup game. He had the game on and was giving sarcastic feigned commentary to it on the radio as if he was some soccer fantatic. I don't listen to him much, but I guess the station must have gotten some calls about not covering the World Cup so he did what you would expect from a soccer hater. He could have just left it alone and ignored it, but his arrogance won't allow him too, so he had to put it on display.