Tsk tsk
April 7, 2016 8:48 AM   Subscribe

 
This is the main reason I don't watch soccer. To me it's bad sportsmanship.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:59 AM on April 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


My 9-year-old son has already made his mind up about this; according to him, the kids at the other school in the village all throw themselves on the ground and writhe around if you so much as go near them. He thinks it's ridiculous. I'd never heard of it before. The idea that this activity is so mainstream that it's being taught to little kids in schools and local football clubs is a bit bonkers, really.
posted by pipeski at 9:01 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, nice. Corruption.
posted by uraniumwilly at 9:03 AM on April 7, 2016


The flop, basketball’s closest equivalent, is less dramatic and tends to be associated with foreign players.

The flop can be as dramatic as any dive, and it's embraced by players of all nationalities.
posted by jessssse at 9:31 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


As an outsider to the sport, I must say that the spectacle of a strong, athletic adult flopping to the grass and writhing around with tears in his eyes after a cursory nudge by another player will always be silly to me. No moral outrage on my part; only embarrassment on their behalf.

That said, this was one hell of a well-written article and it has given me fresh insight into the culture of an alien sport. Great post!
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:32 AM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Part of what makes football great is the way the professionals have no shame about diving. On globally televised events, with full knowledge that their theatrics are going to be recorded and rewatched and youtubed and vined and discussed in great detail the day after. They have embraced the panopticon and thrown themselves right onto it, writhing all the time.
posted by Nelson at 9:35 AM on April 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


take any high level version of any much loved (over loved) sport and I submit, if you can't find a stain of corruption, ugliness, cheating, whatever -- you're not looking hard enough. Maybe football (soccer, if you must) comes off worse for it because it calls itself "the beautiful game".
posted by philip-random at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Flopping is truly an art, but I feel like the NBA needs to teach some variety in form.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Good article, cheers.

As a self-aware football supporter I am perfectly comfortable with my own hypocrisy, which is to say if an Arsenal striker ever dove in the box (which of course would never happen) I'd point out just how fast they're all running and how even a slight touch, a breeze even, could send someone head over heels at that speed, whereas if a player for another side did it I would say some very nasty things about them and add that they deserved to have their feet cut off. I thought everyone was like that. As deeply ingrained as the 'Hand of God' is in the English national psyche, I think we all know if it happened the other way we'd all say, 'well, that's football, you know, sometimes the call goes your way, sometimes the other.' Or rather the polite people would say that and the rest would laugh and taunt.

The 'Olympian Spirit', the patriotic, militaristic 'Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton' has no place in football, in my opinion. Football should be about relaxing, drinking more than you should and doing things you shouldn't generally (within limits of course). It should be an escape from a society that imposes so many restrictions on what you can and can't do and takes up so much of your time with soulless, dead-end work. It should also be more inclusive than it is and that's a long struggle that I don't see an end to. But that's why I find it so annoying when this kind of moral superiority comes into it. That's work week stuff not weekend stuff. I don't know if that's finally a rigorously defensible position, but it's the way I feel.
posted by Cassettevetes at 9:46 AM on April 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


I watch professional wrestling, and I still feel like diving is the worst part of football.
posted by Etrigan at 9:48 AM on April 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


The flop can be as dramatic as any dive, and it's embraced by players of all nationalities.

I'm a college fan, but I love a well taken charge. Get into legal position, take the contact, and sell it? It's a skill.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:50 AM on April 7, 2016


Strikers kick, and use their skulls, with incredible force, making one wonder vaguely about the risks of head trauma.

There is a lot more than "vague wondering" going on, but perhaps not among the authors crowd.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:51 AM on April 7, 2016


They should have an American editor who knows at least a little about sports edit articles out of Europe that put so much emphasis on comparisons. They get the basketball flop and American football pass interference references so wrong that it makes the points moot.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 9:52 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


. I thought everyone was like that.

Everyone is like that but surprisingly few of them know it.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:53 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I play indoor, and the Scot and the Kiwi on our team both have the "I just got fouled, hands up as I fall to the ground" move. They don't fake injuries though. As the goalkeeper, that's my job.. You even breathe on me, I'm going down. But only because I'm defenseless back there, and the refs let players wreck me without any calls...
posted by Windopaene at 9:58 AM on April 7, 2016


It quickly would
all go away
If the ref could
instant replay
posted by ethansr at 10:06 AM on April 7, 2016


Messi definitely isn't immune to diving.

And regarding people who claim not to watch soccer because of diving, I suspect that most just aren't interested in the sport regardless.
posted by beau jackson at 10:08 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I can understand how a sport with long continuous play and very low, close scores might value anything that could lead to a scoring opportunity or at least give everyone a blow and a tug on the water bottle for a minute. Just break out the magic sponge...
posted by jim in austin at 10:08 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Even with an additional official or replay you won't stop flopping because the reward far outweighs the risk.

A successful flop inside the penalty area is a penalty kick which converts to a goal 75% of the time. The only negative outcome for the flopper is a yellow card in a position on the pitch where a free kick is meaningless.

If you look at last weeks mls and premier league matches, 1 goal would have changed the outcome in 14 of those 20 matches.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I recall a few years ago, while playing in a rec league, that there was a player who loved to dive (and grab the ball). He was quite suprised when he did that at a perceived foul by a player in front of me, didn't quite grasp the ball, and as it dribbled clear of his hands, I smashed it back into his head. The ref, obligingly, gave him a yellow card for a hand-ball and told him never to do that again; then told me that next time I should just kick the ball out of play.

I would hope that video review could eliminate the cheats, but there hasn't been much of a push for retrospective punishment based on video evidence.
posted by combinatorial explosion at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


This article is great and much better than its subject.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Interesting that MLS is one league actively working on this. They will suspend and fine you for simulation- One recent example.

I agree that diving is a problem and a blemish on the sport, but let's not pretend that athletes in other leagues won't cheat when they get the chance, whether it's deflating footballs or trying to slide into the second base player and grab his foot to mess up his throw. Unfortunately, there is just too much reward in diving, as stated above.
posted by beau jackson at 10:16 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem is that for a contact sport, football has a lot of disloyalty going on. Going down easy most times beats being kicked in the legs repeatedly by one or two defenders and the referee letting play on because the player doesn't go down, so he's not being fouled, or even consider playing advantage. Defenders stretch physicality well past the rules of the game; attackers do the same by trying to take advantage of every contact in a position they get more from falling down than playing on. I'm all for physical football, but almost all referees allow too much stomping on the feet, kicking the ankles or the shins (which ARE fouls) or grabbing the jersey before calling a foul, only happening if the player gives up on the play. I'd have no problem with most matches finishing 9 against 8 if that meant defenders were forced to play clean and attackers would be penalized for attempting to make more out of anything. I always hear that sending offs "ruins a game", but what actually does that is, for instance, Diego Costa spending the first half stirring up shit until something blows up. Same with referees that allow games to run out of control after refusing to send off a player for a wreckless tackle early on the game.

There's also a buttload of xenophobia involved. English players never dive. Of course. Except when Lineker jumped his way past Cameroon, 5 years before the corruptor of youth Jurgen Klinsmann joined Spurs (and yes, he sold that against Argentina, but would the referee give a red for a high studs-first tackle on the calves if he went down normally?). As seen in the comments, there's more than a few examples of pure, English players diving happily in the 60s and 70s, and this considering there's just a fraction of recorded football before that. But now we have 10 smooth slow-motion cameras for each play, and it's easier (or is it? every contentious play is analysed for weeks around here) to say if a player dived, or was fouled.

Obviously, there's no excuse for theatrics and downright faking like Marcelo yesterday; He should be suspended for the second leg, first for kicking/baiting an opponent, then headbutting him and acting like he was hit. Same for overselling a foul - I recall, in Germany '06 a dive by Ronaldo where the fucker managed to jump-dive, then in almost cinematic fashion do a half-turn facing the referee and grimace first out of "pain" and then out of disgust for not seeing a reaction. If a player clearly shows a disregard for the opponent and tries to sell a foul with no contact, he should get a one-game ban, regardless of the call on the field.

And if I was a betting man, I'd put something on that everyone who penned an article about the betrayal of diving, also wrote something lamenting the shortened career of Marco Van Basten, how a dazzling player like Paulo Futre has a roadmap of pain on his knee and his Ballon d'Or potential was cut short by injuries, the uneventful (well, it was eventful, for the wrong reasons) career of Maradona in Barcelona, or why Premiership players are always fucked up in international competitions, not realizing there's a connection between these and the anti-diving, "physical" football style apologists defend.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:26 AM on April 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's strange when people who are alien to a sport's culture attempt to judge that sport's traditions based on their individual idea of "sporting." You can always find something ridiculous about a sport to complain about, and you'll sound like an idiot to the fans, even if you have a valid point, because it's an accepted part of the game.

For example, in American football, it's perfectly acceptable for a team to run down the clock by the quarterback taking the snap and taking a knee immediately. In basketball, you can intentionally foul someone, and people refer to a team as having "fouls to give." Individual sports like cycling have developed teams, where the members of a team support a nominated winner, in what's ostensibly a free-for-all.

So if you're a huge fan of soccer and still hate the dive, cool. But if you're like me and don't really follow soccer much, perhaps we should hold off on passing judgment.
posted by explosion at 10:28 AM on April 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


Women's soccer is infinitely more watchable for me exactly because there isn't any of this nonsense. And I speculate the reason there isn't any of this nonsense is because women's soccer already has to take a whole boatload of other horseshit illegitimate complaints that Mens soccer isn't subjected to, so why give ammo.

They dive in soccer because they have privilege.
posted by Karaage at 10:32 AM on April 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


I watch professional wrestling, and I still feel like diving is the worst part of football.

Well that's a big part of it - like wrestling, football fans love it when the players take on the roles of Heels or Faces. Or as the article notes, a player can be simultaneously a Heel and a Face, depending on whether you're Argentinian or English. A very big percentage of the conversation and shouting at a football match is usually concerning whether or not someone has dived.

That said, the above applies mainly to cases of contact between two players in which a fall is simply exaggerated. At the other end of the scale is the diving style in which a player has not actually been touched at all, but crumples his knees as he clutches both hands to his head as if shot in the face, and then hurls himself to the floor in order to roll over three times. That I agree is beyond even wrestling kayfabe.
posted by colie at 10:37 AM on April 7, 2016


The thing with the dive is that if the player gets fouled but does the sporting thing and stays up then the ref won't even see the foul. It's great if the attacking player is able to ride the tackle and keep going but if not then staying up puts them at a disadvantage. Of course the flip side of this is people going down at the merest thought of contact when they're in the box and then hoping the ref gives them the call (something which apparently favours the bigger teams).

At the pro level I figure that simulation is just another facet of the game and something that players ought to work on. In the same way that defenders will practice things like shirt pulling or surreptitiously holding players.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:39 AM on April 7, 2016


As for solutions, I've been recently on the camp of doing away with direct free kicks (which in the box result in a penalty) unless the foul is violent (direct red card violent), stops a clear goal situation, or a player with a clean shot on goal.
Of course, as cards would still be on play, there wouldn't be much incentive to repeatedly foul in the box, but it would make the old "make a run to the end line and fall down" trick more useless, because instead of a clean shot from 12 yards, it's a play where the ball is spotted on the foul, with as many players as the defending team can cram between the spot and the goal line, and can't be kicked directly. Could also be used to say every handball is intentional, particularly on cases a player's dangling hand is caught on a low cross, instead of leaving the officials' interpretation.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:42 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's appalling. I can assure you there was no such indoctrination to drawing a foul from my coaches when I was growing up, and most of our refs had no patience for people who flopped. You flop and you're just letting me get away with the ball and that costs you.
Coaching could fix some of this, but more of it is on the refs. They need to eject floppers and don't stop play when people flop to stop an attack on goal that they simply failed to defend against properly.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:43 AM on April 7, 2016


I'm a college fan, but I love a well taken charge. Get into legal position, take the contact, and sell it? It's a skill.

you are unequivocally a bad person. Not Hitler bad though. Just "doesnt' like puppies and kittens" bad.

As for flopping, its game theory. As long as it works at all, everyone's optimal strategy is to flop. And I don't think its reasonable to expect all flopping to go away, so ya' know - just deal with it.
posted by JPD at 10:45 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The problem is that refs have too much power because there is so little scoring. Wait, actually the problem is that there is so little scoring. Maybe keep all defenders out of the crease, like in handball?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:46 AM on April 7, 2016


originally from n+1 which i've been thinking of subscribing to for some time....
posted by andrewcooke at 10:50 AM on April 7, 2016


don't stop play when people flop to stop an attack on goal that they simply failed to defend against properly.

That's not really the issue tho in soccer? (perhaps you mean another sport) In football, it's strikers having got themselves into a possible scoring position and then going down.

To make it worse, modern football is so much about super-fast counter attacking that bewildered or nervy defenders will indeed genuinely foul a player who is going through on goal in this situation - and this cynical 'take him out at all costs' approach is what led to the rule change where referees automatically send off a defender who commits a foul if he is the last man back preventing a scoring opportunity.
posted by colie at 10:52 AM on April 7, 2016


For example, in American football, it's perfectly acceptable for a team to run down the clock by the quarterback taking the snap and taking a knee immediately. In basketball, you can intentionally foul someone, and people refer to a team as having "fouls to give." Individual sports like cycling have developed teams, where the members of a team support a nominated winner, in what's ostensibly a free-for-all.

The difference, I think from the American perspective, is the deception involved in diving. The things you describe above are all exploitation of the rules, yes, but honest exploitation. A quarterback knows the clock is running, for example, and so intentionally slows things down.

Diving is faking injury or pain (or greatly exaggerating it) to get ahead. It's the dishonesty of the act that's grating, because it feels like nakedly cheating. It's the difference between stretching the truth and outright lying.

It's weird to me as an outsider that everyone seems to acknowledge that the players are routinely lying but no one does anything about it.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:52 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


The thing with the dive is that if the player gets fouled but does the sporting thing and stays up then the ref won't even see the foul.

An old ref slogan is "just because they dived doesn't mean there was a foul." Hockey, at least in the NHL, gets this right -- in hockey, it's "embellishment," and if there was a penalty committed and you oversold it, both you and the guy who fouled you go into the penalty box, if there was no foul, it's just you.

The NBA has started reviewing flops after the game and issuing fines. It's a non-unsportmanslike technical foul if you're caught during the game (1 shot unguarded from the line + ball at point of foul.) By the rules, non-unsportmanlike technicals are not fined and don't accrue any other detriments (unsportmanlike technical get fines, and if you commit enough during the season, suspensions.) So, if you're caught in the game, it's a T, if not, it's a fine. There's still a problem, but it's gradually coming under control.

Flopping can be solved in soccer if the various leagues want it to be solved. First, change flopping to a red. Second, retroactive issue those if video evidence shows they flopped. Third, dock points from the team. After a couple of weeks, players will either stop flopping or they'll be cut by the team for the damage they're doing to the team.

It's like the purpose pitch in baseball. Say what they want, but the MLB doesn't truly want to get rid of it. If they did, they would just change the rule to say you get 2nd or 3rd if you're hit by a pitch outside the strike zone, and the purpose pitch would *die instantly* because nobody is going to put a runner into scoring position.

US athletes don't get diving because it was drilled into us that faking anything was the worst thing ever. You never pretended you were hurt -- indeed, if you were actually hurt, you'd get a "rub a little dirt on it, you'll be fine." Faking an injury would get you cut fast.

Tip to spotting fakers/embellishers. Nobody who's really hurt moves the part that is supposedly hurt, because if they do, it REALLY hurts. When they grab a leg and start rolling on the ground? Fuck, given them a yellow right then and there, because they are *LYING*.

Doesn't fix the problem, because they'll learn not to do that after a dive. Indeed, if you were smart, you'd drop like you'd be poleaxed and just lie there, and hope the guy you dove on gets a red.
posted by eriko at 10:55 AM on April 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


For example, in American football, it's perfectly acceptable for a team to run down the clock by the quarterback taking the snap and taking a knee immediately.

Clock management is simply part of the game. The other side can choose plays (like passes to the sidelines) that will result in the clock stopping after the play. The QB can also *stop* the clock by taking a snap and immediately throwing it into the ground. Indeed, the play is called "clocking the ball."*

This isn't trying to take advantage by creating a foul when none existed. This is following the rules to gain an advantage.

Get into legal position, take the contact, and sell it? It's a skill.

If you honestly took a charge, you don't need to sell it. Physics will sell it for you.

Women's soccer is infinitely more watchable for me exactly because there isn't any of this nonsense.

Don't watch Colombia or Brazil's teams, then. Esp. Colombia last women's world cup.

But on the whole, 1000% agree. They don't dive, they don't argue with the ref every time a call is made (though the USWNT is starting to get that way at times and they need to stop) and the number of times I've seen a woman helping an opposite team player after some incident is legion. It's much more fun to watch because the Men's game has become whine and dive.




* Important. Take no more than 1 step back before doing this. If you take two, what you've done is grounding, and that's the worst penalty there is when you're trying to save time -- you lose the down, and the yardage for the penalty, the clock restarts when the ball is set, and in certain circumstances, there's a mandatory 10 second run off the clock as well.

But if you just standup and spike it, it's not grounding. You lose the down, that's it. Canada's version of the game doesn't really use it, because the rule explicitly allow one last play after the clock runs down and you only have three downs to get a first. Yes, there was a case where someone thought they'd got the first down and clocked the ball -- only to find out he'd just clocked the ball on 4th down and gave the ball (and game) away.
posted by eriko at 11:05 AM on April 7, 2016


I did like one US player's attitude. "Well, if they're going to dive, I'm going to foul them as hard as I can when they do. Because if I'm getting the card, I'm going to earn it."
posted by eriko at 11:09 AM on April 7, 2016


It's weird to me as an outsider that everyone seems to acknowledge that the players are routinely lying but no one does anything about it.

MLS hands out fines and suspensions for simulation.
posted by beau jackson at 11:11 AM on April 7, 2016


they don't argue with the ref every time a call is made

Ugh this. I can live with some flopping but it really gets under my skin when the ref can't make any call without a crowd of 20 bumping their chests into the official and screaming about what happened. In my time officiating hockey, it was within our authority to eject a player who tried shit like this on the ice.
posted by cmfletcher at 11:12 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's weird to me as an outsider that everyone seems to acknowledge that the players are routinely lying but no one does anything about it.

That's because you're viewing it as "lying." If it's a part of the game, then it's a part of the game. "Framing a pitch" is considered an important skill for a baseball catcher, even though that too could be considered "lying" to the umpire.

Time-management is considered a skill that's endemic to sports, but I imagine at one point early in the sports' histories, it was considered unsporting. "You're supposed to play the game, not the clock," someone must have cried.

Today, we have people saying, "You're supposed to play the game, not the ref!" but it IS part of the game, just a part that some people seem to dislike.
posted by explosion at 11:21 AM on April 7, 2016


As a new EPL fan what I've noticed most is the inconsistency* of the enforcement. Maybe they need a couple of extra refs because the officials seen to often be well behind the play when there is a foul / dive situation in the penalty box on a counter attack. Given how important the penalty area is, seems like they should just station a ref in each one, whose only job is to police fouls and dives in the box.

I'm not a fan of implementing instant replay as one thing I really like about soccer is the very consistent two hour game time. Anything that slows the game is a bad idea. 4 hour Red-Sox / Yankees games are going to kill me.

By inconsistency what I mean is my Southampton Saints never get the damn call!
posted by COD at 11:24 AM on April 7, 2016


Given how important the penalty area is, seems like they should just station a ref in each one, whose only job is to police fouls and dives in the box.
UEFA has put them on Europa League matches and it doesn't help much. Same will happen with video officiating.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:27 AM on April 7, 2016


If you honestly took a charge, you don't need to sell it. Physics will sell it for you.

I'm not sure about that, even in theory, much less at game speed. Physics doesn't mean that anytime an offensive player dribbles into a defensive player in a legal guarding position he's going to fall to the ground, and not every ref is going to see that contact with bodies flying around at speed. "Selling it" is for me perfectly legitimate, as long as you're actually in position and contacted.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The problem is that refs have too much power because there is so little scoring. Wait, actually the problem is that there is so little scoring. Maybe keep all defenders out of the crease, like in handball?

It's supposed to be hard to score. That's why you get points for doing so. It's also the reason we still occasionally see upsets in cup competitions when teams who are literally leagues apart meet and the little guy wins.
posted by Jakey at 12:09 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think there's a lot of conflation of two different principles here, too. There's "going down easily", and then there's "flopping", and they're not really the same thing. We tell referees all the time that we prefer it when they let play continue, but a side effect of that is that we disincentivize calling fouls unless you have to. Well, if you've been fouled, and that foul means you're going to lose the ball and put your team under pressure, but it's not a "hard" enough foul to force you to ground, your so-called good sportsmanship is only in aid of the other team. I don't see a moral imperative in shrugging off genuine imposition just because it's theoretically possible not to fall down.

Having said that, I would be very curious to investigate the correlation between preferred playing position and level of contact flexibility. It occurs to me that if I were naturally a defender instead of a striker, I might take a much dimmer view of the subject.
posted by Errant at 12:15 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


The moralizing in sports, yeesh.

Flopping should only be heavily policed if it keeps the game from being entertaining or if it causes harm to other players. I like the MLS system where it's policed so players don't abuse it, but they still have some wiggle room. An honest game isn't necessarily a more entertaining game.
posted by Tevin at 12:18 PM on April 7, 2016


It's supposed to be hard to score. That's why you get points for doing so. It's also the reason we still occasionally see upsets in cup competitions when teams who are literally leagues apart meet and the little guy wins.

Those two things aren't mutually exclusive -- in basketball, the highest-scoring sport this side of quidditch, there are so many upsets in the NCAA tournament that it's more or less a given that a 12 seed will beat a 5 seed at least once a year.
posted by Etrigan at 12:20 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


If they added a Golden Snitch to basketball I might be bothered to watch it.
posted by Tevin at 12:22 PM on April 7, 2016


I think one of the big issues is that there a multiple audiences and viewpoints in a football game. There is are the stadium fans who cannot see detail and the big screen/tv fans who can. If you want to influence the crowd and officials via the crowd - you have to flop in the same way that theater actors have to yell, wear over-bright makeup and make big obvious gestures.

Then when it is viewed on TV it is more ridiculous than a wrestling match.
posted by srboisvert at 12:26 PM on April 7, 2016


Two weeks ago my wife and I succumbed to the inevitable and took our three year old to his first soccer class. This was before his first session had formally begun. I can only presume he's going to go on to play professionally if he didn't even need to be taught, though I think he's relying too much on observation by forgoing the writhing theatrics.
posted by phearlez at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


Those two things aren't mutually exclusive -- in basketball, the highest-scoring sport this side of quidditch, there are so many upsets in the NCAA tournament that it's more or less a given that a 12 seed will beat a 5 seed at least once a year

I'm not talking about #12 v. #5. I mean #112 v. #5, although on second thoughts it may be that football is the only pro sport that regularly affords the opportunity for such disparate teams to meet. Anyhoo, there's also this study, Surprises make soccer the best sport, which claims:

The team analysed results from more than 300,000 games over the last century from the US’s national hockey, football, baseball and basketball leagues and the top English football league. Their results showed that the “upset frequency” was highest for soccer, followed by baseball, hockey, basketball and finally American football.
posted by Jakey at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think there's a lot of conflation of two different principles here, too.

In most discussions I've seen and had about this, it doesn't make it any difference; people that think players are always diving and corrupting the game aren't exactly interested in discussing the difference between taking a more dramatic fall after being clipped in the heels instead of stumbling for a few steps before falling or letting the ball go out (which rarely produces a whistle, even if the player was fouled) or he decided to jump and squirm like a fish out of water after the goalkeeper almost touched him and the ball was out of reach.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:47 PM on April 7, 2016


I am wishy-washy on the whole diving thing. I do like that MLS gives retrospective bans for diving, but I do think it's important to restrict those to the most obvious dives, and give players the benefit of the doubt on everything else.

I think it's important to distinguish between diving and embellishing, because the motives are different. Diving is a cynical act that can probably be discouraged through retrospective bans (though that won't mean much if the dive happens in a tournament final, but it's still worth doing). Embellishing often happens not because an attacker is trying to turn a jersey tug into an act of war, but because that player believes he has been fouled, and has learned from years of experience that he probably won't get the whistle unless he goes to the ground. If he remains upright, it will often be judged as evidence that he was not fouled in the first place.

Once you're on the ground, though, you should refrain from theatrics, and I wish referees did their best to ignore dramatic performances given while prone, because the extent to which a player writhes should not affect the ref's judgment of the severity of the foul. I remember one analyst described Jurgen Klinsmann's dive in the 1990 WC final as one of the rare incidents where both players could've been carded — a red to Pedro Monzon for a reckless and cynical tackle attempt, and a yellow to Klinsmann for obvious simulation and delaying the restart of play. But note that Klinsmann's misconduct doesn't start until he's on the ground, as everything he did on the way to the ground is exactly what you'd expect a player to do to avoid injury in the face of a reckless tackle.

This doesn't mean that I think diving is OK; I just don't think we can do much about it until we can more easily distinguish what is simulation and what is not. Another referee on the pitch would help; there's only one official who is authorized to call fouls, and they can't be expected to see every incident from an optimal angle. Instant replay could help if it could be done without major stoppages. I hope in ten or twenty years we'll be able to solve this with science, just like we did with goal-line technology — perhaps outfit players with tiny accelerometers on each limb, or battery-powered shin guards that can record when they've been hit and and by what. (Or something less ludicrous, but you get the idea.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 1:53 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I realise this is a subject everybody has an opinion on, but I'd like to say the article is very good and to read it if you haven't already. It's a bit long though, so I suspect it will take the well trodden path from eternally open tab to never opened bookmark for a lot of people.
posted by Cassettevetes at 2:23 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


As an American, I am well aware that my aversion to diving is so stereotypical and mockable as to be pointless, so I rarely express it. But I take great pleasure in seeing "real" (European and Latin American) fans do so!

Also, what Cassettevetes said. It's a good piece, read it!
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on April 7, 2016


I love football/soccer, but the diving drives me crazy. Along similar lines, I find it annoying when a defender is beaten by a pass and invariably raises their hand to suggest the player was offsides. During a premiere league game last year I saw a play where a defender who was inside the net when a goal was scored signalling for offsides. Ludicrous.
posted by batou_ at 2:47 PM on April 7, 2016


take any high level version of any much loved (over loved) sport and I submit, if you can't find a stain of corruption, ugliness, cheating, whatever -- you're not looking hard enough

Exactly. I played basketball competitively growing up. I was a point guard and one of the things we would practice is flopping. This is making it look like the offensive player charged you and caused you to fall down. The reality is that the other player (often much bigger so prone to clumsiness and bullying in the eyes of the ref) would get close to you and then you'd fall down as if slammed into. I drew many fouls like this during my career. It's part of the game, the need to exploit whatever advantage you can.

People can decry it but unless you've lived and breathed that rarefied air of highly competitive sports you just won't get it. It is what you have to do to win. Among many other things that civilians would probably find distasteful.

Also, Messi don't dive.
posted by bfootdav at 3:41 PM on April 7, 2016


And while on the topic of basketball, one of the techniques I got from Magic was that when trying to swipe the ball away from the offensive player I would use the back of my hand instead of the palm. This way if I missed the ball and hit the guy (shucks darnit) it wouldn't sound like a slap and I might get away with hacking him.

One game I hacked the opposing center so many times and got away with it that he lost his cool, jumped me, pinned me to the ground, and banged my head repeatedly into the court. Obviously he was kicked out of the game. I was fine and of course totally deserved the ass-kicking I got. We won the game.

I was a classic point guard.
posted by bfootdav at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


so messi doesn't live in that rarified, highly competitive competitive air?

or maybe there is a choice?
posted by andrewcooke at 3:58 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The situation with Messi is interesting. I'm sure he has dived before but he definitely does it far, far less than others. And here's the thing, one could argue that he has hurt his team because he never dives/falls. Many times he's been clearly fouled in the box but continues to play instead of falling. If he falls he gets the call and the penalty goal but by not falling he's probably cost Barca numerous goals.

But he's of such calibre that he has created more goals than he's given up this way which might be something that other players wouldn't be able to say in that situation. Has he cost Barca a championship because of this? Couldn't say but it is an interesting problem.
posted by bfootdav at 5:40 PM on April 7, 2016


I thought that if you don't go down after contact, it means that you have decided to play the advantage and given up the foul call. That's why there are no whistles even as Messi gets fouled a dozen times on his way to the net.

Offensive dives could probably be significantly cut down if they adopted the rule from hockey where play isn't stopped after a penalty call until there's a change of possession. Then players would keep going for the goal, and they'd have a chance to score another one with a penalty kick after play was stopped. I believe that basketball has a similar-ish rule.

Of course, that might simply lead to a lot more defensive diving.
posted by clawsoon at 11:05 PM on April 7, 2016


Part of what makes the hockey delayed call work is that the referee lifts his arm to indicate, "Yeah, I saw that foul, penalty is coming but keep playing until change of possession." Otherwise, you'd have players freaking out that the foul call might not be made.
posted by clawsoon at 11:23 PM on April 7, 2016


I thought that if you don't go down after contact, it means that you have decided to play the advantage and given up the foul call.

It's not the players choice to make, it's a call by the referee. The blog you linked to is for referees.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:46 AM on April 8, 2016


Yes, the referee can decide to play the advantage, which he may well do if Messi is still going, but it doesn't erase the foul from history. The offending player still gets a card/a warning/slightly less esteem in his father's eyes, whichever is appropriate at the next stoppage. And the ref definitely signals advantage.

Playing advantage doesn't give you a penalty/free kick as well, that's why it's a tough call and why it almost never happens if the foul is in the box, because a penalty is almost always a better chance at goal. I suppose if the player was clear on an open net the ref would play advantage, but it's not something you see often.
posted by Cassettevetes at 4:28 AM on April 8, 2016


That's not really the issue tho in soccer? (perhaps you mean another sport) In football, it's strikers having got themselves into a possible scoring position and then going down.

I'm not sure how pervasive that exact situational flop is, but I sure saw it when playing indoor soccer.
posted by MrBobaFett at 4:59 AM on April 8, 2016


batou_: "During a premiere league game last year I saw a play where a defender who was inside the net when a goal was scored signalling for offsides. Ludicrous."
1) It doesn't matter where players are when a goal is scored. It matters where they are when a pass is made.

2) If he was inside his own goal at the time of passing, he was out of play and does not count for whether there's an offside pass or not. As long as he doesn't run back onto the field and interferes, of course.
posted by brokkr at 5:57 AM on April 8, 2016


Being honest, Messi doesn't go down as much because by the current goal tallies, Barcelona has almost 3 goals scored on each game, without reaching 1 against. Why bother diving if most teams in the league are lucky not to lose by 2 without ever being close to challenge for a draw? I'm pretty sure he got weak leg syndrome on the final minutes of a tied game here and there. In Argentina, I've seen him being less resilient (also, I wouldn't advise trying to stay on your feet against South-American teams).
posted by lmfsilva at 7:05 AM on April 8, 2016


> 2) If he was inside his own goal at the time of passing, he was out of play and does not count for whether there's an offside pass or not. As long as he doesn't run back onto the field and interferes, of course.

This isn't true; if it were true, defenders would be able to force attackers offside simply by stepping over the back line.

> so messi doesn't live in that rarified, highly competitive competitive air?

Look, Messi dives; he just doesn't dive as much as everyone else. He's not a single messianic figure. He doesn't dive as much because he's very, very good, and as long as he still has the ball he'd rather play continue than attempt a free kick. That is the correct calculus when you're Lionel Messi; he is a fantastic dribbler who takes a lot of shots and converts a high percentage of them. It is not necessarily the correct calculus when you're Ashley Young.
posted by savetheclocktower at 8:25 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Man, I learn so much from soccer/footie discussions at MeFi! Thanks, all, for making great points with personal anecdotes where appropriate.
posted by languagehat at 12:23 PM on April 8, 2016


Put another way, Messi has a truly astonishing sense of balance and center of gravity. A lot of what we're talking about is "contact, slightly impeded, will definitely lose possession if the foul isn't called, have to make sure the ref calls it correctly". The first one happens to Messi often enough, but the rest happen far, far less than could be expected, because he is a freak of nature. In a very real sense, things that are fouls against other players aren't fouls against him, because he is frequently not impeded by glancing contact.

I once watched Messi dribble into three defenders. He juked one, looked up, and saw the other two closing in to basically cross-check him. So he nudged the ball between the two advancing defenders, then took a half-step and leapt into one of the defenders, bounced off him at an angle, landed right behind the ball he'd played into space, and continued dribbling at speed. He bounce-passed himself. You just can't make rules with a guy like that in mind, because no one else could live up to them.
posted by Errant at 12:59 PM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07mBfR8erMY

The definitive Flop.
posted by prodigalsun at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


savetheclocktower But you shouldn't be doing calculus, you should be playing the game and following the rules. Not trying to figure out what the payout vs risks are for faking an injury to increase your chance for a shot on goal.
Spend more time drilling and practice passing and shooting. If you can't score using those skills then just have fun losing. I speak from experience, you can have a lot of fun losing at soccer. Trust me I know how fun winning can be also but the most fun is just playing.
Playing with cheaters just isn't fun. Jersey pullers, pushers, divers. Look just keep your arms down, play the ball, and know that contact happens sometimes. Also never talk back to the ref, there are two people who can talk to the ref, and they are the captains. They should use that privilege sparingly. We accept that if the ref called it, it happened and just keep playing. If the ref didn't call it, it didn't happen, keep playing.
posted by MrBobaFett at 4:49 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


. But you shouldn't be doing calculus, you should be playing the game and following the rules.

Well, you should be doing calculus, working out whether you should shoot or pass or dribble around etc. Nobody plays decent soccer without constantly calculating how they're going to improve their chances of scoring at each step, and that includes calculating whether you are likely to be fouled by a particular player, whether the ref will call it in your favour if so, etc - and analysing the play after the fact to improve on your decisions next time, which includes analysing the refs decisions to adjust your play to it if necessary ("huh he's calling it every time I knock into someone, I have to stop that"). Your argument is perhaps that you should not attempt to influence the ref, not that you shouldn't be thinking about the game.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:32 PM on April 8, 2016


Thank you, fantastic piece, extremely well written and about much more than just "diving".
posted by blue shadows at 10:08 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Of course you should think about the game. Soccer involves a lot of thinking. However you should be playing the game, not meta-gaming. "Calculus" as used by Savetheclocktower apparently allows for results that are cheating, so we shouldn't use "calculus" if that's what it means.
posted by MrBobaFett at 4:56 AM on April 9, 2016


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