The World Cup wasn’t long into its first game between host Brazil and some other team when one of the players from one of the teams, breathed on by a rival, went down faster than a two-dollar hooker in Rio and looked like he’d been shot from the stands, bayoneted, drawn and quartered, run over by a truck and dragged by horses.
That’s one of the reasons Americans don’t like soccer. That kind of stuff – flopping – would get a player a $5,000 fine in the NBA. American football players, who play with broken bones and NHL players who play with their teeth knocked out must have laughed out loud, along with most of the rest of the people in the United States who even cared to watch.
Europeans and soccer fans around the world, who call it football, say it’s “The Beautiful Game,” unless you count the racism, fixed matches, referees taking bribes, and the likes of Greek league owners tossing games and practicing the beautiful game of corruption.
The obvious speed, grace and skill of the game is undermined by its rules and phony flopping and regulations so difficult to follow it’s like trying to keep track of which sectarian faction the United States is backing in countries where it has no business belonging, so it bets on the Sunnis AND the Shiites.
Americans think it’s a sissy sport really, although while you can admire the athleticism of the players who are actually running and not those standing around watching, you just can’t stomach the fakery and some of the unfathomable rules, such as allowing a world championship to be decided on penalty shots with both teams sitting and watching.
Play until you die boys, that’s what Americans do in football and why it’s called “Sudden Death.” Can you imagine the seventh game of an NBA championship being decided by free throws while both teams are watching from the bench?
That’s the European sensibility and it spills over into the World Hockey championships and the Olympic hockey finals that have been decided by penalty shots instead of the players crashing into each other and trying to score while both teams are on the ice, not on the bench.
Even before the Goalless Wonders of Greece took the field as oddsmakers offered a gazillion-to-1 chances the Greeks would ever score, Americans were less than transfixed by this event, even though the U.S. team got people interested by beating a nemesis, Ghana, 2-1, displaying some wonderful athleticism.
But – and this is where soccer breaks down for many Americans – the U.S. then was tied 2-2 by the world’s fourth ranked team, Portugal, only because of something called stoppage time or extra time or penalty time or overtime.
That’s allowed at the end of the first half and after the game is supposed to be over, at 90 minutes, because the rest of the world hasn’t discovered that when a ball goes out of bounds – as in the NBA – you can stop the clock! That cuts down on the phony injuries and other devices to which teams resort to kill time.
Simple rule: ball goes out of bounds – stop the clock. That also means everyone knows how much time is really left (how about some BIG clocks while we’re at it) and not just the referee.
Can you imagine Kobe Bryant on a fast-break to win a game when, while he’s at halfcourt, the referee blows a whistle and decides the game is over – while no one watching knows how much time is left?
The rest of the world also doesn’t like to play too long, so if a game ends in a tie, it’s a tie in most cases, except for penalty kicks. But if the game were actually 90 minutes long, the U.S. would be undefeated and Americans are still trying to figure out why they aren’t.
But wait, there’s more soccer sillyisms. Here is – I kid you not – how America’s chances of advancing are going to be determined, as put together by CBS sports.
If the United States beats Germany …
… they win Group G and face the second place team from Group H (currently Algeria).
If the United States draws with Germany …
… they finish second in Group G, behind the Germans. They’ll then face the winner of Group H (currently Belgium).
If the United States loses to Germany, they still advance in second place if …
Warning: This is where it gets confusing.
1. Ghana and Portugal draw; or
2. Ghana beats Portugal (a) by only one goal, and (b) the U.S. loses by only one goal, and (c) Ghana doesn’t outscore the U.S. by two or more goals on the day; or
3. Portugal beats Ghana and fails to make up the five-goal gap in difference (see more, below).
Thanks to Portugal’s lopsided loss to Germany, the U.S. has a huge edge in that first, goal difference tiebreaker. Portugal would either have to blow out Ghana or benefit from the Germans routing the U.S.
Here’s an idea: Win or Die. Stay on the field until one team wins and the other loses, no draws, no ties, no kissing your sister (unless she’s hot) no goal differentials, no tiebreakers if one team wins on a cloudy Monday and the other won on a Sunny Tuesday.
You have to understand that this event exists – as does the Olympics – so that soccer’s corrupt governing members of FIFA, which allegedly sold the 2022 games for $5 million in bribes to Qatar, can get wined, dined, paid off and flit around the world picking out spots every four years, emulating the IOC model.
Qatar’s soccer team is generously ranked 100th in the world but will be one of the 32 teams playing (Please God, Zeus, or whoever is up there, let them lose 25-0 in every game to show what a farce this is) because it’s the host club. If the world’s bottom-ranked country, the Turks and Caicos islands, could find a deep pocket big shot to pay off FIFA, the games would go there too.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a country without alcohol, sex, or humor will literally be a hot ticket because the temperatures at the time will be somewhere around 150 degrees and teams are being advised to practice inside live volcanoes.
The FIFA executives will be in air-conditioned suites and someone will manage to find both sex and alcohol, although they, too, practice the ban on humor. They’ve got it even better than the players. When someone had the audacity to cut the bonuses for FIFA big shots, paid for doing nothing, someone else just gave them a $100,000 raise so now they get $200,000 for doing nothing.
How did it come to this? Soccer, which the rest of the world calls football (although maybe it should be called Header judging by how many kicks bounce off people’s noggins) got its start 2500 years ago in Greece with a game called Episkyros, and in Egypt and China, but it was the sticklers in England who formalized it.
Despite that, the English have won only once, in 1966 and just can’t seem to keep up with the world anymore, getting bounced with two straight losses this year along with another European power and defending world champion, Spain, so maybe the tide is turning.
Soccer has a long and great, if confusing and corrupt, tradition. The English organized it and one of their greatest players was Sir Reginald Nil, who never scored a goal and insisted that players be gentlemen and stop every so often for tea during a game, which is why England rarely wins. In his honor, 0-0 ties – which are the most common – are called Nil-Nil.
Soccer began to evolve in modern Europe from the 9th Century and in England entire towns would kick a pig’s bladder from one landmark to another until she complained. The game was often seen as a nuisance and was even banned for some periods of Britain’s history, and probably should be again, if only in England.
If they persist in having ties, let them play until someone actually wins. Sudden Death.