If you are getting ready to e-mail me to tell me, “You don’t know anything about soccer,” get your cursor off the send button. You are right. I don’t.
What I do know something about is entertainment. I can watch “Dancing with the Stars” and be entertained. I can watch Olympic curling and be entertained. Hell, I can watch Jim Lehrer’s “NewsHour” on PBS and be more entertained than by watching any World Cup match in which the U.S. is not playing.
Worse still – who would have thought it possible? – this year the World Cup is more mind-numbingly PC than “NewsHour” or even “Law and Order.”
First, though, the boredom: Do you know how many total goals have been scored in the first 16 matches in South Africa? How about 23? This makes the average score per game 1.1 to .3.
Eleven of those 16 matches were shutouts. One was a shutout a deux in which the Ivory Coast and Portugal managed to shut out each other. Did not anyone shout at match’s end the Portuguese equivalent of “rembursez“?
The U.S.–England game, a relatively high-scoring 1-1 affair, featured the British goalie accidentally scoring America’s goal and a cutaway for a TV commercial when the British got their goal. Hey, the commercial was just 60 seconds. What were the odds anyone would score?
In 2006, Italy won seven games on the way to the championship without any team scoring against it save for two total goals on penalty kicks.
One of those goals came in the championship game against France. Italy responded with a real goal and forced the match into overtime. When that proved scoreless, Italy won the shootout 5-3.
To put this in perspective, imagine that in tonight’s Lakers-Celtics seventh game, Rondo makes two free throws in the first quarter, and Kobe hits a jumper in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 2-2 and send it into overtime.
Neither team can score in overtime, so the refs decide to settle the NBA championship with a free-throw-shooting contest. The fans are thrilled. May the best team win!
I know. I don’t appreciate all the finesse that goes into running around madly for 90 minutes and accomplishing absolutely nothing. You’re right. Save that e-mail, too.
Had the average English match resulted in 1.4 goals 150 years ago when the rules were being formulated, darts might have emerged as the world’s most universally loved game.
But people actually scored back then. The reason is fairly obvious. The average goalie was a rickety lad roughly 5 feet 4 inches tall with little flippers for arms guarding a goal eight yards wide and eight feet high.
Today, the average goalie is nearly a foot taller, longer (new basketball adjective), springier and much better trained. Plus, he has likely not spent the last eight hours stooped over in a coal mine.
Today, to be fair, that goalie guards a goal that is 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters high, but that is just Euro-talk for eight yards wide and eight feet high. The result: More people will self-combust in their living rooms in the next week than will score goals in South Africa.
Speaking of South Africa, what is with these preposterous vuvuzelas? No, those are not female body parts, but three-foot-long horns that give matches all the aural charm of a chainsaw competition.
Worse, South Africa, the first affirmative-action World Cup site, pushes the barely latent PC goose pimples at ESPN to the surface. Yes, folks, we know, you are more sorry about apartheid than we are. Can we get back to the horn blowing and the non-scoring now?
Give me L.A.’s Staples Center any day. When the basketball players grew, so did the three-second zone, and goaltending was outlawed. Happily, the rim stayed at 10 feet. True, dunking was banned for a while, but the ban proved no more popular than prohibition, and it, too, was repealed.
The NBA added the 24-second clock to speed the game and the 3-point shot to spread the floor. The balance between offense and defense remained, the scores stayed comparable, but the game got better, more exciting, more visually appealing,
The NBA accommodated the game to the increased size, health, training and athleticism of its players. OK, the shorts got funky, the season runs a month too long and the league still hasn’t figured out that shooting percentage should measure points per shot and not baskets per shot, but otherwise an NBA playoff game is as good as sports get.
FIFA has figured nothing out, and even a World Cup final can be a futile bore. It is time to make the goal bigger, guys – or the goalies littler – and, in either case, get rid of those damn horns.