Saturday, April 16, 2011

90 Minutes of War

Contributing Editor Graham Fox

80 minutes played and you’re down 1-0 at home. The Barra Brava scream along with your lungs as you throw yourself down the pitch and onto the incoming through ball.

This is it. Your chance to be a hero. Your chance to win points. Your chance to prove yourself, again, in front of friends, fans, far removed teammates in France, and a city that has cheered you on through tragedy. Your chance to earn bonus money, prolong your career, provide for your girlfriend, prove your injury has not – will not – set you back.

There’s the ball, there’s the box, and there’s Gonzales, dressed in Herbalife white, his arm raised against your chest.

The question is, which of your skills do you use? Cross or deceive?

Charlie deceived, and for that, he’s received hate from all over the internet. Some more pretentious columnist are even claiming that he now has to show us he has the good judgment to not only not get in another car crash and watch his friends die, but overcome the title of diver (as if the two are even on the same level).

Consider the rules of soccer. The field must be rectangular but has no set dimensions, the goal posts should be sturdy, you don’t use your hands, penalties for fouls and offsides are laid out, and 11v11 is the maximum players allowed on the pitch.

Easy to understand, they provide a sandbox or construct that allows you to play the game in any way you’d like using any formation or tactic, as long as you’re willing to accepting penalties as they are handed down.

Diving, like poor tackles, professionals fouls, and intentional handballs are a result of these constructs. Though we may consider it disgraceful, the rules of the game itself allows and encourages them through its simple risk and reward structure.

FIFA in general permits these actions to take place by refusing to implement any sort of electronic review. Without electronic review, there is no real punishment or reason not to dive (except a second yellow card), especially when the stakes are high.

You may not agree with the tactic Charlie chose, but that tactic is part of the game of football, like it or not. His decision making skills resulted in a point that would have otherwise gone missing. No amount of tweets praising him if he hadn’t dived can equal a missed point. In a league that’s about to allow more teams than ever into the playoffs, that point could be worth a lot of money, not only for his club’s revenue but for his teammates as well as his own.

Do you think that players simply want to score so their team can win? There are more motivations than just glory and points up for grabs. You may get bonuses at work for performing well or being utilized for a certain percentage of time and footballers are no different.

Winning games, scoring goals, drawing penalties, and winning tournaments all these result in dollar bills that allow players to continue living in the style they’ve become accustomed to. In MLS, living in the style your accustomed to doesn’t have to mean bottle service in clubs. For some players it means being able to provide for your families and live in your own apartment.
For 90 minutes soccer is a war being fought for glory, points, a stable financial future, and relevance in a landscape always looking for a new and brighter star. The tactic Charlie chose may not have been pretty, but his correct judgment to dive was worth far more than any amount of “honor” or “integrity” he would have gained by staying on his feet and the motivation behind his or any dive are far more complicated than simplistic values.

Wake up!

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Blogger Ryano said...

Could he have stayed on his feet? Probably.

But even if there was a "replay" review process, I don't think you can penalize Davies, because there is obvious contact. And the letter of the law says that that type of contact is not allowed.

But one thing I always do when a call like this is made is look at the defender's reaction. Gonzalez does not argue the call. That tells me he feels culpable and so, it was likely a legitimate call.

11:24 AM  
Blogger elopingcamel said...

I am a soccer fan. I am a DCU fan. I am a Davies fan. Am I upset at all that he took (what I will lovingly call) a soft fall to earn DCU a point? Not at all (especially not after last season).

However, would I have been absolutely pissed if DCU had been up a goal and a Beckham or Donovan had taken a soft fall to steal DCU's victory? Of course. That is part of what it means to be a sports fan, and specifically a soccer fan; you see your team through a tinted lens that softens negative aspects and enhances positive aspects.

Am I annoyed at LA fans for reacting this way? Not at all (ok a little but just because I hate LA). Let them hate on Charlie for a bit. I guarantee you that if this same scenario were to happen during a Gold Cup match between the US and Mexico, all of those people currently decrying Davies would be singing his praises for his "never say die" attitude and for "getting in there and making something happen."

Davies will be just fine. He may no longer be the little darling of the nation's soccer fanatics, but that ship was unlikely to keep sailing forever anyway.

11:43 AM  
Blogger elopingcamel said...

Ryano - I think you make a good point, however I would probably need to see whether Gonzalez ever challenges the ref's calls; some players are just not the "in-the-ref's-face" type.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlie reverted to trickery for a very good reason...he not very good anymore (post injury) so it was his only option...he knew he couldn't Omar so he flopped.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

Tying is better than losing.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Oh come on! Don't give us a bullsh*t page long justification for Charlie's dive or diving in general. Omar barely made any contact with him. He just put his left hand on Charlie's forerman/elbow. Clearly not enough contact to make Charlie click his own heels and fall to the ground like he got shot by a sniper.

I like Charlie. I really do. I'm rooting for him, but I lost a little respect for him there.

3:17 AM  
Anonymous Bill Louk said...

That post shows the fatal flaw inherent to the game.

Hockey, another "Flow" sport, does not have this issue. No sport is perfect, however diving is so wrong on so many levels I'm amazed how uber fans find a way to justify an act that many believe to be okay, or even crafty. It's a bullshit move, and will always be bullshit.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Graham said...

Thanks for the good responses everyone. I hope you enjoyed my bullshit :)

8:22 PM  

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