Monday, July 12, 2010

Final Thoughts on the World Cup

Well, the World Cup is over and that’s probably the last we’ll hear about soccer in the U.S. until the next cup approaches in 2014. It was a pretty weird one if you think about it so here are some final thoughts.

The Jabulani Ball
The complaints came loud and often from the players about this ball. According to NASA, the ball will exhibit a knuckle ball effect at speeds above 40 miles per hour. I also suspect that the triangular designs on the ball provide an optical illusion making the ball look like it’s moving even more erratically than it actually is. You’ll excuse me, but can you imagine the NFL introducing a new ball design for the playoffs? That would get some people lynched.

Not only should they be banned, they should all be gathered up and burned. The incessant buzz could drive you crazy. Yes, after a while they became just white noise in the background but I still think they should be outlawed. Brazil, take note. The New York Yankees did the right thing when they banned them. Hopefully no one shows up with them at NFL games because it could get bloody.

Ambush Marketing
I think FIFA needs less starch in its shirts. I thought the Dutch girls that converted themselves into a Bavaria beer commercial during the Denmark v. Netherlands game was damned funny and didn’t cost FIFA one nickel. That being the case, having the girls arrested was more than a little overkill.

Bad Calls
Bad calls by referees and umpires are part of any game; live with it already. However, that doesn’t mean refs should be hung out to dry when there is technology that can help them get it right or at least keep them from looking ridiculous.

Certainly a buzzer like they have in hockey for when the ball breaks the plane of the goal makes sense. So does an instant replay look see on disputed offside, or lack of offside, calls when goals are at stake. FIFA should drag itself into at least the 1990s.

The U.S. Team
They have a ways to go. They just seemed rough around the edges when compared to the other teams. It’s hard to believe they’re ranked 14th in the world.

The Hand of God
Luis Suarez, by denying Ghana the winning goal with his hands, did what any other player would have done. Was it cheating? Absolutely, but it was a spur of the moment reaction and not premeditated. The action was covered by the rules and the appropriate penalties applied. FIFA need not look at changing the rules as a result of Suarez’s action. If Ghana had made the penalty kick, the whole incident would already have been forgotten. If Uruguay had won the World Cup, we’d be hearing about nothing but. I say let it sit.

The Final
Man it was ugly. Phantom fouls, flopping and a whole bunch of short midfield passing. It could be sold as a cure for insomnia. I am especially appalled at the constant spectacle of professional athletes falling to the group and writhing in pain over contact that wouldn’t inconvenience a butterfly. Give me a break. These guys should try a little rugby.

Andres Iniestra
The one silver lining in the final was the play of Andres Iniestra. Not only did he score the winning goal, and the only goal, in an athletic move of pure artistry, but he played with a tenacity and persistence throughout the entire game. As part of his goal scoring celebration Iniestra tore off his shirt to reveal a memorial to a fallen comrade on his t-shirt. It read “Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros,” which translates to “Dani Jargue always with us.” That was a yellow card admirably achieved.

Soccer in the U.S.
The World Cup as a tournament is an interesting spectacle. The drama of each win and loss, the characters involved and the weird stuff that comes along with international events of this sort combine to make following the cup at the operational level fascinating.

Unfortunately, the individual games are DULL.

The lack of scoring (Spain, the winner, only scored 8 goals in the entire tournament), the amount of time spent passing the ball around in midfield, the fact that the overwhelming majority of opportunities amount to nothing and the little girl antics of rolling around on the ground while clutching your knee, only to pop up again and keep playing, sort of put off American fans.

Like I’ve said before, it doesn’t have the tradition of baseball, the explosiveness of football or the acrobatic high scoring of basketball so I don’t see it ever making much of a dent here as an adult spectator sport.

So, it was fun while it lasted. Here’s hoping I’ll still be around for the next cup and has anyone heard anything about when Larissa is planning to make her run?

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