June 20, 2010


An American Manifesto, Why I Don't Like Soccer (Adam Wuerl , 6/18/10, Bleacher Report)

[S]occer is boring--not because there's no scoring but because nothing else happens either. In soccer goals are the only measurement of success. Baseball has runs, bases, outs, strikes, and balls. The game might be tied, but loaded bases let you know to perk up. Football has multiple ways to score plus field position, down, and distance. Even hockey has the the penalty box, the offensive zone, and offsides .

These systems aren't just complicated rules; they create a narrative that helps fans to appreciate a game by providing a framework that turns a sequence of events into a story. You wouldn't describe a baseball game by listing how many runs were scored in each inning; instead, you'd start by saying it was a pitching dual then describe the key strike outs, double plays, and over-the-fence grabs. These tangible, memorable events become anchor points in the story . Similarly, a football game could be a battle of field position fought in the trenches or a wild west shootout.

What is soccer's narrative? For 90-ish minutes the ball goes back and forth. The game often ends nil-nil. Lame. Without an intermediate measure of success soccer has no narrative. Things may happen while the seconds tick away on a secret clock but because they rarely result in a tangible objective--much less a goal--the events are meaningless. A good game has build-up and catharsis tied to the story. Without a narrative to drive an emotional ebb and flow, soccer f ans have one of two choices: remain detached (enter America), or artificially amp up their excitement and stay crazed the entire game (enter everyone else).

Soccer also has a nasty habit of stopping suddenly. Just as a player makes a run a foul is called or the keeper grabs the ball , throwing a wet towel on any building excitement . Even a corner kick usually results in a goal kick or another corner. Staying excited for two hours about nothing of importance hardly seems worth the effort.

Until soccer is willing to experiment with ways to improve itself, it will never woo the American fan. [...]

Restrict offsides to an offensive zone, say midfield or some new line. Or, treat the 18-yard box like the key in basketball: limit how many players can be in it and for how long.

Not only would adopting an NHL style offsides line lead to fewer stoppages just as attacks are building but adopting a goal crease would force teams to shoot rather than just try bundling the ball into the goal. And shots produce saves. A more continuous flow of action, more shots and more saves will render the sorts of narrative Mr. Wuerl and the rest of America wants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 20, 2010 7:34 AM
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