July 18, 2014
This is how I feel every time I watch soccer.
“The Perfect Game” seems to be grossly over-hyped in the pantheon of the sports world. Though soccer is considered to be the most popular game in the world, other sports leagues like the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association regularly dwarf the amount of revenue generated by association football (soccer). In fact, the NFL actually doubles the amount of revenue generated from the highest levels of play in the other “football”. Soccer players are good athletes with exceptional quickness, great footwork, terrific coordination and agility, and amazing endurance, however the game itself is far less exciting than any of the other sports. Soccer matches are low scoring (albeit high energy) affairs with only a few captivating plays over the course of several games. The complex rules, the low scoring, and anti-climactic nature of the game make soccer less appealing than any of the other major sports. Soccer sucks as both a sport and as simple entertainment.
Most other sports enforce legislation that makes their game more enjoyable to the common fan, however soccer takes a completely different approach. Rather than simplifying the game for the common man, they choose to alienate him. Soccer rules actually constrict the game. Association football has some of the most confounding guidelines for play in all of the professional sports. Though the pace of the game without penalties can be rapid and somewhat entertaining, there are too many seemingly random stoppages of play in every match. Good soccer games are often brought to a screeching halt by a myriad of separate penalties. The game stops when the ball goes out of bounds. It stops when there is a personal foul against a player. The game stops for penalty kicks, indirect free kicks, and direct free kicks. It stops for dropped balls. The game stops for timeouts and for referee midfield conferences over a difficult call. Almost anything can stop the ball from moving in any given game. And though the causes of play being stopped are numerous, all of the reasons for stoppages in play are far less confusing than one single rule, the offside rule. The offside rule is so difficult to understand that even players often misinterpret the ruling. Consequently, most fans have no clue why the offside penalty is called. Offside was originally put in place to stop players from sitting near the goal trying to get an easy score. It was meant to spread players evenly across the field to make the game more free flowing. Instead, this penalty has given referees yet another subjective call to make during the course of a match, and caused more controversy than it has helped. Fans, players, and referees can all get a different call from the same play depending on where they are standing and their interpretation of the rule. The rules of soccer make the game difficult to understand for the casual fan, and thus also make the game very difficult to enjoy. That complexity of the rules makes soccer unbearable to watch as a person who does not follow the sport.
This is the essence of soccer. Everyone is falling. Who hit whom?
However, the rules are not the most unattractive part of soccer by far. The actual game of soccer holds that distinction all to itself. Soccer is one of only a few sports that revels in its own inability to score points. This may sound decidedly ignorant and American, but any sport that lasts for hours and takes pride in a zero-zero score is innately depressing and intolerable. (American) Football purists loved the aesthetically unattractive grudge matches between two physical, defensive clubs just like futbol purists. But, the league’s recent rule changes have been made to promote scoring in football, and the game has never been more popular. Hallowed records like Dan Marino’s single season yardage record are being broken every year because of the changes in legislation, and no one cares because the game is easier to watch. Association football could learn a lot from its American cousin. The only way to measure the greatness of any team in an elimination tournament is to judge how well they score against their competition, to observe how handily they defeat their opponents, and to note how their fans respond to the team. Therein is the detriment of soccer as a major sport. The very thing that makes the sport exciting to purists also hurts the game. The playing field is equal in association football because only a few points separate winners from losers. The low scoring matches make every game close and fairly anticlimactic. And since the scores are so low, one play can swing the game in a different direction regardless of their talent level. This means the more talented teams can lose on a fluke play and the overall quality of games diminishes. Every team is a formidable opponent because no one is scoring and it hurts the final product on the field. Soccer match are track meets with no finish line. You marvel at the stamina and athleticism of the players, but at the end of the game you realize that you have just watched people running perpetually in circles. Some of the most spectacular plays in the game are individual showcases of dribbling and ball control that do not result in a score. Watching soccer is like having sex without an orgasm. The act is still fun, but you are left feeling unfulfilled.
Soccer may be considered to be “the perfect game” by its fans, however the sport is less than perfect for anyone other than those die hard supporters. The rules are too complicated, the scoring is too low, and the better team is much more susceptible to a loss because of the way the game is played. Soccer is not the best sport in the world. Contrary to what Europe believes about the sport, soccer sucks.