For Soccer: A Response

Earlier today I was reading this post; an argument against the sport and ideal of soccer. I felt the immediate need to turn on my internet rage machine and churn out a scathing retort in the comments section, and then I realized that the comment section wasn’t actually going to be enough for me. So, here I am, later that night, writing a response to the article entitled: Against Soccer

The first and foremost point made by the author (John S) is this: soccer is stupid because it is too low-scoring.

I will give that point a grade of ‘fair’. This is because soccer is indeed, a low-scoring sport. And it is that way intentionally. The author, in taking such severe issue with the lack of score, has missed the point of the soccer match, the drama of such low scoring games. What the author missed is the fact that the flow and pace of the game can change with a single goal, or with the addition of the player. With high-scoring games such as football or basketball, adding a single player may not make the difference that it will in a soccer match, nor will scoring a single point change the play.

In soccer, all of those factors change the entire game.

Also, I would like to take this convenient break to point out that the scores of basketball and football (the American sports), are artificially inflated. Basketball is two points per basket, and three points per shot outside of the key. Football is six points per touchdown and then an extra point for the field goal. Most football games, if kept to the score structure of soccer, would be decided 6-3 or 5-4, rather than 35-21. Wow, when its put that way, the score structure seems to make a huge difference in how the game is perceived.

How about basketball? A court 1/4 the size of a soccer field with 5 players per team? And no one is allowed to guard the net? And a foul equals at least one free shot on net? Of course you will have a high scoring game, even minus the two points you would still get games reaching the 50 or 60 point mark.

But, if we turn the tables and put soccer on the same rules as basketball, then the scores would be similar. If we put them to football rules, the scores would be even higher. However, soccer chose to not go the way of basketball and football and focused more on skill and tenacity, rather than sheer points.

Another point the author makes is that there is the existence of a tie in soccer. Again, yes, ties do occur; with caveat. Ties only occur in two types of play: league play and round-robin play. The author complains arduously over the existence of the tie, but does not acknowledge that once outside of round-robin play (in the world cup), games go to shoot-out, to avoid the tie, to determine which team advances. That part of the game does not sound like a tie to me. Also, in league play, even when ties occur, points are assigned, and ties are not so pervasive that the point system fails. The awarding of points throughout league play determines the overall better teams because those teams will tie fewer times throughout the league play.

The next point the author tries to make is how flukes define games. I am unsure which games the author is watching but the only fluke so far I have seen is in the USA-England game which he mentioned. All of the other goals I have seen are based on the skill of the players and the ability of the team to set the play and execute, rather than an error made by defense. The author states that “baseball is a game of inches” and “golf putts can be missed by a hair” did the author not see the multiple shots which were reflected off of the goal posts? Or what about the fantastic defensive plays which thwarted goals only by hairs due to defensive skill or a well-timed tackle?

Given these points, the arguments of error being so pervasive in soccer and contributing wholly to games seems to fail.

Here is one of the last paragraphs:

In other words, soccer is so low-scoring that it undercuts the very appeal of sports: an objective and verifiable measure of accomplishment and competition. Goals are so rare that they too often fail to distinguish good teams from the bad, a good game from a bad one. A shutout doesn’t necessarily mean a team has played good defense, since they are the norm. A “close game” is similarly meaningless, since teams so rarely win by more than two (nine times in 2006, seven in 2002).

Did I read this correctly? Goals, more often than not, reflect skill and execution of an offense to evade the defense, as well the ability of the winning teams defense to halt the assault of opposing offense. Goals do precisely the opposite of what the author has stated, the define the good vs the bad, the skilled vs the new, the aggressive and competent vs the failed.

In a final point, the author seems to think that the margin of the win is important. Since teams rarely win by two or more. Well, then how does that logic line up with the final line of the post, where “Its about winning”. A low margin of victory is still victory.

Overall, it seems that not only has the author missed the entire point of the game of soccer, but has also failed to analyze whatever shortcomings the author decided soccer has. It seems, throughout the post, that the author is only concerned with the score of a game, and how many points a team can produce. In that case, I would recommend the author stick to football and basketball and leave the more civilized sports to the rest of us thinking fans.

In conclusion, the post was:

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5 Responses to For Soccer: A Response

  1. awindram says:

    Excellent post. As a Brit living in the US, the “it’s too low scoring argument” comes up a lot when I’m talking with Americans about sport. It’s a minority of people, but my God they’re a tediously vocal minority. It’s fine to say you don’t like a sport, but don’t bleat on about it being low scoring compared to American football as if that objectively proves anything. Both codes of Rugby have similar scores to a game of American Football and yet I’ve never heard a Rugby fan claim soccer is crap because it’s low scoring.

    • alexanderfogleman says:

      American football fans are a rare breed of impatience, bloodlust, and desire for skilled play all wrapped into one surprisingly slow moving game. If they kept the clock running in between plays perhaps it would be more exciting to me.

  2. Tim says:

    Calling a sport more “civilized” strikes me as a loaded adjective. Could you clarify what you mean?

    • alexanderfogleman says:

      Good point Tim, it is indeed loaded. As I meant it to be, a final little emotional dig in response to someone deriding the sport which I love.

      It hinges on the world-wide spread of the sport, with many of the oldest societies embracing its play. And I also happen to consider most of the actions in soccer gentlemanly. You don’t throw, trip, or smack your opponent, although it does happen from some (and I don’t even want to talk about the divers – i.e. Ronaldo).

      I suppose civilized is unfair to other sports, since most of them do involve a lot of talent. But I like the way and sounds, and I need a little bit of a subjective soul in my posts when it comes to sport, so I kept the phrase.

  3. xiaomoogle says:

    Yeah, I read that post too. It just came across as, ‘I didn’t grow up watching it, so don’t like it.’ I feel that way about tennis, but seeing how excited people get by Wimbledon, I have also assumed it due to my personal lack of interest rather than the sport being crap on a global scale.

    His post was one of many world cup anti-soccer inspired posts I’ve come across recently. Which is sad seeing how the US team is getting stronger each year.

    I just don’t get how average number of goals can determine a sports worthiness. Maybe it’s something to do with a mild adrenaline rush that you may get when a goal is scored – makes you feel good – and maybe some people need that rush in a relentless fashion. Who knows?

    Good post btw – better to write a full post rather than rant all over the comment board and get ignored.

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