20 June 2006

Once again, I have to disagree with Noah about soccer. I do think that there are too few goals, but the same is true of hockey. On the other hand, the sport is simple, beautiful, and the competition is intense. (I've also heard that soccer players are more attractive than other athletes. I know that's true of women's soccer, but I'm not qualified to judge the men's side).

On the referee front, I don't see, in general, referees in soccer having too great an influence on the sport, and certainly not having a greater influence than their counterparts in other sports. You can't say that the home plate umpire in baseball doesn't have an enormous influence over a baseball game; a lot of pitchers become unhittable just because umpires decide that they're painting the corners. In football, pass interference calls are absolutely deadly, and you could call pass interference on every play if you wanted to. In basketball, the referees in the NBA finals have decided that everyone who breathes on Dwayne Wade fouls him. That is the only reason Miami won game 5, when they abandoned all other offensive options besides the "let's get Wade the ball and see him get fouled" option.

Soccer referees do screw teams when flashing cards and when calling penalty kicks. I've seen a big decrease in penalty kicks this year, which pleases me. As for the yellow cards, I hope they lead to teams playing less physically, which is dangerous for the players and less fun to watch. The problem is, it works, and so players are going to grab and elbow and trip as long as it's worthwhile to do so. I might be in favor of loosening the accumulated card suspension rule, but in theory it's not a terrible idea.

I'm not so naive to think that there are no problems with the world cup referees; problems do occur. But I don't think those problems detract much from the attractiveness of the sport as a whole.

No comments: