Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup Note

Penalty kicks are truly the stupidest way to determine the winner in the biggest game of the biggest tournament in the biggest sport in the world. They might as well switch to arm wrestling or board games to settle the tie. At the very least, why not take the kick from 30 yards out to give the goalies a chance? *

* My experience of watching parts of three games this year surely qualifies me to identify and fix deficiencies in a sport I haven't played since high school.


Heather said...

You are hardly the first to make such a complaint. In fact, most commentators throughout the World Cup have had things to say about it. I agree - it is totally silly. I think they should play sudden-death overtime as they do in hockey... or arm wrestle, because that would just be funny to watch.

tfoxfan said...

I beg to differ. The amount of time those guys are running and playing their heart out just doesn't permit for a good end by adding more time. I think that further added time would result in a nasty, sloppy, sweaty, retired final score. The shootout is the epitome of stress, glory and the best part is that it's quick. And, if a player misses then their SOL since they shouldn't miss.

Bring on the shootout.
Newly-minted football fan

Jeremy said...

Dissent! Whose blog is this anyway!?
: )

Admittedly, I have some related baggage about this issue. The NHL used similar arguments to justify their introduction of regular-season shootouts last year in hockey -- that it was more exciting and lets them limit game length...and that both would bring in more casual fans. I hated the idea and couldn't care less about casual fans.

As the season wore on, I came around a bit, mostly because of two qualifiers: in a hockey shootout the goalie has a pretty good chance (apparently about 60%) to save it, and they were not threatening to use the shootouts in the playoffs, when the results really count. There was some novelty to the one-on-one battle mode.

But I sure never missed the shootouts in the playoffs. The games that went into multiple overtimes were awesome -- total grudge matches, and yes, the pace slows down as the minutes pile up, but it's still super fun to watch, and you know that the next goal is going to win it all. I guess it's safe to assume that soccer players are somewhat more fatigued at the end of regulation, and the amount of time between goals would always be higher, but still...

It looks like the odds of a save in soccer shootouts are more like 20-25%, which is a lot higher than I thought (based on watching only the finals, where there wasn't a single save). That makes it a little more viable, but why not back up the penalty kick line 5-10 feet further out to make things really interesting?

My core objection to these intrusions into the game(s) is that these are team sports, and shootouts are individual events. Sure, great individual efforts can stand out during team play, but the relative values (both positive and negative) of those are augmented and countered by the contributions of the other players on both sides, creating a complex dynamic that defines the games. Although I was being facetious with my comment about board games and arm wrestling, any individual contests (50m sprints? shooting accuracy contests? chinups from the crossbars?) tacked onto the end of a great team game seems jarringly arbitrary and cheap. They could never come close to settling the primary question of the game, which is: which team is the best?

Jeremy said...

Thanks for pointing out the total lack of originality in my thought, Heather. I so deserve that for commenting on something I know nothing about.

Since I hardly watched any of the matches, I never heard the official grumbling about the issue. I was surprised that the announcers in the final game seemed to think it would be great (or at least fine) if the game was decided by penalty kicks. I was so disappointed as the second overtime expired, because I was quite enjoying watching them actually play the sport! I would have almost rather seen that promising headbutting contest continue to see who would be left standing at the end.

Heather said...

I wasn't trying to diss your originality Jer! I figured you were just stating a thought. :) Esther does make some good points about the pros of the shootout. I'm still thinking about the arm wrestling though...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, just couldn't control my soccer hooliganism. Here's some food for thought on the soccer shoot-out, or penalty kicks for those from the continent.
Teams are only allowed three substitutions for the entirety of the match, regardless of extra time and injuries, unlike hockey, which turns over lines every 30 seconds.
In the England/Portugal quarterfinal game, Ricardo stopped three of the four kicks he faced from England, and got his hand on the other.
In the old North American Soccer League (I think that's what it was called), penalty kicks taken to decide the game were actually taken from thirty yards out, but the player was allowed to dribble the ball in and the keeper was allowed to come off his line and challenge the shooter.

ITALY SUCKS (but I like pizza)

Garth said...

I actually really enjoyed the Italy-France game and admittedly was cheering for Italia and I like pizza too! What stood out to me during the final game was the excellent refereeing which definitely was not at its finest during the World Cup (grumble grumble - I'm still bitter about all the cards in the Netherlands-Portugal match). I'm with Esther in liking the shoot-out - I just don't think there is another practical way of settling a tied match. What did stick out to me was Zidane's silly antics that showed absolutely no class.

Heather said...

The Netherlands/Portugal game was a mess! (If you can imagine, we watched it with our very devout Dutch friends, and I was wearing a donated orange hat in my basement, with their overly decorated car in our driveway). And seriously, a head butt? I couldn't believe it myself.

gustos said...

Agree with you Jer, a final game should not be dicided by kicks that the goalie has no chance of stopping unless he guess correctly, give the poor guy a chance, maybe the shooter should be three yards back. As far as the headbutt is concerned, nasty but it takes two to tango and the bozo from Italy certainly did not try to avoid being hit but he sure fell like he was hit by a train, very theatrical.

Jeremy said...

I think I'm figuring out the formula for generating hilarious and thoughtful comments on my blog: post about things I know nothing about, care little about, and that everyone else seems to be into!

That's it, no more photos of the kids (riiiight...).