The Flop

There were a couple dedicated fans watching a televised soccer game in the firehouse, joined by a few people just killing time between emergency calls. I'd already been thinking about soccer fandom in the US after watching a brief but spectacular animation of a player attempting to draw a penalty for his opponent in a recent game.

There are those who say "the flop" is the reason that Americans can't get behind the sport; we tend to consider it unsportsmanlike and antithetical to the notion of competition. That seems plausible when you watch this video, which may be the Platonic solid of soccer flops.

What interested me, as I watched the game, was that the diehard fans tended to shrug off the "dives" (and there were several) and pay attention to the physicality of the game. To them, the flops were just aspects of the way the game was played, like hockey fights or touchdown dances. 

The spectators with less interest in soccer, on the other hand, were incensed at the histrionics. Faking an injury seemed at best unfair, at worst outright cheating. The ostentatious displays ruined the entire game for them. 

This article presents an interesting alternative view - that the flop is actually integral to the game. Not only is the dive its own art form, the author says, it's also a means of leveling the physical advantage that larger players might otherwise have in close contact. The threat of diving restrains aggressive contact and places more emphasis on ball handling skills. I'm not sold, but it's worth watching a few matches with this perspective in mind and seeing if it bears up. 

Some fans believe that the American national soccer team plays at a disadvantage because its players, acting on our collective disdain for diving, fail to use the flop effectively in competition. It's almost as if the teams are playing under two different sets of rules - one written, and the other communicated and enforced by relative culture.