Friday, June 13, 2014

World Cup 2014 Opening Match Was A Flop

Fred, er, Drop Dead Fred
Leading up to any major sporting event, there is a certain amount of let's say, nonsense, you must endure until the actual games begin. Take the World Cup, for instance. For the last six to 12 months, all we've heard are tales of anguish over the fact that the stadiums won't be complete in time for the first match, the final price tag for the tournament will keep the Brazilian economy in ruin for decades, and the real-world concerns of poverty, distress and anger manifesting themselves in not-so-peaceful protests. 

And then yesterday happened.

Horrible images of protesters being pepper sprayed at point-blank range were supposed to be offset by the first touches in anger of the competition. Brazil was playing. O Jogo Bonito. Step 1 toward coronation. Wonderful, correct? All is supposed to be right again? Well, maybe if it had happened that way.

Oh Brazil won, bashing back Croatia 3-1 in the Group A opener, but the Selecao's victory served merely to introduce another distracting story line to the World Cup: Flopping--or diving if you prefer. How about simulacao, or fingimento?

Brazil's Fred is the bad guy here. What he did is nothing new, sensing a Croatian hand on his shoulder, he did what comes naturally to any big-time footballer in an intensely pressure-packed situation: He fall down, go boom. Drop Dead Fred won the game for Brazil yesterday, not with his feet or his head, but with his weak-in-the-knees drama, earning a penalty for the home team that was promptly converted by Neymar. Game. Set. Match. Let the bullshit ensue.

This is a fundamental flaw with the beautiful game that transforms it into a steaming pile of nonsense. No player is above it--hello CR7--and no stage is too big for it. It's accepted like match-fixing is in the Far East and overtime shootouts are in MLS (Do they still do those? I forget?)

And now it will be droned on about until the World Cup is done, Brazil lifts the trophy, and Ronaldo cries "injustica" because some ref forgets to follow the script and actually doesn't fall for a flop.

Is there an answer? Sadly, no. There is no solution because referees are the first line of defense here and they are human beings. And like it or not, they become consumed by their environment. Albeit whether that environment is a Sao Paulo stadium decorated in yellow-wearing humans, or a secret conversation in a back alley that leads to a clandestine deposit made to a secret account in the Caymans (shhhhh, be vewwy vewwy qwwiet), refs make bad calls. And those bad calls are magnified when the man in charge can't speak a common language to the two teams (somebody 'splain that one please).

So the TL:DR here: Flopping is here to stay, and for the moment, it's the story of the tournament. Maybe we'll be rescued by a clean game today between Spain and the Netherlands. Yeah right, me so funny.

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