Archive for the ‘Soccer’ Category

Alex Morgan apparently has a career in MMA if she wants it. For once, we see soccer injury, but it’s not a fake. I hope the goalie is okay.

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WNBA-Shirt

I consider this post to be my first attempt at suicide. The issues raised here could get me into a lot of trouble with at least 50% of the human population. Still, I think an honest, fair analysis of this issue would be a good thing. As with every area influenced by political correctness, the heart is in the right place, but it very quickly is lead astray by zealotry, ignorance, and stupidity.

WNBA Is a Joke

First things fist: WNBA is pronounced WIN-ba. Get used to it.

In WNBA’s first year, I was in a bar in Greenwich Village with my cousin, Mike. I told him that WNBA isn’t a real sports league, but rather a politically correct effort to jam a piss-poor product down our throats. If the league can’t earn its place on its own merits, it has no business in the sports universe. Mike approached the issue from the perspective of affirmative action. If we just give WNBA a chance, it’ll earn it’s place, and giving women’s sports a chance is a matter of “fairness.”

Ugh.

He went on to add that if WNBA couldn’t pay for itself within 5 years, it would disappear. “There’s no way they’d keep it around if it weren’t making money.” We should be so lucky. After all this time, it still can’t hold it’s own financially, and that’s despite lower salaries (compared to other pro sports), a growing US population (and thus, consumer base), a larger economy, and politically-correct, charitable spending. WNBA survives only because it’s subsidized by a real sports league, the NBA.

Chart

Why is WNBA such a joke? It’s because WNBA is trying to be something it isn’t. WNBA players try to dunk on a men’s size hoop. They try to play on a men’s court. They try to be the same as men, when they’re clearly not.

And stop treating this as an issue of “equality.” Women don’t have a Constitutional or statutory right to their own pro basketball league. They don’t even have a moral right to it. Besides, this is an issue of “sameness,” which is something different. This issue isn’t about civil liberties; it’s about height, upper body strength, and other purely biological characteristics, and on those points, women aren’t the same. In a Playboy article, Craig Kilborn talked about how he often plays his friend, Rebecca Lobo (then playing for the New York Liberty), in one-on-one basketball and beats her every time. Yes, Craig played basketball at Podunk state university, but he’s a talk-show host. A talk show host! She was one of the best players in the league at the peek of her career. Try to imagine how embarrassing this would be for any other sports league.

This means that WNBA actually retards women’s sports. As things stand, it makes women’s sports the subject of ridicule, distracting people from a very important point . . . .

Generally, Women’s Sports Is Not a Joke

As a follower of tennis, I can assure you that women’s tennis is just as good a game as men’s tennis. It’s just as much fun to watch despite the fact that the #1 women’s player would probably get destroyed by the #100 men’s player. The reason is two-fold: First, women don’t play men in tennis one-on-one, making the comparison to their abilities meaningless. Second, technique is more important to tennis, being that it’s not as dependent on the physical differences between the sexes. This is why, for example, plenty of women who are half-decent, casual players of tennis can destroy male counterparts.

The same effect can be seen with hockey. In January 2009, I put on ice skates for the first time (age 40), and by June, I was playing on my first C-league team. There’s still segregation in league play, but I have plenty of opportunity to play against women in hockey classes and scrimmages. As a new player to the sport, I get completely outplayed by women all the time. The technique is often independent of the physical differences. I will add, though, that if it was a full contact game, their ability to check me at will wouldn’t hurt me, but if I got just one shot against one of them, I’d be able to take them out of the game with a single, legal hit. Really, I’d destroy them. However, it’d be tough for me to catch them. Overall, they whoop my ass.

Even in combat sports, the same thing can be said, though not surprisingly to a lesser extent. I’ve trained with women in Tae Kwon Do, American kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and aikido. Many of them deserve a tremendous amount of credit for what they’ve accomplished in their respective sports. As a heavyweight, (I could never quite drop below 100 kgs during my judo days, dammit!), I could probably take out every single woman I ever faced, though I’d have to take them very seriously in order to do it. Assume that they’re “just a girl,” and you’ll find yourself on the toe end of a groin kick.

Of course, all of this depends on the individual, and comparing amateurs to each other does less to prove the point than comparing pros. As I stated above, when comparing pros to pros — people dedicating their lives to the sport — women can almost never compete with men, but that’s okay, because they don’t.

Except in fake sports, like auto racing.

Danica-Patrick

The Point

My point is that WNBA makes a mockery of women’s sports. Rather than rally behind it, you should see it for what it is — a financial drain on our society — and treat it accordingly. Otherwise, the ridicule for all women’s sports will continue, whether deserving or not, and that hurts those sports that otherwise should have an equal place in the sports world. If WNBA wants to become a legitimate sport, they need to change the way the game is structured. At this point, however, they’d lose so much face in doing so, there’s no possibility they will. The only way to truly bring women’s basketball into the mainstream is to fold WNBA and hope a smarter group of investors create a new league with a better structure.

But if it’s this much work, why bother? It’s bleeding horribly. Let it die.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow WNBA on Twitter @WNBA
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Follow Rebecca Lobo on Twitter @RebeccaLobo

Fan-Violence

Idiot-File

I’m still working on the research for my article on how mixed martial arts compares to other sports in terms of safety, but I have a related story from the idiot file that approaches the issue from a different direction.

We’ve all heard stories of players getting killed for losing soccer games for their team, or fans getting killed simply for rooting for the wrong team. We also know that there are few sporting events at which no fan-based fights break out during or after the event. This is a level of danger that won’t be factored into any of the data I’m collecting.

So here’s an interesting story care of Bloody Elbow. Granted, BE consists of what I call MMAJs (i.e., mixed martial arts journalists), so it would be hypocritical of me to treat what they say as completely reliable. Nevertheless, this information is ultimately verifiable by anyone that wants to take the time to do the research (I don’t). Here’s a summary of the article.

The Vancouver police chief is asking that the UFC pick up the cost for extra police presence on June 11th, when UFC 131 will be held in that city. The UFC said “hell no,” citing that Vancouver has never asked this of any other sporting event held in that city. Moreover, the data seems to suggest that the UFC has less incidents of neighborhood violence than other events (though this is a weak point considering there’s been only one UFC in Vancouver). The best the police chief could cite against the UFC is the fact that two gay men were attacked after UFC 115 in Vancouver last June, but there’s no evidence the attackers even attended the event. On the contrary, BE points out that in 1994, Vancouver residents had a full-scale riot after their hockey team, the Canucks, lost the Stanley Cup finals. EDIT: If this sounds familiar, it’s because it happened again last year.

I’ve been to two UFCs and two Extreme Fighting Championships, and only EFC 2 in Montreal (technically, on the Kahnawake Indian reservation) didn’t have a fan fight; however, I’ve never been to another sporting event where I can’t remember seeing a fan fight occur. That’s a remarkable record, isn’t it? Regardless of whether my personal anecdotal experience is properly representative of fan violence in sports, holding the UFC to a higher standard than a known powderkeg, such as ice hockey, boxing, pro wrestling, or any other sporting event on the planet is remarkably unfair. At the very least, a city should provide more than one alleged instance that might be related to the event in order to treat the sport differently than others with a proven track record for such fan violence.

Tennis-Too

This image is from a tennis event. A tennis event!


The only explanation I have for it is sheer ignorance (and thus baseless prejudice) towards the sport.

Grow up, Vancouver.

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Full disclaimer: I’ve never traveled overseas, unless you count Vancouver, Niagra Falls, Montreal, or Juarez (twice). Other than those trips, I’ve spent my entire existence within the borders of the continental United States. I live in the DC area, though, and besides how diverse our residents are, the World Cup has come here, and I’ve attended it. Why? Because I like soccer. Keep that in mind before chalking this post up to being anti-soccer.

Moving on, soccer is not nearly as popular as football, basketball, baseball, hockey, or martial sports in America. You might think that this is because there’s only so much room for sports in our lives, but that wouldn’t explain why soccer, which predated many of those other sports, wasn’t the one onto which Americas latched in the early 1900’s. There must be a better reason for it’s lack of popularity.

The Problem

Americans view sporting events as much a social event as a competition. From what I’m told by both Americans and non-Americans, non-Americans do not. We (Americans) attend the games not merely to watch them but to bond with our fellow fans, some of whom we might hate in any other context. My fellow sports nuts will absolutely agree with this. Politics, religion, and any other source of social tension is thrown to the side, and we’re all friends for a few hours.

Now let’s consider soccer. It has two characteristics that, taken together, make it nearly impossible for mainstream America to enjoy. It’s 1) low scoring, and 2) has continuous play. As a result, Americans are forced to watch soccer non-stop without taking time to socialize. If they take their eyes off the game, even the boring parts, for just a second, they could miss the only score of the game. That’s too much to take. I also don’t think the commonality of ties helps its cause. Fans want resolution, not sister-kissing. If ties are anything more than an abnormality, it’s going to hurt the sport.

So, let’s examine the other sports to see how this plays out.

Football

Football is probably America’s true pastime at this point. Why? Because it doesn’t suffer from either problem (or from ties). It clearly has lots of stops and starts, and scoring (especially nowadays) is relatively high. Have 3-0 games occurred in its history? Of course. I was at one in which Booomer Esiason led the Jets to a 3-0 win over the Redskins. (I just can’t forget how cold it was that day.) Nevertheless, those are rare occurrences, so rare that they are quickly forgotten by everyone except geeks like me. The same can be said of ties.

So, when you go to a football game, this is what happens: The center snaps the ball to the quarterback. The QB drops back and throws a 20-yard pass to a receiver who’s leveled by the free safety but somehow manages to hold on. While not a score, it’s an exciting play. In any case, the play is over. We now have 45 seconds (more with a time out) to talk about the play to each other. (“That’s what I’m talking about!” or “I would have caught that!” for an incomplete pass.) Thus, the game feeds our need to socialize on all levels. It gives us both the material to discuss and the time to do so.

Martial Sports

Like football, martial sports don’t suffer from either a lack of action or a lack of excitement. There is excitement at virtually every move, and the action stops periodically (when rounds are used), giving us all time to socialize. Observation: Since being regulated by state athletic commissions, the Ultimate Fighting Championship in America used three 5-minute rounds for a non-title bout and five 5-minute rounds for a championship bout with one minute breaks in between. Pride FC in Japan used one 10-minute round and two 5-minute rounds with two minute breaks in between. Apparently the Japanese fans didn’t need to socialize every five minutes, and the shorter breaks for the UFC bouts results in a faster match, which gets spectators more quickly to the point of being able to have longer conversations.

Martial Sports do suffer from one of the three characteristics though: ties. However, a “draw” remains relatively rare (some, along with me, say too rare). Moreover, many fights “go the distance.” The resulting judges’ decisions often have an offensive psychological effect (disclaimer: I’m no shrink!). Decisions with which we disagree actually appear to “steal” a bout from the fighter we thought won. This can be very frustrating, but let’s face it: it gives us more material to talk about when socializing. This actually plays in favor of martial sports.

People who don’t like martial sports because of how “violent” they are are simply ignorant of the statistics that show them to be, when regulated properly, the safest competitive sport. In fact, the most dangerous thing about boxing and kick-boxing is the use of such huge gloves and boots designed to protect the striker’s weapons rather than the opponent’s brain. The less padding, the better, and that’s a concept that the sissies just can’t be expected to get. They’re a lost cause. Martial sports will still be popular without them.

Basketball

Basketball is not as popular as football, but it’s pretty damn close. It suffers from only one of the problems I’ve identified: continuous play. There are relatively few stops and starts. However, it counters this effect by having so many scores that you can afford to turn your head and socialize while the game continues. It’s also an exciting game, so that even if you miss a really great play, no need to worry. Another will be along shortly.

Baseball

I’m sure you understand my point, so you should be able to predict how this one will go. Baseball suffers from the problem of low scoring, but you need not fear taking the time to socialize. The time between plays, as well as the predictability of when these breaks occur, results in little danger of missing a score or even an exciting play. Some would say that there are too few exciting plays in baseball, and that the time between plays is too long, but that helps to prove my point. The fact that baseball allows for socializing is why it continues to be so popular despite these perceived defects. Our ability to socialize is the most important factor to the success of all of these sports.

Hockey

Hockey Fan

Hockey has always been the least popular of all of the sports I listed, and my theory would help to explain that as well. While not suffering from soccer’s characteristics quite as much, hockey has traditionally been a little too close to having all of those characteristics. It’s relatively low scoring, with 1-0 games hardly rare, and the action is closer to soccer than football in terms of its downtime. Moreover, my first hockey game at the Capital Center (IIRC, 1975, age 7) was a 2-2 tie between the Caps and the Minnesota North Stars. Even at that young age, I was an intellectual, so I found the concept of a tie intriguing, but that’s not common amongst Americans.

If you look at every important change hockey has made, it’s been designed to increase scoring and eliminate ties (or eliminate injuries, which is not the subject of this post). By increasing the scoring, hockey becomes less likely to disappoint the average spectator who turns away to talk to his fellow fans. Yes, hockey (and all the other sports) have huge marketing budgets, but that just gets people’s attention. You actually have to provide a good product or people won’t come back. The only exception to this rule is the “celebrity” factor (i.e., getting people to idolize or identify with the players), which is important to marketing, but nevertheless a small part of the story.

What’s Soccer to Do?

As far as a solution is concerned, I have none. Indoor soccer has tried to create a product that’s higher scoring, but it’s been largely a disaster. My guess is that, because it offends the soccer-loving base (“It’s a perversion of soccer!”), it wasn’t able to generate the minimum revenue it needed to properly market itself to the casual fan. Shootouts to eliminate ties were intended to help a bit with the casual fan, but that further offends the base. I suspect that soccer is just going to have to deal with its place in our society: a second-class sport.

This isn’t the end of the world, though, for soccer fans. The latest census report showed our population at over 300 million, and our economy (despite all our complaints) makes attendance at games more affordable, even if you resort to scalping. As a result of our richer, more populous society, even hobbies like skateboarding and snowboarding have become a spectator sport capable of surviving on its fan base, which is tiny when expressed as a percentage. I’m sure soccer will always out draw that.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork