The beautiful game tarnished by dives

FIFA World Cup highlights need for two referees on the pitch

Sports ‘n’ Things by Trail Times columnist Dave Thompson

Sports ‘n’ Things by Trail Times columnist Dave Thompson

I wanted this weekend to be all about baseball in town, but the forecast does not bode well for either the Orioles final scheduled Butler Park action of the season, or tonight’s final regular season Trail Youth Baseball doubleheader at Butler, either.

• So, for football fans.

Exciting play at the World Cup, but it is bringing more evidence the game may never catch on big time in North America – because there is so much cheating, Video Assistant Referee oversight or not.

Far too often some of the world’s best players, and some wannabes at that level, fly through the air and lay crumpled on the ground from minimal or no impact, except maybe by a gust of wind – and still far too often, despite claims of FIFA-affiliated organizations around the world action will be taken, those embellished responses redound to the benefit of the embellishers.

No on-field official in any sport is more overwhelmed by the sheer size and number of bodies involved as a soccer referee. Nobody ever even suggests adding a second referee, either.

One would think if the NHL, with its confined space and high speeds, can find a way to accomodate four officials on the playing surface, soccer, with its vast area and slower pace, could find a way for two co-operating officials to be on the pitch – if just in order to have a second set of close-up eyes to monitor the most blatant of cheaters.

When it is so easy to spot from faraway stands – because the act got the name, “diving,” from the singular action of a player throwing himself to ground without even attempting to brace for impact, instead waving hands creatively in the air, these embellishments that have been embarrassing soccer, in particular the on-field official, for millennia – it should be simple to make it easier, by adding another set of in-on-the-action official eyes, to attempt to curb the behaviour.

No sign that will ever happen, and I see no hope that any amount of promotion will negate the negative impact on upper North American sports fans sentiments all the diving and whining will continue to have.

Our part of the world sees athletes overcoming impacts from large, muscular other athletes that occur on purpose at relatively high speed, often without losing their balance. Watching grown men (women are generally less prone to diving) float about like petals in the wind – obvious, mostly unpunished, often actually rewarded, cheating – is never likely to seem worth the hard-earned cash of American or Canadian sports fans.

And the most talented, most celebrated, players in the world are among the worst offenders. It discredits the game, and I do not think most of us want to break out our credit cards to support it.

Good on Vancouver, and Minneapolis, and Chicago, for turning down that spectacle, even if the ostensible reason for that was refusal to comply with the unfettered access to taxpayer wallet FIFA, like the IOC, demands of participants.

Oh, and the decade long debate is over. The supreme player of this generation is Christiano Ronaldo, who rises to every occasion and has personally carried Portugal into the round of 16. Lionel Messi, appearing sublimely gifted at times in league play, has been invisible – but for a gag job on a penalty kick – and supposed powerhouse Argentina may not even advance to the knockout round. Messi is a distant second to Ronaldo at this point, despite the way he terrorizes inferior club teams in Spain as part of the best team in that league.

• The Smokies are up to 10 university commitments for the season with Jeremy Lucchini signing on with York University, even though only eight of those show up on the BCHL commitments page. Nice for the team, and good on the Smokies society for helping fund those dreams.