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Rick Cleveland on Sports — 2014 World Cup

Rick Cleveland

We begin today with an admission: I watch soccer once every four years.
So I am not a futball expert or anything close. I recognize a goalkeeper. I am not so sure about a striker and a sweeper. But I do know a faker when I see one, and we’ll get to that.
I really do enjoy the World Cup — the competition, the pageantry, the nationalistic fervor — just about every facet about it except this: The flop. I do not admire the fakers who flop.
These soccer dudes are incredibly gifted, amazingly quick and fast. They do miraculous things with their feet. But they cannot act. Not one bit. At times, they are comical. A soccer dude gets beat on a play, gets brushed by the opponent who beat him and falls down onto the field — the pitch, as it were — as if he has been shot with a high-powered rifle.
Remember the old westerns when the bad guy would get shot, then cover his wound with his hands, fall to his knees, and then finally to the ground in an exaggerated display of agony? Remember how fake it looked? The soccer guys are worse, 10 times worse.
And here’s the deal: Thirty seconds after he is writhing in pain, the soccer dude is back on his feet, fresh as a puppy, sprinting up and down the pitch as if he has just knocked back two hits of speed with an expresso. There is a word for what these flopping soccer dudes are doing: cheating. It’s the same as kicking the golf ball out from behind a tree when the other guy isn’t looking. It’s a pitcher loading a baseball with vaseline. It’s corking your bat. Our British friends have two words for it: bad form.
It takes away from the game. It delays the game. If I were a referee and I knew a guy was flopping I would give him so many yellow cards he wouldn’t be eligible for the 2022 World Cup. Now then, have you noticed our soccer dudes don’t flop as often as those from Europe or South America? They don’t. And this might contribute to why we have never won the World Cup. If so, I’d just as soon we never win the thing. Flopping is un-American. It goes against everything we are taught about sportsmanship.
Legendary sports writer Grantland Rice, who preferred football to futball, once wrote: “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the game.”
The One Great Scorer would not approve of flops. In fact, the One Great Scorer would send floppers straight to Hades. They’d be wishing for a yellow card or even a red one.
Seems to this admittedly novice observer there’s a common sense way to end all this flopping. Hear me out. Every time a soccer dude goes down in a heap, writhing in supposed pain, cart the dude off. Seriously, just pick him up and haul him off the pitch. Don’t let him return to the game for 20 minutes, no matter how much he begs. Nine times out of 10, he’s not hurt. And, if he is, he needs to come out of the game anyway. I’m betting we’d see a lot fewer flops, a lot less bad acting.
Otherwise, where the World Cup is concerned, play on…
Rick Cleveland rcleveland @msfame.com is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

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