Friday, July 05, 2002

Charlie objects to some of my soccer comments:

Your suggestions for improving soccer:


  • Stop the clock when play stops, and show the time remaining on the

  • Soccer is a little like baseball in that it doesn't play out in short bursts of action followed by 30-120 seconds of restarting tedium.  This is a feature, not a bug.  A viewer can get pleasantly lost in the ebb and flow of the game without constantly being pulled down to earth to watch 4 or 8 thirty second commercials. 

  • Have commercial breaks to suit US TV.

  • I don't know all the reasons for soccer's failure on American TV, but I'm pretty sure that being commercial-free isn't one of them. Commercials are a bug, not a feature of American sports.  See above.

  • Fix the off-sides rule, so no goals are called back and so that the average viewer can understand it.

  • How?

  • Allow substitutions on-the-fly.

    I'd support this if it was completely unobtrusive and didn't result in stoppage of play. Having rested players out there
    might result in more scoring.

  • Allow players to use their hands, provided that they do not run with the ball or throw a goal.

    No way!  This is soccer.  You don't use your hands, period.  It's the core concept of the

  • Double the penalty kick distance. It is just too easy to score on a penalty kick

    This would be worth trying.

  • If there is a tie, play sudden-death overtime until there is a goal.

    I agree with this one, but you can't play forever.  Maybe 60 minutes of sudden-death ("golden goal") overtime, then penalty kicks after that.

  • Fix the out-of-bounds rules so that no one has an incentive to deliberately let the ball go out of bounds.

    I don't see a problem with the game's existing out-of-bounds rules.

  • Make the goal bigger, so that games have higher scores.

            Yeah, a hair bigger, maybe moving to metric: 3 meters by 10 meters.


  • Get better referees.

    The only world-wide, year to year constant in sports: People bitch about the referees.  Soccer's officials don't seem any worse than football or basketball officials.


  • Roger's response. Some of my opinions are based on what works in hockey. Ice hockey has continous substitutions and it works ok. Off-sides in hockey is based on a couple of lines in the ice, and it is usually a clear-cut call. Sometimes the refs blow it, but it never results in a goal being called back. (Hockey did have a stupid man-in-the-crease rule that resulted in a lot of goals being called back, but that rule has been abolished.)

    In soccer, the off-sides rule is based on the relative position of the players. A team could execute a pre-planned play perfectly and score a goal, but then the goal could be called back because a defensive player on the other team was slow to drop back and try to cover the scorer! A player should not be penalized just because he can run faster than someone on the other team, and the fans should not get the disappointment of a big goal being disallowed.

    The soccer off-sides rule is particular hard to call because it is based on the position of the offensive player receiving a pass (relative to the defensive players) at the time the pass was kicked. So the ref has to watch at least 3 players at the same time in order to make the call. Watching a game on TV, I could only tell if a play was off-sides by rewinding the recording to the time of the pass being kicked, and checking the positions of the other players. Frequently, the refs were wrong.

    I suppose the soccer off-sides rule makes sense for third world playgrounds with unmarked fields. But if they don't want offensive players going to far upfield, then could paint a line on the field and say offensive player can't cross the line until the ball crosses the line.

    Commercial breaks may be annoying, but the economics of American pro sports is completely dependent on them. How else is soccer ever going to get a major television network contract?

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