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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grantland: Bill Simmons and Jonah Keri Discuss Desmond Jennings

and The Legend of Sam Fold.

Simmons

Jonah, I need you to climb off Andrew Friedman’s lap for a few minutes, stop feeding him grapes and answer the following question: Why did Tampa wait nearly four months to promote Desmond Jennings from Triple-A?

He’s a phenom. He’s terrifying. He’s doing things we haven’t seen since Kelly Leak was ripping up Little League fields in Southern California. In 134 at-bats since they brought him up on July 23, he’s gone .351/.439/.634 with 8 homers, 14 steals and a WAR of WTF. Sometime over the next week, Jennings could pass Carl Crawford in steals, homers and walks while also having a higher slugging percentage than Crawford’s OPS … which, by the way, makes me want to sit on a pitchfork. With apologies to Justin Verlander and Jose “I’m sure as hell not the same at home after that ESPN Mag sign-stealing story” Bautista, Jennings has been the best player in either league since Tampa brought him up. With apologies to my man Jacoby Ellsbury, Jennings has been baseball’s most exciting player and the most exciting player in any team sport save for Lionel Messi. Actually, screw that midget Messi; I’d rather watch Jennings. He’s been so ridiculous that Bill James is going to have to release another Historical Baseball Abstract just to figure out where D.J. ranks against Ruth, Cobb and Hornsby.

Repoz Posted: August 31, 2011 at 12:49 PM | 208 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: projections, rays, sabermetrics

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   101. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:19 PM (#3913688)
There's only one referee, plus two linesmen, to call a game with 22 players, playing on a huge field. With all the best will in the world, some calls are going to get blown...


Has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe those numbers are too low?
   102. Perry Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:23 PM (#3913697)
Are soccer referees (umpires, whatever) a bunch of volunteers taken fresh from the local drunk tank, or something? I know nothing about the sport, so I'm honestly curious. Are they crooked (like a lot of NBA refs, apparently) or simply incompetent (like the rest of the NBA refs, as well seemingly every football ref here in the SEC, not to mention far too many MLB arbiters)?


Refs in the top pro leagues are the best of the best. If they screw up, and they do, it's because it's a ##### of a sport to officiate. Much like the NBA, or any team, contact sport played at the top level, really.

Unlike other sports, soccer has only one referee on a field that's bigger than an American football field. He's assisted by two linesmen who run the sidelines and who mostly only rule on offside, although they can flag for fouls if they spot them. Honestly, it's amazing they do as well as they do. Adding a second ref might keep the occasional Maradona goal, or an equally notorious incident from the most recent World Cup involving England's Frank Lampard, from happening. The Champions League tournament has recently added goal-line assistants.
   103. Perry Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:26 PM (#3913698)
Has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe those numbers are too low?


If you think baseball's resistant to change, you should see soccer.
   104. JJ1986 Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:28 PM (#3913703)
Soccer players I can name:

Landon Donovan, Freddy Adu, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Ballack. I thought Beckham was retired. I know who Messi is if the name is brought up, but would never have thought of it.
   105. Greg K Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:32 PM (#3913708)
or an equally notorious incident from the most recent World Cup involving England's Frank Lampard, from happening. The Champions League tournament has recently added goal-line assistants.

Although to be fair Germany was giving England the #####-slapping of a lifetime in that game whether they had counted that goal or not.
   106. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:34 PM (#3913714)
If you think baseball's resistant to change, you should see soccer.


Ouch.
   107. Swedish Chef Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:35 PM (#3913715)
Rule changes in soccer:
1866: Forward pass introduced
1891: Penalties
1925: Offside rule cut from three to two players
1958: Substitutes allowed
1992: No handling of backpasses
   108. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:35 PM (#3913716)
Adu I definitely should've thought of.

Another from way back who comes to mind -- Kyle Rote Jr. I think he was sort of the "face" of the NASL, other than Pele. Which is probably part of why the NASL isn't still around.
   109. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:41 PM (#3913719)
Rule changes in soccer:
1866: Forward pass introduced
1891: Penalties
1925: Offside rule cut from three to two players
1958: Substitutes allowed
1992: No handling of backpasses


Good god. That's not a sport, it's a museum.
   110. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:46 PM (#3913725)
Out of curiosity, which countries aren't silly-assed?


I read one time that on average, Apaches have the smallest asses of any ethnic group in the entire world. Not sure whether or not it's actually true, so caveat emptor.

In any event, something can't be silly if you don't have it at all, right?
   111. Perry Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:47 PM (#3913728)
Good god. That's not a sport, it's a museum.


Alternative view: It's perfect just the way it is. Which I kind of agree with, actually. Or close enough that I can sympathize with the status quo types. I do wish they could figure out a way to create more parity in the top European leagues.
   112. Flynn Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:51 PM (#3913732)
There are plenty of countries interested in other sports than soccer and even some where other sports are more popular. It's not like the British or French or German or Argentine sports scene is entirely soccer. What makes soccer SOCCER is that it's pretty much the #1 or #2 sport in every country in the world except for the US, Canada and Puerto Rico (maybe the DR too?).

Edit: and Australia and New Zealand.
   113. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:57 PM (#3913741)
Alternative view: It's perfect just the way it is. Which I kind of agree with, actually. Or close enough that I can sympathize with the status quo types.


And I can see where you're coming from. I'm that way to a pretty considerable extent with baseball.

The fact that the NFL & NBA (&, I gather, NHL, though that one's even farther off my radar than thos two) keep changing somewhat substantial rules only reaffirms my extremely biased view of them as fundamentally horrible leagues.
   114. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 08:58 PM (#3913742)
And I can see where you're coming from. I'm that way to a pretty considerable extent with baseball.


Baseball rules were fine 50 years ago.
   115. eclarkso Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:03 PM (#3913746)
There are plenty of countries interested in other sports than soccer and even some where other sports are more popular. It's not like the British or French or German or Argentine sports scene is entirely soccer. What makes soccer SOCCER is that it's pretty much the #1 or #2 sport in every country in the world except for the US, Canada and Puerto Rico (maybe the DR too?).

Edit: and Australia and New Zealand.

Another edit: and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

I'm a big soccer fan, but this statement, taken granted most of the time, has always seems odd. Given that soccer/football is NOT the most popular the top three most populous countries in the world and 5 of the top 8!

Not that soccer isn't the best candidate for world's most popular, but the image of the US being the lone crazy holdout demands we ignore almost 2 billion people in south asia...
   116. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:06 PM (#3913748)
What makes soccer SOCCER is that it's pretty much the #1 or #2 sport in every country in the world except for the US, Canada and Puerto Rico (maybe the DR too?).

It's number 2 in a lot more places than the soccer poets let on -- China and India, for starters. The idea that soccer has most of the sporting world in a unique trance -- as the poets seem to be saying -- is an exaggeration.

We should also remember that cricket is basically baseball (**), and it's really popular in the old British Empire. Rugby is basically American football (***), and it's really popular in Ireland, Australia, NZ, South Africa, etc.

(**) Or baseball's basically cricket; same difference.

(***) Or American football's basically rugby; same difference.
   117. Swedish Chef Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:06 PM (#3913749)
Not that soccer isn't the best candidate for world's most popular, but the image of the US being the lone crazy holdout demands we ignore almost 2 billion people in south asia...

It's not cricket, but prem is huge in India, not that they bother to actually go out and play soccer (but India is lousy in all non-cricket sports).
   118. Baldrick Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:10 PM (#3913755)
Huh?

What are the two sports more popular than soccer in China and India?
   119. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:13 PM (#3913759)
the image of the US being the lone crazy holdout demands we ignore almost 2 billion people in south asia...


Cool by me. They talk funny.
   120. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:14 PM (#3913761)
Cricket is by far the most popular sport in India.
   121. Baldrick Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:22 PM (#3913765)
Cricket is by far the most popular sport in India.

Of course it is. I'm asking what eclarkso thinks is #2, since I'm 99% sure it would be soccer.
   122. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:25 PM (#3913770)
There are plenty of countries interested in other sports than soccer and even some where other sports are more popular. It's not like the British or French or German or Argentine sports scene is entirely soccer. What makes soccer SOCCER is that it's pretty much the #1 or #2 sport in every country in the world except for the US, Canada and Puerto Rico (maybe the DR too?).

Edit: and Australia and New Zealand.

Another edit: and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

I'm a big soccer fan, but this statement, taken granted most of the time, has always seems odd. Given that soccer/football is NOT the most popular the top three most populous countries in the world and 5 of the top 8!

Not that soccer isn't the best candidate for world's most popular, but the image of the US being the lone crazy holdout demands we ignore almost 2 billion people in south asia...

First as someone said, what's #2 on the Asian subcontinent if not soccer? Second, if only 15% of those people follow soccer, that's still as many people as there are in the US. And I'll go out on a limb and say the number is significantly more than 15% in those places.
   123. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:30 PM (#3913773)
Soccer players I can name:

Landon Donovan, Freddy Adu, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Ballack


Don't get me wrong, he's a good player but Ballack makes this list? I understand the other four, they've all had some form of crossover here in the US but how does Ballack get in there?
   124. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:34 PM (#3913774)
The 2009 Champions League Final between Barca and Man U -- arguably the two most well-known clubs -- drew an "average" worldwide audience of 109 million. The same figure for the Super Bowl three months earlier (Steelers/Cardinals) was 106 million.

The "total" audience -- those who watched part of the game -- was 206M (CL) to 162M (Supe).

Obviously, the Super Bowl skews far more domestic than the CL, but I'd have expected a much bigger difference than those numbers.

Link
   125. eclarkso Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:35 PM (#3913776)
Of course it is. I'm asking what eclarkso thinks is #2, since I'm 99% sure it would be soccer.

Fair enough--I kind elided over the specific citation of "#1 or #2". Though in my defense my impression is saying soccer is #2 is kind of like saying baseball is the #2 sport in the Brazil is basketball: technically true but the gap is huge.

I was really responding to a more general sentiment/strawman that soccer is so popular that nothing comes close outside the US.
   126. Baldrick Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:46 PM (#3913786)
I was really responding to a more general sentiment/strawman that soccer is so popular that nothing comes close outside the US.

Which is still correct, unless 'comes close' is interpreted pretty generously.

What's the world's 2nd most popular sport? Cricket? Basketball? Boxing? Whatever it is, can you make the case that it has even half the number of fans as soccer, or a reach that blankets every continent?
   127.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:46 PM (#3913787)

1992: No handling of backpasses


What does this mean?

And I hadn't heard of that guy either. My first guess was tennis.

also: I like rule changes because it keeps things interesting and sports are meant to be fun.
   128. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:50 PM (#3913788)
Whatever it is, can you make the case that it has even half the number of fans as soccer, or a reach that blankets every continent?

How do you measure "fans"? The TV numbers for the premier club competition in soccer certainly aren't on a plane of their own.

What else would you look to?

Cricket/Baseball blankets every continent. So does Rugby/American football.
   129. Swedish Chef Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:54 PM (#3913793)
What does this mean?

It means that goalies aren't allowed to pick up a ball passed back to them by their own team*. The rule change was followed by great rejoicing.

*) Making the games as boring as you can possibly imagine.
   130. Tim Marchman Posted: August 31, 2011 at 09:58 PM (#3913796)
Comparing Super Bowl ratings to club rather than international competition viewing figures is pretty amusing.
   131.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 31, 2011 at 10:06 PM (#3913802)


It means that goalies aren't allowed to pick up a ball passed back to them by their own team*. The rule change was followed by great rejoicing.


Oh okay, we did that all the time when I played as a kid.
   132. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 31, 2011 at 10:10 PM (#3913806)
Comparing Super Bowl ratings to club rather than international competition viewing figures is pretty amusing.

Takes nationalism and spectacle out of it. A lot of people watch the Olympics, too. Four point seven billion for the 2008 Summer Games, by one estimate.Link

More importantly, the popularity of the World Cup on TV is amusingly inflated:

According to a 2007 article in the UK newspaper The Independent, "Fifa's overblown figures, the World Cup finals of 1998, 2002 and 2006 respectively attracted global audiences of 1.3 billion, 1.1 billion and 715.1 million people... According to Initiative Sports Futures, independent analysts with no ties to Fifa, the figure for the 2006 [World Cup] final was 260 million in the 54 key markets it surveyed, accounting for 90 per cent of the world's TV households."

Link

Assume the same viewing rates in the non-surveyed markets and you're at 286 million viewers for the final. A lot. Hardly transcendent.
   133. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 31, 2011 at 10:31 PM (#3913830)
I like rule changes because it keeps things interesting and sports are meant to be fun.


Monster!
   134. JJ1986 Posted: August 31, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3913834)
Don't get me wrong, he's a good player but Ballack makes this list? I understand the other four, they've all had some form of crossover here in the US but how does Ballack get in there?


I think I've really intently watched 2 soccer games ever, one of which was a 2006 WC game featuring Germany.
   135. Tuque Posted: September 01, 2011 at 04:20 AM (#3914285)
what I find to be the most amazing thing about Messi is that one of the greatest athletes in the world right now looks like a shorter version of Breckin Meyer.

I know! And he has such shrimpy little legs. The guy is such a dorky-looking little dweeb. And the fact that Messi had congenital growth hormone deficiency has always seemed really super cool to me (though to be honest I grew up growth-hormone deficient too so that's part of why I think it's interesting. I'm short - but Messi is shorter than me! WTF!)


It's pretty hard for me to imagine even someone who knows nothing about soccer watching a few Barcelona or Argentina games and not falling in love with the guy; you really don't need to know a lot about the game to get why he's so special.

I don't hardly watch any soccer (except the World Cup last year, which was great), but I've been watching a ton of Barcelona games recently, pretty much entirely so that I can watch Messi. The guy is ridiculous. His ball control and passing and shooting accuracy is mind-boggling. He seems to be somehow involved, either with a shot or an assist, in nearly every Barcelona goal.
   136. CrosbyBird Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:54 AM (#3914315)
I don't think people understand how popular soccer is around the world and how not-popular American sports are.

I think most Americans do understand that, but perhaps don't understand why. Those clips of Messi are pretty incredible (he looks like the soccer equivalent of Barry Sanders, another superstar athlete who just made defenders look silly), but it feels to me like you'll get one or two moments like that in a game that is otherwise filled with mind-numbingly boring back-and-forth running. (I recognize that soccer fans don't see it as simply back-and-forth running, but that's what it looks like to me.)

I want to get soccer, because it seems bizarre to me to be so disconnected aesthetically from so many people in the world, but I can't seem to get into it. I don't understand how anyone could watch a good game of any of the American sports and not almost immediately come to the conclusion that it is much more interesting than soccer.
   137. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:16 AM (#3914318)
Messi really is the spitting image of Steve Perry. If him or Lincecum walked down the streets and someone didn't recognize them, there'd be no way people would guess they were two of the greatest athletes in the world.

It's also ridiculous the level of good he's been the last four years or so. As far as Messi being famous around the world, the guy is capable of filling 60,000 seat stadiums in _this_ country. So it's not like he's the Eurovision song contest or badminton. He's famous everywhere, including here.

I know that John Wall is a famous basketball player, but I couldn't tell you first thing about him otherwise. That doesn't mean he isn't really famous, it just means I don't watch basketball anymore.
   138. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:21 AM (#3914319)
Another edit: and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Actually, you'll find that football is INSANELY popular here. Obviously cricket is king, but just giving an example from the newspapers today: Argentina are playing a friendly tomorrow against Venezuela in Kolkata. On EVERY major newspaper (ToI, Hindu, Indian Express - these are the most circulated English-language papers in the world, just fyi), Messi arriving from the airport was on the FRONT page. I play the sport nearly every day after work with friends and seeing the same in parks all around Delhi (at least) is not uncommon - and that's not even in the football-mad states of West Bengal and Goa and Kerala, where it's legitimately #1. It's clearly not #1, but it's also clearly #2, imho.

besides, in local markets, it's a lot easier to find a Rooney or Ronaldo jersey than an Indian cricket NT jersey (seriously). Or an IPL jersey. It's really weird, but true - and it's really common to see such jerseys when wandering around markets.

also, on second thought, I realized I used "football" instead of "soccer" in this post. No intent to offend anyone, I just happen to have been here for a while.

EDIT:
As far as Messi being famous around the world, the guy is capable of filling 60,000 seat stadiums in _this_ country.

Here in India, thousands of people greet him at the *airport*. The last time something like this happened for a foreign athlete was for...Diego Maradona.
   139. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:23 AM (#3914320)
but it feels to me like you'll get one or two moments like that in a game that is otherwise filled with mind-numbingly boring back-and-forth running.


It's really a lot like hockey in that once you realize what the players are doing everything looks a lot more interesting. Watching the US v. Mexico friendly from the beginning of August there was a point where the US, after looking horrific and having no rhythm for the first half of the game, put together a brilliant run of play that got them a sustained attack on Mexico for the first time in ages and resulted in a goal. It was really fun to watch.

As for Messi, he's amazing and the best in the world but in addition to his sheer talent is that 1) La Liga has not only horrific bottom dwelling teams but virtually no decent middle-table teams either, which means that Messi can rip of insane runs because he's not facing very good opposition most of the time, and 2) Xavi is the best creator in soccer today. It's like being a WR and having Peyton Manning as your QB. Of course he's going to make you look good. Combine that with an already great player and you'll look even better.

Re: China, basketball was gigantic when I lived in Beijing back in 2007. It was definitely the most popular sport from what I could see. Soccer wasn't even close. And I think we underrate the ridiculous impact of American culture in the world, Messi is a titanic star known by billions, but Babe Ruth is part of the Americana that all humanity has been lapping up since the end of World War One. I have no clue who has more name recognition, but if Ruth is behind it's not by much.
   140. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 01, 2011 at 08:10 AM (#3914326)
I don't understand how anyone could watch a good game of any of the American sports and not almost immediately come to the conclusion that it is much more interesting than soccer.


It's all a matter of opinion. Since European soccer became more widely available on American TV, I have completely given up watching the NFL and NBA, because those sports seem mind-numbingly boring compared to a good game of soccer. Hockey I'll still watch, and obviously I love baseball even more than soccer.
   141. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 08:37 AM (#3914328)
What makes soccer SOCCER is that it's pretty much the #1 or #2 sport in every country in the world except for the US, Canada and Puerto Rico (maybe the DR too?)


A large portion of soccer fans in the US strike me as sports fans that desire to come off as more intelligent than the average sports fan. Which is odd, since soccer is rather low brow. Do sports fans in other countries pretend to love American baseball or football or whatever, in the same manner?
   142. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: September 01, 2011 at 08:46 AM (#3914329)
HOLDS IT!
   143. Greg K Posted: September 01, 2011 at 08:51 AM (#3914333)
A large portion of soccer fans in the US strike me as sports fans that desire to come off as more intelligent than the average sports fan. Which is odd, since soccer is rather low brow. Do sports fans in other countries pretend to love American baseball or football or whatever, in the same manner?

I've noticed a segment of sports fans in the UK that are kind of turned off soccer as a bit dull and are interested in american football. (And by dull I don't mean they think the action of the game is dull, but soccer is what they've grown up with all their lives and american football is new and interesting to them).

I don't know a great deal of American soccer fans. Most of them I do know are on this site so presumably they actually like baseball better than soccer. The elitist thing might be a slight misreading of what soccer fans are about. I don't think they believe soccer is somehow inherently superior to baseball or football in an intellectual sense. They may feel that being interested in new and unfamiliar things is a good intellectual quality (and for a lot of North Americans soccer qualifies as that). Not sure if that makes any sense. I have had this conversation with a few Brits and I find that I talk about soccer almost the exact same way they talk about baseball or football...as a fascinating new sport to learn.

EDIT: Ah, I skipped over the "pretend" part. I thought that was an actual question, my bad.
   144. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 01, 2011 at 09:13 AM (#3914336)
I don't know whether watching soccer is more exciting than watching an NFL game, but it's a good deal more exciting than watching the commercials that comprise a good third of the viewing time of an NFL game. When I try and watch the NFL these days, the commercials _really_ start to bother me. Add in a half-dozen replay reviews and it comes close to torture. The game is quite fun; what you have to go through to watch it isn't.
   145. J. Sosa Posted: September 01, 2011 at 11:31 AM (#3914348)
re:143

That was a big part of getting in to soccer for me. It was a huge sport that I knew little about at a pro level despite playing the game.

Debating the pros and cons of various sports can get tedious (and insulting on some level, as criticizing a sport usually involves criticizing a favored hobby of the person you are talking to) but despite really being into football at one time it is way down the charts for me. I've had season tickets to a college team for many years, and one thing that started to bother me was that game after game after game I would see young men carted off the field or struggle to reach the sideline on their own power. I still have a partial plan because my family enjoys going, but I do not enjoy the sport like I once did. Part of my job involves looking at the long term effects of traumatic brain injury, and it is scary. I think soccer is number 2 in terms of head injury (maybe third behind hockey, I can't recall) but it is not as overt.

That aside, I understand some of the criticisms of soccer. The fans are generally obnoxious, at least in the States. Soccer also tends to be more politicized which is a drawback for some. As for the lack of scoring, I don't really get that. You get six points and a free shot at 1 or two more points on a touchdown. Is that really all that different than a goal that gets you 1 point? There is more scoring in the NFL, but just because you get six points instead of 1, I don't see that it is all that much more high scoring. Are 4 yards and a cloud of dust all that much different than a pass on an entertainment level? I don't think so.

That's just me though, I understand why people usually favor football. It was made for tv, fantasy sports, and gambling. That is a powerful combo for many people.

* edit: Me fail English? That's unpossible.
   146. Lassus Posted: September 01, 2011 at 12:31 PM (#3914364)
too many soccer threads
   147. ian Posted: September 01, 2011 at 01:02 PM (#3914379)
I want to get soccer, because it seems bizarre to me to be so disconnected aesthetically from so many people in the world, but I can't seem to get into it. I don't understand how anyone could watch a good game of any of the American sports and not almost immediately come to the conclusion that it is much more interesting than soccer.


Seems entirely explainable by your cultural context of understanding 'American sports' much more than you understand soccer. I don't see the clear distinction of where an otherwise uninformed-about-sports viewer would think the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL are obviously more watchable than soccer. I'm assuming here that you could tell me about the difference between 4-3/3-4/nickle/dime defenses in the NFL and zone defense in the NBA but wouldn't know the 442 or an inside forward in soccer; maybe I'm wrong.
   148. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 01:09 PM (#3914385)
I don't see the clear distinction of where an otherwise uninformed-about-sports viewer would think the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL are obviously more watchable than soccer.

More scoring opportunities.

I've only watched a little soccer, World Cup mostly, and had never heard of that Messi guy.

I do not like soccer, but, I see a sport there I could like. If soccer had the same average scoring as MLB (~4.5 goals per team, or even ~3 goals per team), and the range of outcomes (1-0 to 10-9), I think it would be a really fun sport.

My major issue is that the infrequency of scoring encourages a paralyzing conservatism. A 1-0 lead in the 1st H is zealously guarded. 2-0 is a gaping chasm that causes desperation if you are down.

Have they ever tried Soccer with free substitutions? Maybe that would encourage more attacking?
   149. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 01:31 PM (#3914399)
I do not like soccer, but, I see a sport there I could like. If soccer had the same average scoring as MLB (~4.5 goals per team, or even ~3 goals per team), and the range of outcomes (1-0 to 10-9), I think it would be a really fun sport.

To be honest, high-scoring games are MY least-favorite kind and, if the average scoring were that high, I would enjoy the sport substantially less, and maybe even stop following at all.
But my views are very different from many other fans.
   150. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 01:49 PM (#3914407)

To be honest, high-scoring games are MY least-favorite kind and, if the average scoring were that high, I would enjoy the sport substantially less, and maybe even stop following at all.
But my views are very different from many other fans.


I'm interested in that. Why?

Isn't a team coming back from a big deficit really cool? Or a game that swings back and forth with teams exchanging the lead.

That's entertaining in every other sport, why not soccer?
   151. BDC Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:05 PM (#3914417)
Basically every sport consists of mind-numbing repetition. The exceptions are races that are over so quickly that there's hardly any time to get used to the repetitiveness of them; and even those usually come packaged in meets or cards with several of the same race run one after another. I guess something like decathlon offers variety, but a decathlon takes forever to complete, and there's a lot of repetition in the jumping and throwing.

I'm sometimes amazed that I love baseball so much. Sixty or seventy times a night, some guy stands in one place waving a stick while two other guys play catch in his vicinity. Jeez, there must be something seriously wrong with me.

I'm facetious as always, but it strikes me that fans of any sport are in it to follow the nuances of a repeated activity, with the score there to make the repetitions significant and focus the play. In that respect, you either like/understand/are used to that activity or you don't/aren't. No sport is objectively more interesting than another.
   152. Kurt Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:09 PM (#3914421)
I'm interested in that. Why?

Isn't a team coming back from a big deficit really cool? Or a game that swings back and forth with teams exchanging the lead.

That's entertaining in every other sport, why not soccer?


I'm not a huge soccer fan, somewhere in the middle, but I think the infrequency of the goals makes each one more exciting. Donovan's goal against Algeria would have been much less exciting in a sport where 10-9 scores were possible.
   153. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:15 PM (#3914425)
Soccer is the most popular sport globally because it's the team sport that's cheapest to play. It's popular because poor people can play it.

That's well-and-good (and very egalitarian, of course), but lets not pretend that soccer's global popularity tells us much about the quality or asthetics of the sport. I'm sure more people in the world sit down to a dinner of white rice than any other food - that doesn't mean white rice is more delicious than steak, it means people are too poor to eat steak.
   154. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:20 PM (#3914430)
Basically every sport consists of mind-numbing repetition.


In the case of boxing, quite literally.
   155. aleskel Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:23 PM (#3914433)
A little late to the party, but one sport where India/Pakistan does very well on the international level other than cricket is, oddly, squash. Hard to say if it's a really "popular" sport because it is still very much a country club/prep school sport everywhere, but some of the top players in the world (and on top US college teams) are Indian and Pakistani.
   156. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:31 PM (#3914437)
I'm interested in that. Why?

Isn't a team coming back from a big deficit really cool? Or a game that swings back and forth with teams exchanging the lead.

Partially this:
I'm not a huge soccer fan, somewhere in the middle, but I think the infrequency of the goals makes each one more exciting. Donovan's goal against Algeria would have been much less exciting in a sport where 10-9 scores were possible.

(that is, fewer goals leads to every attack having far more import in the greater context of the game. If a team will only score two goals, a great block by the right back takes on a totally different meaning)

and also partially the fact that many, many goals (particularly in high-scoring matches) are the fault of defenders, not due to any particularly good play. As someone who's played and coached the sport my whole life, I really dislike when that happens - I (obviously) prefer goals to be moments of magic, not moments of failure. There's an extreme amount of skill to defending properly and organizing a defense well, and almost universally in high-scoring matches, one or both of the teams have neglected part of that. I find a high-quality game is thus significantly more likely to be low-scoring, if that makes sense.

If it helps, I also hate watching high-scoring baseball games where all of runs are due to the fact that neither side can find the strikezone or only throws right down the middle (the analogous situation to a sport I assume you're more familiar with).

That's well-and-good (and very egalitarian, of course), but lets not pretend that soccer's global popularity tells us much about the quality or asthetics of the sport. I'm sure more people in the world sit down to a dinner of white rice than any other food - that doesn't mean white rice is more delicious than steak, it means people are too poor to eat steak.

This is very off-topic and not intended to detract from your point, but speaking as an Indian Hindu, I'd much prefer rice to steak ;)

A little late to the party, but one sport where India/Pakistan does very well on the international level other than cricket is, oddly, squash. Hard to say if it's a really "popular" sport because it is still very much a country club/prep school sport everywhere, but some of the top players in the world (and on top US college teams) are Indian and Pakistani.

At a personal level, badminton (or "baddy") is also very popular. I'm a fairly decent player and yet, here, I consistently get destroyed by people twice my age (in squash I have no chance, obviously). Many kids play racquet-based sports for much of their lives.
   157. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:34 PM (#3914440)
Attendance Averages worldwide, per Wiki:

NFL 68,240
Bundesliga 41,802
Aussie Rules Football 38,243
English Premier League 34,150
MLB 30,201
Canadian Football League 29,206
La Liga 28,286
Mexican Primera Division 26,722
Nippon Pro Baseball 26,477
Super 14 Rugby (South Africa, Australia, NZ) 25,374
Serie A 24,957

The World League of American Football's attendance was 25K at its peak, and settled in around 18. In its last year, it was over 20K. By way of comparision, that's more than MLS and more than the English First Division (Coke Championship) soccer. It's right around the J League, Eridivisie, and Ligue 1 -- the premier club soccer leagues in Japan, the Netherlands, and France -- and more than every other club soccer league in the world.
   158. BDC Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:43 PM (#3914449)
one sport where India/Pakistan does very well on the international level

Has men's field hockey declined in popularity in India and Pakistan? When I was younger, India and Pakistan would always win Olympic medals in field hockey, and they haven't in a while. I have no idea what the social-class dynamic of hockey might be, or what factors might make it more or less a big deal in a given country.
   159. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:43 PM (#3914450)
To be honest, high-scoring games are MY least-favorite kind and, if the average scoring were that high, I would enjoy the sport substantially less, and maybe even stop following at all.
But my views are very different from many other fans.


I'm interested in that. Why?

I can only speak for myself but I think a well-played 2-1 game is ideal. Your point that the ability to come back is exciting is true but one of the things I like about soccer is the fact that every single moment means something. Because of the rarity of goals you can't take a moment off. I'm not saying it would necesssarily be better but imagine a baseball game where you have a first inning leadoff triple and know that if you can get that run in, you would have an 80% chance of winning. Every at bat would take on increased significance. I love that a 6th minute goal can have the announcer screaming "oooh, is that the goal that leads to a shocking upset today!"

Certainly I want to see both teams score though. I don't think (as someone above said) that scoring on an MLB scale would be as exciting. Maybe a 4-5 goal a game environment (e.g. 2-2, 3-2, 3-1) would be a bit better but I think the scarcity of goals adds to the drama.

That's my feeling, I understand why others feel differently.
   160. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:50 PM (#3914457)
Have they ever tried Soccer with free substitutions? Maybe that would encourage more attacking?

Again, just speaking for myself, this is something I like because it is different from other sports (other than baseball). This puts more emphasis on the manager's choices at the start of a game and can become a great point of discussion and debate.

For example, in last year's World Cup the US lost in large part (my opinion though I'm not alone) because the head coach elected to start Ricardo Clark who had as much business being on the field as I did. Clark gave the ball away for the first goal and was substituted off before the end of the first half (the soccer equivalent of the starter not getting through 5).

Like I said, this is my opinion but I think these aspects create a sport that is different from other sports. If I want to see MLB-level scoring, I'll watch a baseball game, soccer provides a different experience. YMMV.
   161. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 02:57 PM (#3914461)
Because of the rarity of goals you can't take a moment off. I'm not saying it would necesssarily be better but imagine a baseball game where you have a first inning leadoff triple and know that if you can get that run in, you would have an 80% chance of winning. Every at bat would take on increased significance.

Sure that makes that inning more exciting. But,the next 16 1-2-3 innings would be tedious.

I agree that I want a game where the 1 run in the first can hold up. But, I also want a game where 3-0 in the first doesn't mean the game is 99.9% over.

If a quality soccer team goes up 2-0, you can basically change the channel. Doesn't that bother/bore you?
   162. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 01, 2011 at 03:09 PM (#3914469)
If a quality soccer team goes up 2-0, you can basically change the channel. Doesn't that bother/bore you?


Yeah, it can be a disappointment but the reality is that teams rarely go ahead 2-0 early in a game and when they do the other team can come back though they rarely do. I would equate it with a baseball game that is 4-0 in the 3rd inning. Yes, the trailing team can come back but it is not particularly common.

All sports are going to have their boring games. I find basketball tedious because all the scoring becomes somewhat meaningless unless one team truly blows someone out. Obviously that's my opinion and others see it as a feature, but for me it's a bug.
   163. JustDan Posted: September 01, 2011 at 03:13 PM (#3914473)
Rule changes in soccer:
1866: Forward pass introduced


OK I realize this change was nearly 150 years ago, but before this the only way to advance the ball was by dribbling it yourself?

Also, to the person who thought that Rod Stewart is too short... Messi is all of 5 foot 7 inches.
   164. Brian C Posted: September 01, 2011 at 03:16 PM (#3914476)
If a quality soccer team goes up 2-0, you can basically change the channel. Doesn't that bother/bore you?

In my limited experience watching soccer, what I find is that the dynamic of a game changes radically at 2-0. At that point, the losing team is forced to discard the "paralyzing conservatism" you talk about and go with an all-out attack. If they can manage to score and make it 2-1, well, now you've got a tight game again. And, like in hockey, the last few minutes of a 1-goal game are terribly exciting.

In short, desperation is dramatic.
   165. Greg K Posted: September 01, 2011 at 03:26 PM (#3914493)
OK I realize this change was nearly 150 years ago, but before this the only way to advance the ball was by dribbling it yourself?

I'm no expert on soccer, but I think at that early date "soccer" was just separating itself from "rugby". I think the original Rugby Union was actually a group of clubs that left the Football Association (Soccer) because of disputes over rules. It might be more accurate to say that until the mid-19th century there were about as many variations of "football" as there were villages in England, some as basic as all the men of two neighbouring villages going out in a huge field and beating the #### out of each other with a ball somewhat vaguely involved.

Evolutionarily speaking soccer is the grandfather (or maybe grand-uncle or something) of American football. So it's actually not that strange that they would both legalize the forward pass at some point. I guess Rugby is the simple cousin of the family who hasn't got around to it yet.
   166. Greg K Posted: September 01, 2011 at 03:29 PM (#3914500)
Agree with #164. A team jumping out to an early lead seems to often make for a MORE exciting game as managers are forced out of their default passivity. (Unless of course the team jumps out to an early lead because they are overwhelming superior to the other side and proceed to drub them for 90 minutes straight)

Nothing spices up a tentative match like a goal, forcing the other team to come out and play.
   167. Swedish Chef Posted: September 01, 2011 at 03:43 PM (#3914513)
OK I realize this change was nearly 150 years ago, but before this the only way to advance the ball was by dribbling it yourself?

Yes, the funny thing it remained mainly a dribbling game for some time despite the rule change before the Scots introduced the passing game. They trounced all opposition for a while. The next tactical invention was to hoof it long, contrary to popular opinion it actually takes some skill (and good footwear) to execute a long ball.
   168. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 04:09 PM (#3914533)
Nothing spices up a tentative match like a goal, forcing the other team to come out and play.

But, wouldn't it be better if both teams has to "come out and play" from the get-go b/c they knew they'd likely need 3-4 goals to win?
   169. Perry Posted: September 01, 2011 at 04:18 PM (#3914542)
Nothing spices up a tentative match like a goal, forcing the other team to come out and play.


Yup. It's a cliche among soccer announcers after 20 minutes of dull, scoreless play: "This game needs a goal."
   170. Brian C Posted: September 01, 2011 at 04:25 PM (#3914550)
But, wouldn't it be better if both teams has to "come out and play" from the get-go b/c they knew they'd likely need 3-4 goals to win?

How so? I'm not a huge soccer fan but I'm genuinely puzzled as to what you mean by "better" here. Do you mean "more exciting"? Because I don't see why more scoring necessarily makes things more exciting - I think that, generally speaking, close games are much more exciting to people than high-scoring ones. Do you mean "reflecting a higher quality of play?" Because I don't see how that follows, either.

Or do you simply mean "more closely reflecting your aesthetic preferences?" If so, then you're welcome to them, of course - but how does baseball not suffer from the same problems you're attributing to soccer?
   171. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: September 01, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#3914554)
In sports where the object is to "score" more "points" than your opponent, I can certainly see the school of thought that finds the sport where scoring is significantly less frequent than other sports to be less compelling.

That seems pretty straightforward. Not saying I necessarily agree with the conclusion, but the reasoning seems pretty failsafe.
   172. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 01, 2011 at 04:47 PM (#3914569)
But, wouldn't it be better if both teams has to "come out and play" from the get-go b/c they knew they'd likely need 3-4 goals to win?


Not necessarily. That assumes the excitement is derived solely from the act of scoring a goal. If the teams know they are likely to get 3-4 goals apiece, the excitement generated by the goal itself becomes of lesser value. Certainly the preference is to see attacking style with or without goals but even a conservative (or "anti-football" to use the term that seem in vogue) approach can be entertaining. Where it can be a bit frustrating is when both teams are playing that style (see: Fulham v. Stoke somewhere along the line this season). When one team is defending desperately while the other team is going all out there is a lot of drama in the "will they or won't they" aspect.
   173. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:13 PM (#3914595)
How so? I'm not a huge soccer fan but I'm genuinely puzzled as to what you mean by "better" here. Do you mean "more exciting"? Because I don't see why more scoring necessarily makes things more exciting - I think that, generally speaking, close games are much more exciting to people than high-scoring ones. Do you mean "reflecting a higher quality of play?" Because I don't see how that follows, either.

Not necessarily. That assumes the excitement is derived solely from the act of scoring a goal. If the teams know they are likely to get 3-4 goals apiece, the excitement generated by the goal itself becomes of lesser value. Certainly the preference is to see attacking style with or without goals but even a conservative (or "anti-football" to use the term that seem in vogue) approach can be entertaining. Where it can be a bit frustrating is when both teams are playing that style (see: Fulham v. Stoke somewhere along the line this season). When one team is defending desperately while the other team is going all out there is a lot of drama in the "will they or won't they" aspect.

I don't mean more scoring per se. A low scoring baseball game can be very exciting if there are a lot of men on base, creating tension.

I guess what I mean is more agressive. More attacking. More scoring chances, even if they're not converted.

It seems to me (limited experience fully noted) that a lot of time in soccer is spent mucking around the middle of the field. It's like an NFL game that goes 3 and out, or one first down, then 3 and out, back and forth between the 30's with no real scoring opportunities.
   174.     Hey Gurl Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:18 PM (#3914599)
I think it's a common misconception that North Americans find soccer boring because there's no scoring. It's not the lack of goals that the problem, but the lack of *chances* A 0-0 game can be very exciting if there are at least constant threats to score. I was watching a game the other day where one team did not even register a shot on goal. That's what is boring.

I fully acknowledge that I might not be watching the "right" matches...

In sports where the object is to "score" more "points" than your opponent, I can certainly see the school of thought that finds the sport where scoring is significantly less frequent than other sports to be less compelling.


IMO, same goes for significantly more frequent. Eg, basketblah...
   175. Gaelan Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:19 PM (#3914600)
Everything Snapper is saying about soccer used to be true about hockey but isn't true about soccer. The thing is that soccer isn't actually that low scoring since a soccer game is about half the length of a baseball or football game.

If you were to count scoring events per minute I bet Soccer would be in the same range as other sports. Whenever I hear someone say they think soccer is low scoring I know they don't actually watch soccer since it isn't true.

soccer is only low scoring when teams are playing for the tie (for instance in the first round of the world cup when there were only 24 teams and you only got 2 points for a win). But that hardly ever happens anymore because they changed the rules that encouraged playing for a tie. So there goes the myth that soccer is resistant to change since they changed precisely those rules that needed to be changed.
   176. CrosbyBird Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:22 PM (#3914607)
It's really a lot like hockey in that once you realize what the players are doing everything looks a lot more interesting.

I'm not sure about that.

I'm a very casual hockey fan and I probably don't realize a tenth of what's going on other than hits and shots on goals, but there are tons and tons of both of those things that keep me interested. (Although hockey is a really lousy TV sport, and that's probably why I don't appreciate it as much. Live hockey is fantastic.)

It's all a matter of opinion. Since European soccer became more widely available on American TV, I have completely given up watching the NFL and NBA, because those sports seem mind-numbingly boring compared to a good game of soccer.

Well, sure, I understand it, but I don't get it. Some people like their steak well-done. I understand that it's their preference but I don't get how it could be their preference.

This isn't a criticism of soccer so much as a criticism of me. I try to see what people like about things that I don't like, and for soccer, I can't even figure it out. It's a game with absolutely no appeal to me, and I can watch almost any sport and enjoy it.

When I try and watch the NFL these days, the commercials _really_ start to bother me. Add in a half-dozen replay reviews and it comes close to torture. The game is quite fun; what you have to go through to watch it isn't.

I rarely watch live sports by myself. If it's a social activity (even something like a Game Chatter here), then I'm multitasking and not just watching the game. If it's a game I want to see on my own, then I start watching halfway in and skip the commercials and overly long replays.

The DVR made me a much bigger football fan. You can start watching at halftime and finish the game right about the time it naturally ends. Getting a whole football game in 60-90 minutes is a pretty great entertainment experience.

It's also why the pacing issues in baseball are so irritating. A 20-25 second delay between pitches is particularly terrible because the DVR skips forward in 30 second increments. When I used to have ReplayTV, there was an 8-second skip feature which was incredible for baseball.
   177. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:26 PM (#3914610)
It seems to me (limited experience fully noted) that a lot of time in soccer is spent mucking around the middle of the field. It's like an NFL game that goes 3 and out, or one first down, then 3 and out, back and forth between the 30's with no real scoring opportunities.
I really just don't think that's the case.

You said you mostly have watched international competitions - my experience is that World Cup managers tend toward significantly more conservative tactics than league managers. Probably in part because so many games are between sides with massive differences in personnel, and in part because there's so much pressure on national managers to not screw it up.

But I just don't think it's the case that "mucking around in the middle of the field" takes up a huge portion of soccer. The amount of time spent with one team really attacking the other goal is comparable, I think, to the amount of time spent in a baseball game with runners in scoring position. The difference between the sports, in this sense, is much more that it's easier to cash in opportunities in baseball than in soccer.

(Also, this last World Cup kind of got screwed up because everyone was deathly afraid of the Spanish. Especially after Switzerland managed to beat them by playing insanely negative football and lucking into a garbage goal, nearly every manager that faced Spain shelved everything interesting about their attack (Chile being the only exception, and they not only lost, but they lost their spot in the knockout round in the process). This meant that you had a bit of a death march to the final, with Spain triumphing, slowly, over teams too afraid to confront them on the open field. It was a peculiar thing, and it's not really representative of soccer as a whole.)
   178.     Hey Gurl Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:28 PM (#3914613)
When I try and watch the NFL these days, the commercials _really_ start to bother me.


Agreed.

One thing I noticed last season when I tried watching the NFL was the frequency of times, near the end of a game, where we would return from a commercial break, be informed by the announcer that Team X has taken a time-out, and go right to another commercial break (with the same commercials.) Brutal.

It's almost like a baseball game where a team uses 3 relievers to get 3 guys out and we go to commercial between each change, except worse because there is literally no sport in between.
   179.     Hey Gurl Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:36 PM (#3914619)

soccer is only low scoring when teams are playing for the tie (for instance in the first round of the world cup when there were only 24 teams and you only got 2 points for a win). But that hardly ever happens anymore because they changed the rules that encouraged playing for a tie. So there goes the myth that soccer is resistant to change since they changed precisely those rules that needed to be changed.


This is still a problem in hockey, where teams in the third period of a tied game noticeably play passively to get to overtime for the free point.
   180. CrosbyBird Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:41 PM (#3914628)
I think it's a common misconception that North Americans find soccer boring because there's no scoring. It's not the lack of goals that the problem, but the lack of *chances* A 0-0 game can be very exciting if there are at least constant threats to score. I was watching a game the other day where one team did not even register a shot on goal. That's what is boring.

Exactly. When I watch a soccer game, it seems like so much of the game is entirely unrelated to even the possibility of scoring. It's almost like the middle 70% of the field is just worthless back-and-forth, and most of the action happens in that worthless area.

I don't see the clear distinction of where an otherwise uninformed-about-sports viewer would think the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL are obviously more watchable than soccer. I'm assuming here that you could tell me about the difference between 4-3/3-4/nickle/dime defenses in the NFL and zone defense in the NBA but wouldn't know the 442 or an inside forward in soccer; maybe I'm wrong.

I think it's primarily a discrete vs. continuous argument. The big 4 American sports are all generally discrete, and soccer generally is continuous. The stuff that generally makes American sports uninteresting is the pausing between discrete events, but there's stuff you can do to deal with those pauses. In soccer, I feel like the actual play is filled with uninteresting moments.

Basketball had this "problem" (in that I think it is a problem, aesthetically speaking, but recognize that tastes differ) until the introduction of the shot clock; a team could just sit on the ball practically forever. I feel like soccer needs something to push the intensity of the regular play outside of the few scoring opportunities. Maybe it's a shot clock. Maybe the home team should start with half a goal.
   181. CrosbyBird Posted: September 01, 2011 at 05:55 PM (#3914637)
But I just don't think it's the case that "mucking around in the middle of the field" takes up a huge portion of soccer. The amount of time spent with one team really attacking the other goal is comparable, I think, to the amount of time spent in a baseball game with runners in scoring position. The difference between the sports, in this sense, is much more that it's easier to cash in opportunities in baseball than in soccer.

A huge difference here is that you don't need runners in scoring position to score in baseball. It's not even rare for baseball to have a scoring event without any runners on base. Practically every moment in baseball is a scoring opportunity (even pitchers occasionally hit a HR). This is also true for the NFL/NBA/NHL (and in both directions in these sports, because practically every play is a potential turnover returned for a score).

I don't know that it makes the American sports objectively better, but it definitely makes for more tension-filled moments unless the game is a blowout. But a blowout is boring in any sport, so that doesn't much matter.
   182. Baldrick Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:07 PM (#3914642)
A huge difference here is that you don't need runners in scoring position to score in baseball. It's not even rare for baseball to have a scoring event without any runners on base. Practically every moment in baseball is a scoring opportunity (even pitchers occasionally hit a HR). This is also true for the NFL/NBA/NHL (and in both directions in these sports, because practically every play is a potential turnover returned for a score).

The same is absolutely true in soccer. It takes only one long ball, one controlling touch, and a lashed shot to score. Or, even better, a good counter attack can move the ball to the other end of the pitch with breathtaking speed.

For people who like the sport, the POTENTIAL for things like this is part of what makes all the action in the middle of the pitch so interesting. What seems to you to be simply mucking around the middle of the field is in fact a lot more complex. If it doesn't aesthetically interest you, that's fine. Not everyone has to like the same thing. But that's a very different point than the one you seem to be trying to make, which is that there is some objectively dull component to the sport.

I would in fact say precisely the opposite. American sports have a lot of dead-time built into them intrinsically. I love baseball, but I would never try to deny this. It's just part of the flow of the game. Particular soccer matches may be excruciatingly dull, of course, but for the 110/115 minutes it takes to play a match there is guaranteed to be 95/100 where something is possible.
   183. Topher Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:17 PM (#3914647)
Snapper,

Not sure how much you follow hockey, but Arjun's #156 explains it pretty well even if you don't. Many goals are essentially a result of a screwup on the defensive end. When you play aggressive, attacking soccer, you typically are leaving yourself a bit exposed in the back. Especially since in many instances the attack comes from overlaping runs from your fullbacks/wingbacks that are pushing forward.

I mentioned hockey because as an extremely casual follower (and somebody who essentially stopped after the lockout), the neutral zone trap in hockey killed scoring. It wasn't at all attractive, but it sure did work. Ultimately the goal is to win so teams adopted the trap. And so instead of having a more attractive form of attacking hockey, you end up with a less appealing version. The NHL was willing to change rules in response but that isn't something that soccer would really consider and honestly I'm not sure what exactly you would change to get teams attacking from the first whistle.

One the first goal is scored, the other team typically has to open up to respond. Until that happens, however, most teams are more likely to concede a goal by pressing forward than they are to score themslves. The result is that typically the start of games is indeed conversative and understand your frustration in that. It's not always the case, but 0-0 soccer tends to be a bit of a bore.

One other thing I will note is that I think Gaelan is spot on about scoring events/chances. Most set plays are chances and while goals aren't always scored, the number of times that a ball hits the woodwork is often just as exciting as goals. (Because some goals are a bit anticlimatic or at least lack flair, while it's pretty rare that a ball hitting the post won't get you to jump out of your chair as you wonder what is going to happen next if for no other reason than the fact that goalkeeper is typically flailing on the ground like a fish out of water.)
   184. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:22 PM (#3914654)
Many goals are essentially a result of a screwup on the defensive end. When you play aggressive, attacking soccer, you typically are leaving yourself a bit exposed in the back. Especially since in many instances the attack comes from overlaping runs from your fullbacks/wingbacks that are pushing forward.

OK, I get that, but don't see that as a flaw. An interception returned for a TD in football is really exciting.

I guess I'm saying that if you (somehow) raised scoring levels, teams would be forced to attack more, and concede more "mistake" goals.

It's kind of a chicken and egg situation. If you could get the attacking you'd get the scoring, but the teams won't attack until they get (or anticipate) the scoring. No idea how you'd actually go about causing that to get started.
   185. Conor Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:44 PM (#3914670)
One thing I noticed last season when I tried watching the NFL was the frequency of times, near the end of a game, where we would return from a commercial break, be informed by the announcer that Team X has taken a time-out, and go right to another commercial break (with the same commercials.) Brutal.


I don't think this is really a problem with the NFL, seems to be more of an NBA thing. (By that I mean lots of commercials/timeouts at the end of games specifically. The NFL has the touchdown, timeout, kickoff return, timeout deal that is pretty brutal).

There are 10 tv timeouts per half in the NFL, and they generally try to get them in the beginning of halves from what I've seen. Generally by the time you get to the last 5-6 minutes of the game, nearly all of the breaks have been taken. (Also, they hold one back for the 2 minute warning). Once all the breaks have been taken, when teams call timeout, they're 30 second timeouts and usually they don't go to commercial. There was a somewhat famous example of a Monday night football game last year where the second half had a fast pace, with few changes of possessions, that the ref was asking one of the coaches (I want to say Jack Del Rio) to take a timeout because they hadn't gotten all their commercial breaks in. I believe Del Rio declined).

Also, I can't really ever remember the scenario you outlined (returning from a commercial only to be informed of a team calling a timeout, especially late in a game) ever happening. I am sure it has happened, but it can't be a lot. Do you literally mean there is a commercial, and then yo u come back and before another play is even run, they throw it to commercial again? This has to be exceedingly rare. I would think it is very rare t hat by the time you get to even the last 3-4 minutes of a game, they would still need to get multiple tv timeouts in (accounting for the 2 minute warning). And teams usually don't call timeouts when there has already been a stoppage in play.

Edit: Didn't mean to hijack, carry on...
   186. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:44 PM (#3914671)
Famously AC Milan blew a 3-0 lead at halftime against Liverpool in the Champions League final just a few years back. And if 2-0 leads were as hard to lose as it seems, the US would be 2009 Confederations Cup champions and 2011 Gold Cup champions. Bob Bradley would also be the coach of the team. None of those three things are true.

Are there dull soccer matches? Yes some are excruciating, but there are just as many if not more dull American football matches. One advantage I think baseball has (for me anyway) is that I rarely find any baseball game to be particularly dull. There's usually something worth paying attention to. Maybe there's a flip side where baseball doesn't have as many moments of crazed excitement as either but it does have a few.

The best thing about a soccer match is that it can be excruciatingly dull and suddenly shift into a full action match. The most recent US/Mexico friendly was like that. And as mentioned above, watching Barcelona be Barcelona is usually exciting in and of itself. It's like getting to watch the 27 Yankees or 75 Reds. If you enjoy a sport, you can't help but be drawn to watching one of the best teams ever do their thing.
   187. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:48 PM (#3914675)
It's kind of a chicken and egg situation. If you could get the attacking you'd get the scoring, but the teams won't attack until they get (or anticipate) the scoring. No idea how you'd actually go about causing that to get started.

The counter to that is that elements of the game that may not look like they're "attacking" actually are part of an "attack" -- albeit a slow-developing one. Barca gets clear possession in their own end on the back 4, they're dangerous. There's a good chance they'll maintain possession all the way to the other end of the field.

It's much like a Visnovsky or Nik Lidstrom gaining possession in his defensive zone. Given their ability to make a break-out pass (and their teammates' ability to get in position to take and do something with one), that's really an "attacking" position. The ultimate result of the hockey attack will reveal itself more quickly than its soccer counterpart, which could bother some. It doesn't bother me.

When you drop down to a middling soccer side or a middling defenseman taking possession, then, yeah, pretty pedestrian sauce. Soccer played at world-class level is pretty compelling, and unwatchable much below. At least IMHO.
   188. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:55 PM (#3914680)
There are 10 tv timeouts per half in the NFL

That's the thing though, you get used to soccer with 0 TV timeouts per half. By timeout number six you're ready to chuck the remote through the TV.

What further exacerbates the problem is that the pacing of an NFL game is not very good to begin with, made worse by replay reviews and other situations where the refs spend minutes discussing things with one another. Both sports have similar amounts of down time due to injuries (even if the NFL ones are more likely to be real). Every NFL game seems just like a series of interruptions interrupted occasionally by football.
   189. Conor Posted: September 01, 2011 at 06:57 PM (#3914682)
I've definitely become a much bigger fan of soccer over the last few years. I started playing football manager (back when it was Championship Manager) in like 2001, 2002. I became totally immersed in the game, and wanted to follow soccer more, but I would drift in and out. In the last 2 or 3 years, my interest has grown increasingly, and it's so much easier to follow the bigger European leagues now than ever before. I've watched premier league action all 3 weekends since the season started, and going back another week, I watched most of the charity shield as well. Wake up on Sat/Sun and watch until like 12/1ish.

Another thing is I feel like I have a whole new history to learn. I know most of the major history points of the NBA, MLB, NFL, etc. But with soccer, its like starting from a blank slate. And there's even more stuff because there are so many different league, cup competitions, international competitions, etc. THere's so much historical stuff that I have no idea about and I think it's awesome to find stuff out about the history of the game.
   190. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:00 PM (#3914684)
The NFL has the touchdown, timeout, kickoff return, timeout deal that is pretty brutal).

You mean touchdown, commercial, timeout (ice the kicker), commercial, extra point, commercial, kickoff, commercial
   191. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:02 PM (#3914687)
I started playing football manager (back when it was Championship Manager) in like 2001, 2002

Best sports computer/video game ever. Second place isn't close.
   192.     Hey Gurl Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:05 PM (#3914689)
Also, I can't really ever remember the scenario you outlined (returning from a commercial only to be informed of a team calling a timeout, especially late in a game) ever happening. I am sure it has happened, but it can't be a lot. Do you literally mean there is a commercial, and then yo u come back and before another play is even run, they throw it to commercial again?


Yes. I saw it happen on at least two occasions, although I have no idea how I could provide evidence. Perhaps a play was run that was so minor (a kneel?) that I don't recall a play being run; I don't claim to be an expert on the NFL by a long shot.
   193. Conor Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:09 PM (#3914695)
You mean touchdown, commercial, timeout (ice the kicker), commercial, extra point, commercial, kickoff, commercial


To be fair, I've never seen a team ice a kicker on an extra point. And there's never a timeout between the touchdown and the extra point, is there? (I guess if there's a challenge on the play that scored the td).

But yeah, there are some brutal stretches, like I said. Don't get me wrong. But I've never had much of a problem with the way end of games go, timeout wise.

Football manager is really incredible. I've tried to explain it to people, but I don't think I can adequately describe it. It's just the most addictive game I have ever played. And when I first started, I knew basically nothing about soccer, certainly nothing about European club soccer. Can't recommend it enough.
   194.     Hey Gurl Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:12 PM (#3914699)
The other thing with NFL is that it has to be about the only clocked game where there is consistently zero action while the clock is running. I'm talking about huddle, burn the clock, wait for snap, etc. I think I read somewhere that the ball is actually in play for about 9 or 10 minutes out of a sixty minute game that takes 3 hours to play. It amazes me that fans of that sport repeatedly chide baseball for being slow...
   195. CrosbyBird Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:15 PM (#3914700)
The same is absolutely true in soccer. It takes only one long ball, one controlling touch, and a lashed shot to score. Or, even better, a good counter attack can move the ball to the other end of the pitch with breathtaking speed.

But how often does that happen? Once a game? Maybe? I don't need the score at the end to be interested. There could be a great last-minute stop, or a barely missed shot.

For people who like the sport, the POTENTIAL for things like this is part of what makes all the action in the middle of the pitch so interesting. What seems to you to be simply mucking around the middle of the field is in fact a lot more complex. If it doesn't aesthetically interest you, that's fine. Not everyone has to like the same thing. But that's a very different point than the one you seem to be trying to make, which is that there is some objectively dull component to the sport.

I wouldn't say objectively dull (although I would certainly say subjectively dull). I recognize that it's not objectively dull, or hundreds of millions of people wouldn't be in love with the sport.

I suppose the question I'd have for you is if you could identify the most exciting soccer game (or one of the most exciting games) that you've ever seen, and then I can try to watch that one and see if it does anything for me. Because it may be that I've only seen bad soccer games. I certainly haven't watched the sport exhaustively.

I would like to see why the "mucking around in the middle" isn't just that. I'm not denying that you see what you see so much as saying that I've tried to see it and I'm not getting it. It might just be that I need to watch the sport with a really educated fan and a DVR, pausing and going back and having individual moments explained to me so that it all fits together.

I would in fact say precisely the opposite. American sports have a lot of dead-time built into them intrinsically. I love baseball, but I would never try to deny this. It's just part of the flow of the game. Particular soccer matches may be excruciatingly dull, of course, but for the 110/115 minutes it takes to play a match there is guaranteed to be 95/100 where something is possible.

I would say that American sports have predictable, concise dead-time. You know when the boring moments are and you can check out for them. It appears that there are practically no check-out moments in soccer, because the play is almost entirely continuous, which means I'm stuck watching everything. It also means that I don't have time to reflect on what just happened because there's something else happening right now.

Are there tons of soccer highlights that don't involve action near the goal? It seems like every "great play" video I've ever seen involving soccer was either a great goal or a great save.
   196. Esmailyn Gonzalez Sr. Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:24 PM (#3914711)
Best sports computer/video game ever. Second place isn't close.

Eastside Hockey Manager is right there with it.
   197. Baldrick Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:32 PM (#3914715)
I guess the major disagreement is over whether being 'stuck watching everything' is a sign of an exciting game or a stultifying one. I think it's the former, but there's no reason that's definitive.

I suppose the question I'd have for you is if you could identify the most exciting soccer game (or one of the most exciting games) that you've ever seen, and then I can try to watch that one and see if it does anything for me. Because it may be that I've only seen bad soccer games. I certainly haven't watched the sport exhaustively.


Well, I have a couple different answers. For me, the most exciting games have been ones with personal significance. The US v. Algeria game was electrifying, despite being 0-0 for a very very long time. Because everything was riding on it. The US v. Germany in the 2002 World Cup was also incredibly exciting. The US v. Spain in the Confederations Cup is a great example of how tenuous a 2-0 lead can feel.

Similarly, the most excited I've been about a game since the World Cup was the playoff finals for promotion to the EPL last year. My team (Reading) fell behind 3-0, pulled it back to 3-2, hit the post, and then ended up losing. The quality of play wasn't the greatest but it sure was exciting.

For games of more objective entertainment, a couple come to mind: last year's Tottenham 3 -3 Arsenal was glorious. Great goals, unbelievable pace of the game. The first leg of Arsenal - Barcelona from the Champions League in 2009-2010 was incredible. The first 20 minutes, in particular, demonstrate just how exciting Barca really is, even though they didn't score.

From the World Cup last year (might be easier to actually track these down), Germany's battering of Argentina was pretty good. Really, any of the Germany games would be good to watch. Both of the semifinals were great. Italy-Slovakia was pretty exciting. The games involving Chile were all pretty good, I think.
   198. Baldrick Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:38 PM (#3914723)
Are there tons of soccer highlights that don't involve action near the goal? It seems like every "great play" video I've ever seen involving soccer was either a great goal or a great save.

Forgot to respond to this.

Really, it depends what you mean. The 'highlights' can be condensed to 45 seconds if you just show the goals and near-misses. It can be expanded to 2 minutes if you want to show all the major attempts on goal. It can be expanded to 8 or 9 minutes if you want to show some of the key counter attacks, the nice dribbles to beat a guy, the pinpoint passes.

For those who think it's the beautiful game, it has not a whole lot to do with the goals. Often, the goals themselves are pretty mundane, little tap-ins, headers from dead balls, etc. It's the tearing apart of defenses that set them up that really inspire.

One example, there's a goal I remember from the 2006 World Cup. Argentina strung together something like 25 passes. Basically every member of the team touched the ball. The resulting goal wasn't particularly inspiring, but the build-up was amazing.
   199. Greg K Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:49 PM (#3914736)
Are there tons of soccer highlights that don't involve action near the goal? It seems like every "great play" video I've ever seen involving soccer was either a great goal or a great save.

They don't really make the "game in a minute" highlight package because they're not as flashy, but much like hockey soccer analysts love doing the "here's the midfield/centre ice break-down that led to that goal" routine. I found the condensed Match of the Day highlights on BBC are excellent for a new fan. They essentially show an mlb.com style 15 minute condensed version of each game, then discuss. I'm sure knowledgable fans view Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen as the Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan of soccer or something, but for a moron who's just trying to learn the basics it's been thoroughly educational on defensive responsibilities, the importance of open space, positioning, movement without the ball etc.

Though I guess if you're not in the UK Match of the Day isn't an option. Actually, I'm in the UK and Match of the Day isn't an option. Does anyone know of somewhere online that would provide a similar service?
   200. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 01, 2011 at 07:55 PM (#3914744)
I started playing football manager (back when it was Championship Manager) in like 2001, 2002. I became totally immersed in the game, and wanted to follow soccer more, but I would drift in and out.

The 2001 version of Championship Manager was an awesome game (Maxim Tsigalko!). The later versions four or five years later simply took way too much time. I don't know if the newest ones have resolved that.

Are there tons of soccer highlights that don't involve action near the goal? It seems like every "great play" video I've ever seen involving soccer was either a great goal or a great save.

Well one of my biggest gripes about soccer highlights is exactly what you say, but you have to remember that the purpose of those highlights is to tell you what happened with the game.

But if you have an artist with the ball at his feet in the game, some of the best moments often don't lead to much of anything. For example this Ronaldinho video has very little in the way of goals or goal chances but shows off the absurd level of skill he has. You have to love a move in sports where a player seemingly breaks the laws of physics in half (the "elastico"). Or for a more approachable example, here's 12 year old Jack Gilliam from a really good club team in Florida.

Indeed, I get frustrated with soccer fans who ##### and moan about Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo (Messi's a bit of a different type) tricks and stuff because it often fails to come off. They behave as if that sort of stuff is a distraction to "real football." I hate to blame the English for this attitude, but I'm afraid they are the most likely suspects. Soccer is a great game, but when guys like that bring it, there's nothing quite like it. One of my favorite videos involves Ronaldinho juggling near the sideline. What's great about the video is watching the fans reactions in the background as it goes on. Ronaldinho is basically just screwing around and the fans are loving every second of it.

That being able to execute these sorts of moves actually make you a better player is even better. Overdribbling is a sin, underdribbling a bigger one.
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