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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Will soccer’s gain be baseball’s loss?

When the 2014 World Cup concludes, soccer isn’t going to disappear the way it typically has. Major League Soccer is growing in influence and popularity in traditional sports cities. More significant, major networks such as ESPN, Fox, and NBC Sports have adopted the sport.

In particular, ESPN’s awesome communications machinery is committed, to an unprecedented extent, to growing the world’s most popular game in America.

And if the 21st century has taught us any important sports lesson, it’s that it’s futile to fight ESPN.

Baseball, meanwhile, appears to have the same demographic problems with its base as the Republican Party: It’s too old. It’s too white. It’s perceived as too square.

 

MikeTorrez Posted: June 29, 2014 at 06:35 PM | 205 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: soccer, world cup

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   1. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: June 30, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4739529)
And if the 21st century has taught us any important sports lesson, it’s that it’s futile to fight ESPN.

Since the advent of the MLB Network, TWWL can show all the girly Euro men flopping onto the field that they want. I won't waste a minute of my life on that nonsense.
   2. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: June 30, 2014 at 09:43 AM (#4739531)
Unless LeBron James starts playing soccer, I wouldn't be too worried about a dramatic increase of soccer content on ESPN.
   3. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: June 30, 2014 at 09:45 AM (#4739532)
Since the advent of the MLB Network, TWWL can show all the girly Euro men flopping onto the field that they want. I won't waste a minute of my life on that nonsense.


The World Cup has been very entertaining, the competition has been stellar, and there is a tremendous amount of skill and endurance required in that sport.

But holy geez are these guys wimps. FIFA needs to crack down on the incentives for soccer players to behave like total ####### pussies. Until then, I don't see America taking to the game as passionately as the rest of the world.

I'll admit to being Canadian and watching hockey players tough it out my whole life; I may be biased.
   4. boteman is here Posted: June 30, 2014 at 09:56 AM (#4739541)
The author of TFA might be interested to learn about this brand new thing called "The Internet". The importance and necessity for ESPN, et al is receding. If you want to follow soccer, you can, whether or not the major networks deign to cover it.
   5. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4739551)
I'm a passive follower of soccer, got rid of cable a couple of years ago and don't miss it at all, so I'm skeptical of the ESPN angle and yes - the internet makes ESPN less important on this issue. But, haven't we been hearing this claim for 20+ years? Every time Team USA doesn't #### the bed in an international competition (World Cup, Olympics, etc) they say that "THIS TIME SOCCER IS HERE TO STAY!!!!" and it still hasn't really made a dent.

Now, MLS is doing pretty well, I reckon considering it is still around all these years later, but I don't think this year will be any different than all the years past when this same grand proclamation was made.
   6. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:16 AM (#4739561)
There are many good reasons to hate soccer. Take your pick!

• Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls — all in front of a crowd. When baseball players strike out, they're standing alone at the plate. But there's also individual glory in home runs, touchdowns and slam-dunks.

In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child's fragile self-esteem is bruised. There's a reason perpetually alarmed women are called "soccer moms," not "football moms."

Do they even have MVPs in soccer? Everyone just runs up and down the field and, every once in a while, a ball accidentally goes in. That's when we're supposed to go wild. I'm already asleep.

• Liberal moms like soccer because it's a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.

• No other "sport" ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer. This was an actual marquee sign by the freeway in Long Beach, California, about a World Cup game last week: "2nd period, 11 minutes left, score: 0:0." Two hours later, another World Cup game was on the same screen: "1st period, 8 minutes left, score: 0:0." If Michael Jackson had treated his chronic insomnia with a tape of Argentina vs. Brazil instead of Propofol, he'd still be alive, although bored.
   7. bunyon Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:26 AM (#4739569)
But holy geez are these guys wimps. FIFA needs to crack down on the incentives for soccer players to behave like total ####### pussies. Until then, I don't see America taking to the game as passionately as the rest of the world.

They're not wimps. You have the reason right there in your statement. They have every incentive to dive. In fact, real fouls generally aren't called unless some acting occurs, so the players do. There was a Mexican guy who committed an uncalled foul in the match with Holland. He broke his leg. He tried several times to get up and walk off. They're quite strong and if the rules would take away the need/reward for flopping around, they would.


Shooty, not sure if that is satire or not. But it's excellent satire if it is. It's pretty stupid, otherwise.
   8. winnipegwhip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4739571)
The ratings were huge when Michael Phelps was racing in the Olympics. It didn't mean swimming was the new sport on the rise. The woman's world cup victory was also an event a lot of Americans were watching. That was 15 years ago.

The World Cup is an event. People watch events but it doesn't translate into the rise in sports. People watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. People watched the first Space Shuttle launch. They didn't watch what NASA did day to day or month to month.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:31 AM (#4739574)
But, haven't we been hearing this claim for 20+ years? Every time Team USA doesn't #### the bed in an international competition (World Cup, Olympics, etc) they say that "THIS TIME SOCCER IS HERE TO STAY!!!!" and it still hasn't really made a dent.


It's a stupid claim, but the sport is inarguably becoming more and more popular.
   10. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:32 AM (#4739575)
The World Cup ratings in the United States are so influenced by nationalism and the lemming factor that they're virtually meaningless in terms of measuring soccer's inherent appeal to the U.S. market.

The MLS cup final was first telecast nationally in 1996 by ABC. It got a rating of 1.4.

By ABC's last year in 2008, the rating was down to 0.6.

ESPN picked up the coverage in 2009, and the rating bumped up to 0.7.

In 2013 it was down to 0.5, and drew its fewest number of total viewers ever, 0.5 million. (Source)

Obviously there are now many more ways of watching soccer than there were in 1996, and if you add them all up the "real" viewership would be higher. But how many people watch ads on their personal devices, and how is that likely to affect the amount of money that corporations pour into promoting the sport in between the World Cup and the Olympics?

EDIT: coke to winnipegwhip.

   11. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:32 AM (#4739576)
Shooty, not sure if that is satire or not. But it's excellent satire if it is. It's pretty stupid, otherwise.

I can't take credit for it. I think it's satire but I don't think it's intended audience thinks it is. That was just a portion, too. It gets pretty politically inflammatory as it goes on but I didn't want this to become a political thread so I omitted the rest.
   12. bunyon Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4739582)
Ah, got it.

Yes, it's true that soccer is never (in our lifetimes) going to be the NFL, NBA or MLB.

But MLS is solid and if you go talk to people 25 and under and ask them what sport they played at the highest level you'll mostly hear soccer. If you ask them what sport they play as pickup, you'll hear soccer or basketball. Soccer isn't going to suddenly become huge - it spikes, as said above, during the World Cup - but it is steadily growing and has been for decades.
   13. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4739583)
But how many people watch ads on their personal devices, and how is that likely to affect the amount of money that corporations pour into promoting the sport in between the World Cup and the Olympics?

The television rights for soccer are rapidly increasing, though that may just be a function of the sports rights bubble (if you believe this to be a thing). NBC was happy enough with their EPL viewership, I'd say. It defies reality to argue soccer's popularity hasn't grown here over the last 10 years but I'd agree it hasn't "taken off" the way it gets hyped every 4 years. It's been a steady increase, though. Soccer bars in New York are getting more and more crowded. Cities are fighting for MLS franchises. CNNSI and ESPN are in some kind of cold war to attract readership to their soccer pages. I saw a kid in a Jose Bosingwa shirt the other day which would be the equivalent of a kid in Belgium wearing a Willie Bloomquist jersey. It was weird! Soccer is just part of the sporting landscape in America now.
   14. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:39 AM (#4739585)
I think the evidence is pretty strong that soccer is doing very well in this country. It may just be a changing demographic but simply looking at the TV contracts is a pretty good sign. As has been noted by others if "success" is only defined as being as big as the four majors then yeah, it's not successful (though hockey is far from a sure thing ahead of it) but soccer has certainly moved into the second tier of spectator sports. We are passed the time when we had to question if a major soccer league could be viable in the US. That's a step in the right direction for soccer.

But how many people watch ads on their personal devices, and how is that likely to affect the amount of money that corporations pour into promoting the sport in between the World Cup and the Olympics?


Recent TV contracts suggest "a whole ####### lot." Speaking for myself I actually watch ads on my mobile device more than on my TV. If I'm on my mobile device I'm kind of stuck, I have to see the ad. With my TV it is very easy to channel flip. If I'm watching an MLS game on the app (or MLB) when the ad comes on it is not as easy to make a channel switch and go back. For example on the NBC Sports app every time I switch games I have to sit through a 30 second ad first. If I'm going to watch the game there, I have to see the ad.
   15. Lassus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:39 AM (#4739586)

I'll co-sign PF - the idea that this World Cup isn't far more popular than 2002 is just plain wacky. I'm not sure what kind of dent you're looking for, but it doesn't need a massive, enormous dent. It just needs to keep rolling.
   16. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4739589)
The thing that always amuses me is why people seem to feel threatened by soccer being successful. I hate the NFL and NBA so I don't watch, it's not that hard. People who don't like soccer seem to feel like they are being forced to watch. If you're argument is "well it's on everywhere right now" then I defy you to turn a TV on a weekend day from September to December without finding a zillion football games. Despite that it is quite possible to enjoy a very normal life without watching grown men concuss each other to death.
   17. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4739602)
Shooty, not sure if that is satire or not


A good rule of thumb is if Shooty is straight up copy/pasting from an Ann Coulter troll job, then yes, it's probably satire.
   18. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:54 AM (#4739604)
The television rights for soccer are rapidly increasing, though that may just be a function of the sports rights bubble (if you believe this to be a thing). NBC was happy enough with their EPL viewership, I'd say. It defies reality to argue soccer's popularity hasn't grown here over the last 10 years but I'd agree it hasn't "taken off" the way it gets hyped every 4 years. It's been a steady increase, though. Soccer bars in New York are getting more and more crowded. Cities are fighting for MLS franchises. CNNSI and ESPN are in some kind of cold war to attract readership to their soccer pages. I saw a kid in a Jose Bosingwa shirt the other day which would be the equivalent of a kid in Belgium wearing a Willie Bloomquist jersey. It was weird! Soccer is just part of the sporting landscape in America now.


I think the evidence is pretty strong that soccer is doing very well in this country. It may just be a changing demographic but simply looking at the TV contracts is a pretty good sign. As has been noted by others if "success" is only defined as being as big as the four majors then yeah, it's not successful (though hockey is far from a sure thing ahead of it) but soccer has certainly moved into the second tier of spectator sports. We are passed the time when we had to question if a major soccer league could be viable in the US. That's a step in the right direction for soccer.


I don't doubt that MLS cup ratings aside, soccer is more popular now in the U.S than it was 10 years ago, and that the World Cup is now one of the major U.S. sporting events. And given the changing demographics it'll likely continue its upward trend for the foreseeable future.

But again, take away the nationalism of the World Cup and the Olympics, and the U.S. audience quickly gets reduced to hard core soccer fans, of which there simply aren't that many. After all the World Cup shouting is over, you've still got a game where scoring is a rarity, individual showcase skills are minimized (you can't even use your ####### hands), and there's every bit as much BS (the flopping) as there is in basketball or football. It's not the sort of sport that has a whole lot of U.S. mass appeal outside the context of a sublimated World War III. Everyone loves war games and USA! USA!
   19. DA Baracus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4739607)
MLS attendance has grown steadily over the past decade or so.

But again, take away the nationalism of the World Cup and the Olympics, and the U.S. audience quickly gets reduced to hard core soccer fans, of which there simply aren't that many.


Of course. But the number of hardcore fans is growing.
   20. thetailor Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4739608)
I love jokes as much as the next guy, but why does this have to be soccer versus [other sport name].

I love baseball. I love soccer during the World Cup and never any other time.

The internet is making this the most easily-accessible World Cup ever and I think that a lot of people are digging it. The more people dig soccer, the more relevant it will become to society at large.

If anything, this is the NBA and NHL's loss. MLB and NFL have entrenched fanbases that I don't think will ever change... but soccer could definitely leapfrog a lesser sport in popularity.

But yeah, I agree with Lassus and PF, the World Cup is far more popular in the US now than ever. Link.

Thursday’s US vs. Germany matched averaged a 6.7 US household rating and 10,771,000 viewers, making it the second highest-rated, and third most-viewed, men’s World Cup match on ESPN or ESPN2 ever. ESPN’s highest-rated World Cup match – a 9.6 US HH rating for the 2014 USA vs. Portugal contest on Sunday, June 22 – is also the most-viewed soccer match across all US television networks, averaging 18,220,000 viewers.
   21. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4739612)
The thing that always amuses me is why people seem to feel threatened by soccer being successful. I hate the NFL and NBA so I don't watch, it's not that hard. People who don't like soccer seem to feel like they are being forced to watch. If you're argument is "well it's on everywhere right now" then I defy you to turn a TV on a weekend day from September to December without finding a zillion football games. Despite that it is quite possible to enjoy a very normal life without watching grown men concuss each other to death.

The newspaper coverage in the NY Times and Washington Post is mildly annoying because of the overkill and the overhyping, but OTOH it's only three or four weeks a year and it's not stopping me from turning on the TV and being able to see 15 baseball games a day. Live and let live.
   22. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4739613)
Does ESPN still go wall to wall with WC coverage when FOX carries it in 4 years? We see how they pretend the NHL doesn't exist now that they don't broadcast games.
   23. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4739618)
But again, take away the nationalism of the World Cup and the Olympics, and the U.S. audience quickly gets reduced to hard core soccer fans, of which there simply aren't that many.

Of course. But the number of hardcore fans is growing.


Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know. I'd say our changing ethnic demographics are going to do more to boost soccer in the U.S. than any great jump in interest from fans who didn't grow up watching the sport on the pro level.
   24. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4739624)
Does ESPN still go wall to wall with WC coverage when FOX carries it in 4 years? We see how they pretend the NHL doesn't exist now that they don't broadcast games.


I think you are probably right with your theory but some of that depends on what happens with soccer rights over the next four years. By that time NBCs EPL contract will be expired and ESPN may well have them back as well as deals in place with some of MLS, Bundasliga, La Liga and Serie A that will make them interested. I suspect if the landscape looks like it does today they will cover it heavily, it is the biggest sporting event in the world, but not the same balls to the wall coverage they've been doing.

Part of the appeal of Brazil has been the US friendly time zones. US start times for Russia (next World Cup) will presumably be much earlier in the morning and less lucrative.
   25. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4739626)
Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know.

Will do!
   26. winnipegwhip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4739629)
When the USA is playing for Olympic Gold in hockey and the numbers of viewers for that is similar why aren't there claims about hockey's increase in popularity. BECAUSE IT IS A ONE TIME EVENT ON TV. It doesn't mean the Florida Panthers ticket offices need to hire more people.
   27. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4739635)
Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know.


Yes, other things are more popular than soccer. Doesn't change the fact that soccer popularity is growing in this country. Whether through changing demographics or people coming to the sport doesn't really matter much, it is happening.
   28. Topher Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4739636)
At the end of May, both the Royals and Sporting KC had a game and Sporting beat the Royals in attendance by over 1K. (In fact it probably would have been greater if not for the fact that Sporting sells out every game.) This is just a one-off and comparing apples to oranges, but in KC this was a talking point for about a week afterwards.

Just one game in one city. And the selected city has the defending soccer champions while the baseball team doesn't quite have the same winning tradition.

There is plenty of room in Americans' discretionary spending to support both. At least for now, both sports have essentially the same calendar so they are in some competition for those dollars. (There is a chance that soccer would switch to the "international calendar" which would make an article like this a lot less relevant.) But the anecdotal evidence suggests that the MLS games are a lot more friendly for the pre-teen children than the MLB ones. If nothing else, the parents are probably going to appreciate the 120 minute game vs. the 180 minute one.

I might still be making a post on an internet baseball message board if I didn't attend MLB games as a kid. But going to those games sure didn't hurt. If today's kids are going to soccer games instead, I'm not sure how that doesn't hurt baseball ... even if the overall losses aren't much.
   29. DA Baracus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4739639)
Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know.


Again, why does this have to be soccer versus [other sport name]?

Does ESPN still go wall to wall with WC coverage when FOX carries it in 4 years? We see how they pretend the NHL doesn't exist now that they don't broadcast games.


Of course not, they have no reason to spend that much money and resources on an event they are not broadcasting.
   30. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:22 AM (#4739643)
There is plenty of room in Americans' discretionary spending to support both. At least for now, both sports have essentially the same calendar so they are in some competition for those dollars. (There is a chance that soccer would switch to the "international calendar" which would make an article like this a lot less relevant.) But the anecdotal evidence suggests that the MLS games are a lot more friendly for the pre-teen children than the MLB ones. If nothing else, the parents are probably going to appreciate the 120 minute game vs. the 180 minute one.


If soccer (MLS) displaces one of the major four, it will be hockey, not baseball. Hockey has a limited fan base outside of the northern climes. MLS is growing and has a large growth base in the south (both east and west.) What I'd expect to see is MLS take over in cities where hockey is not already established, and in cities where there aren't multiple "major" professional teams (like Seattle and Portland.)

I do agree with the "why is it a zero sum game" line of questioning. America is big. We have some 350 million people. I suspect we can support five "major" sports. (I ignore the right wing complaints about soccer, "because Europe-socialist-evil," for the obvious reasons.)
   31. JRVJ Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4739648)
I would think that if soccer is going to take away from anybody, it's from College and Pro Football's TV viewership, for the simple reason that most club games (La Liga, Calcio, Premier League, Bundesliga) are played on Saturday or Sunday, during U.S. daylight hours.

Plus, the big leagues have a season that overlaps Football more than baseball.
   32. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:32 AM (#4739652)
I might still be making a post on an internet baseball message board if I didn't attend MLB games as a kid.


Didn't attend an MLB game till I was in my 40s (& at this point have been to only, I believe, 4), but for me the groundwork was laid by playing little league & collecting baseball cards, with watching games on TV probably a somewhat distant third & catching occasional minor league games down in Shreveport an even more distant fourth.

In a really small town like the one I grew up in, I'm wondering if there's an equivalent of little league soccer. Hell, considering the bad times there (40 percent population drop in the last decade or so), I'm wondering if they still play baseball, &/or if a youth football league was ever formed (there wasn't one in my day, but "my day" for those purposes ended in 1972 or so).
   33. Topher Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:32 AM (#4739653)
If soccer (MLS) displaces one of the major four, it will be hockey


Completely agree and that includes agreement on the word "if".

However, just because of how the two calendars line up against one another, I do think the title of the article is fair. I don't think baseball's "loss" will be anything for you or I to be worried about. But if I was in MLB's offices, I'd be concerned simply because the growth of soccer likely will take a small bite out of their projected revenue stream.
   34. winnipegwhip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:33 AM (#4739654)


Thursday’s US vs. Germany matched averaged a 6.7 US household rating and 10,771,000 viewers


Well that finally gives you a accurate number on how many illegal immigrants are in the USA.
   35. DA Baracus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4739658)
Well that finally gives you a accurate number on how many illegal immigrants are in the USA.


You're going to have to step up your hot take game if that's the best you've got.
   36. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4739660)
Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know.

Again, why does this have to be soccer versus [other sport name]?


It doesn't and it shouldn't, but try to tell that to the Faith Popcorns of the commentariat, who continually spit out pidgin analysis of the sort found at the top of this page.
   37. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:39 AM (#4739664)
I suspect we can support five "major" sports.


Yeah, this is more or less how I feel about it. Heck, we already have six and a half major sports, really, when you include college football, NASCAR, and college basketball.

I also think people are discounting the number of people following soccer as time goes on, sure the amount of people watching it will recede drastically after the end of the World Cup, but that number will still be significantly higher than it was in 2011 and it's not going to be just a demographic shift.
   38. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4739667)
When the 2014 World Cup concludes, soccer isn’t going to disappear the way it typically has.

I've been hearing this for about forty years now, going back to the time when Pele was playing for the New York Cosmos.

Baseball, meanwhile, appears to have the same demographic problems with its base as the Republican Party: It’s too old. It’s too white. It’s perceived as too square.

Way to Red Diaper Doper Baby up another thread, Mr. Viola Wannabe.
   39. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4739671)
When the 2014 World Cup concludes, soccer isn’t going to disappear the way it typically has.


Yes, yes, we've been hearing this for years and years, and it never happens, which is why we hear it for years and years.

Whether one likes soccer is of course subjective. But whether it is in fact "popular" in the US relative to our three other major sports is not.

I find the World Cup to be silly, but obviously YMMV.
   40. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:44 AM (#4739673)
We Americans can't stand a sport where guys flop around play acting as if they've been fouled. By the way, has LeBron picked which team he's going to yet?
   41. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:48 AM (#4739675)
Do I really want to take up a position that is contra to Ray and Joey's POV? Hmm...
   42. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:53 AM (#4739678)
I also think people are discounting the number of people following soccer as time goes on, sure the amount of people watching it will recede drastically after the end of the World Cup, but that number will still be significantly higher than it was in 2011 and it's not going to be just a demographic shift.

One thing's beyond argument: The "elite" media** in recent years have pushed soccer like no other sport in history. Even the most tiresome tributes to baseball's "poetry" and "lack of a clock" by the likes of George Will and Doris Kearns Goodwin pale by comparison to all the BS spewed about the "beautiful" game in those footnoted media outlets. Half these articles read like a love declaration written by a moonlighting Hallmark writer to a Playboy centerfold he'd met on a blind date, and if I were a real soccer fan I'd be embarrassed to read them.

**The NY Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, etc.
   43. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:54 AM (#4739683)
One thing's beyond argument

Where do you think you are, exactly?
   44. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:55 AM (#4739684)
Do I really want to take up a position that is contra to Ray and Joey's POV? Hmm...

I'm heading to Disney World The Soccer Channel!
   45. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 11:59 AM (#4739687)
Andy: No. You're simply wrong. And that you're so far off the mark while being so sure of your own correctness shows just what an old fuddy duddy you are. Just look at the number of baseball books being released every single year.
   46. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4739692)
One thing's beyond argument: The "elite" media** in recent years have pushed soccer like no other sport in history. Even the most tiresome tributes to baseball's "poetry" and "lack of a clock" by the likes of George Will and Doris Kearns Goodwin pale by comparison to all the BS spewed about the "beautiful" game in those footnoted media outlets. Half these articles read like a love declaration written by a moonlighting Hallmark writer to a Playboy centerfold he'd met on a blind date, and if I were a real soccer fan I'd be embarrassed to read them.


If by "beyond argument" you mean "so clearly incorrect that it is not something anyone would agree with" then yes.

Obviously there are a great many positive soccer articles written just as there are a great many positive articles about other sports.
   47. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4739693)
We Americans can't stand a sport where guys flop around play acting as if they've been fouled. By the way, has LeBron picked which team he's going to yet?

I suspect that the blatant and excessive flopping is at least some part of the reason why LeBron is one of the most hated megastar athletes in recent American sports history.
   48. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:02 PM (#4739696)
I wonder what effect the fact that MLS is not the league where the best players in the world play has an effect on its popularity in the US. I wonder what type of ratings the Champions League gets. Perhaps that is a better reflection of the popularity of the sport.
   49. Rennie's Tenet Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:03 PM (#4739698)
The test for arrival in America is, can you "join" with government and fleece the public:

MLS has arrived
   50. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:03 PM (#4739699)
I would think that if soccer is going to take away from anybody, it's from College and Pro Football's TV viewership, for the simple reason that most club games (La Liga, Calcio, Premier League, Bundesliga) are played on Saturday or Sunday, during U.S. daylight hours.


Your mistake, I believe, is to think that the primary hook by which soccer will live or die in the US are the established foreign leagues. Die hard soccer fans will watch EPL and La Liga (as they do already,) but if soccer is to make a major gain in the US as a fifth* "major professional," it will be via MLS. Casual US fans will flock to watch the World Cup (QED) but if they are going to lock into soccer as a domestic sport, it will be via teams from cities they live in, in the domestic league.
   51. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4739700)
There are fewer teams and they play a shorter season, and my source is Wikipedia, so take it for what it's worth, but according to this average attendance at MLS games is slightly higher than average attendance at NBA and NHL games.

They're hosting outdoor World Cup viewing parties in downtown parks here in Chicago for this World Cup and for the Belgium game, they're holding it in Soldier Field. I certainly don't remember that in 2010 or 2006. It turns out that a lot of kids who grew up playing soccer in the 1980's and 1990's actually have grown up to be soccer fans.
   52. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4739703)
you've still got a game where scoring is a rarity, individual showcase skills are minimized (you can't even use your ####### hands), and there's every bit as much BS (the flopping) as there is in basketball or football. It's not the sort of sport that has a whole lot of U.S. mass appeal outside the context of a sublimated World War III.


It's my hunch that these sort of stylistic analyses of sports and national character* are mostly or entirely post hoc reasoning. If by some fluke soccer were the dominant sport in the US and American football the worldwide obsession, it would be easy to write a paean to soccer's uniquely American attributes.

Soccer is the top sport in Poland, in Spain, in Uruguay, in Malaysia, in Malawi - do these countries share some sort of cultural trait that America does not?

*Andy didn't exactly do this but you see it all the time.
   53. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4739705)
I know that the EPL gets better ratings than MLS, I think if you timeslot adjust them they'd show that soccer is a perfectly decent second tier sport in the US right now and growing at a good clip.
   54. cmd600 Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4739706)
This was an actual marquee sign by the freeway in Long Beach, California, about a World Cup game last week: "2nd period, 11 minutes left, score: 0:0." Two hours later, another World Cup game was on the same screen: "1st period, 8 minutes left, score: 0:0."


You misread the sign. That was 11 minutes into the game and 8 minutes into the game.
   55. DA Baracus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4739707)
I wonder what effect the fact that MLS is not the league where the best players in the world play has an effect on its popularity in the US. I wonder what type of ratings the Champions League gets. Perhaps that is a better reflection of the popularity of the sport.


It absolutely does. The Champions League Final got 1.9M on Fox, 1.2M on Fox Deportes.
   56. madvillain Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4739709)
The champions league is often played at odd hours for america and until the knockout rounds is as likely to feature a smaller Belgium or Greek side as man u (hey now) or real Madrid, so would not really look too hard at those ratings.

I love this thread its like heroin for the usual political thread junkies except its about something way more important: Sockah!

Edit: I see DA has the finals numbers, not bad.
   57. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4739712)
It's my hunch that these sort of stylistic analyses of sports and national character are mostly or entirely post hoc reasoning.


It might have been Posnanski who did this, but someone imagining a world where we loved soccer but hated baseball/football created a great post hoc rationalization as to why Soccer was intensely American and Baseball/Football were not. It convinced me.
   58. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:09 PM (#4739713)
I wonder what effect the fact that MLS is not the league where the best players in the world play has an effect on its popularity in the US. I wonder what type of ratings the Champions League gets. Perhaps that is a better reflection of the popularity of the sport.


I don't think you'll have that dynamic much longer. EPL and La Liga will likely continue to siphon off the superstars by dint of the cash they have at hand, but the quality of MLS is quickly rising to the quality of most every league other than EPL and La Liga. This World Cup has been somewhat of a coming out party for the talent at hand in MLS.
   59. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:13 PM (#4739717)
Soccer is the top sport in Poland, in Spain, in Uruguay, in Malaysia, in Malawi - do these countries share some sort of cultural trait that America does not?


Complete lack of lives (even more than the U.S., that is)?
   60. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:13 PM (#4739718)
you've still got a game where scoring is a rarity, individual showcase skills are minimized (you can't even use your ####### hands), and there's every bit as much BS (the flopping) as there is in basketball or football. It's not the sort of sport that has a whole lot of U.S. mass appeal outside the context of a sublimated World War III.

It's my hunch that these sort of stylistic analyses of sports and national character are mostly or entirely post hoc reasoning. If by some fluke soccer were the dominant sport in the US and American football the worldwide obsession, it would be easy to write a paean to soccer's uniquely American attributes.


That may be so, but the sporting DNA of the U.S. of 2014 is the product of well over 100 years of having the rhythms and peculiarities of baseball, football and basketball implanted in it. So if it's "post hoc" reasoning, it's a post hoc that's a long time in the making. Not requiring hand/eye coordination skills for anyone but the goalie is a factor that alone is a huge stumbling block to those of us who grew up with the three major U.S. sports. It doesn't make that lack of a requirement "good" or "bad", just an obstacle for many.
   61. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4739720)
One thing's beyond argument: The "elite" media** in recent years have pushed soccer like no other sport in history.


The "elite media" in question, inclusive of ESPN's infotainment empire, is doing exactly what successful media entities do when it comes to sports coverage; follow the eyeballs. This is an old-man's argument and an old-man's conversation in general. Since the 1990s American kids have grown up playing soccer. Since the 2000s those kids have had the ability to follow the best soccer players on the planet via the internet. As those kids grow into the primary disposable cash demographic, sports-entertainment media will cater to their tastes.

In other news, I hear the "dubstep" is popular with the radios these days.
   62. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4739726)
It might have been Posnanski who did this, but someone imagining a world where we loved soccer but hated baseball/football created a great post hoc rationalization as to why Soccer was intensely American and Baseball/Football were not. It convinced me.

Does anyone have a link to that argument? I'd like to read it.
   63. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4739727)
It might have been Posnanski who did this, but someone imagining a world where we loved soccer but hated baseball/football created a great post hoc rationalization as to why Soccer was intensely American and Baseball/Football were not. It convinced me.


I didn't read that, but it seems obvious to me.

When I read You Gotta Have Wa a decade ago or so, I remember being struck by the way in which baseball was reinterpreted as an expression of Japanese character.

In some countries soccer is seen as a medium for beautiful individual expression. In others as a paragon of unity and teamwork. Sports are not totally blank slates, but it's easy to see what you want in them.
   64. JRVJ Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:17 PM (#4739728)
50, realistically, you can't be a true fan of soccer if you don't follow the sport on a global basis.

That may make things difficult for Americans, but it is what it is (even if MLS were to become an insanely rich league, there's just too much talent spread out all over the world for one country to corner it all).

Perhaps the only other sport in the world where that's (somewhat) true is Rugby Union, which is certainly not as popular as soccer.....
   65. CWS Keith plans to boo your show at the Apollo Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:21 PM (#4739739)
Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know.

I don't understand why the MLS Cup Final is being used as a sort of proxy for the US' interest in soccer. You've gotta separate-out two claims -- the US' interest in MLS versus the US' interest in soccer more generally. I'd say it's inarguable that soccer at large is very popular here. The Mexican league draws great ratings, as does the EPL, Champions League and international competitions.

Interest in MLS is, again, a separate issue. I'd say it's on the rise, although the attendance comparisons to the NBA and NHL are disingenuous, given the amount of games played in each league's season. Even so, Fox just paid a decent chunk of money to lock up MLS rights for the next seven (?) years, and franchise fees for entrance into the league continue to rise.
   66. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4739748)
Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know.


Okay, well you let me know when they quit fixing NBA games and we'll be even then.
   67. DA Baracus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4739750)
I don't understand why the MLS Cup Final is being used as a sort of proxy for the US' interest in soccer.


Because people like to have arguments dumbed down to a simple comparison.
   68. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4739751)

I don't think flopping is any worse in soccer than it is in the NBA, but it can have a bigger impact on a match because of the low scoring nature of the game (as we've seen a couple of times in the World Cup now). I don't remember where I saw this suggested, but moving the PK back to a distance where it is not a near-automatic goal would be a good way to fix this. You could still have some sort of NBA-style "clear path" penalty where, if the penalty prevents a near certain goal, the current PK line is used.

And the popularity of international soccer here in the U.S. is the thing that is most striking to me. I don't think interest in MLS has changed very much among my friends in the last decade, but the number of them actively following international leagues has gone up a lot.
   69. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4739753)
I don't remember where I saw this suggested, but moving the PK back to a distance where it is not a near-automatic goal would be a good way to fix this. You could still have some sort of NBA-style "clear path" penalty where, if the penalty prevents a near certain goal, the current PK line is used.


I suggested this, and I'm right.

Also, agreed on the other point. Fouls in the box should not be automatic penalties. Penalties should only be awarded when clear scoring chances are disrupted. On the Robben penalty yesterday, a fairer outcome would be a free kick on the edge of the box, or a "penalty" taken at a bad angle, or something like that. It changes from a play where he has maybe a 20% chance of a goal (if no foul is committed) to an 80% (?) chance of a goal with the PK. It's an absurd system.
   70. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4739755)
If nothing else, the parents are probably going to appreciate the 120 minute game vs. the 180 minute one.


You mean the "however long the ref decides it's going to be, but that's top secret confidential information" game.
   71. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4739756)
After all the World Cup shouting is over, you've still got a game where scoring is a rarity, individual showcase skills are minimized (you can't even use your ####### hands), and there's every bit as much BS (the flopping) as there is in basketball or football.


Ignoring the ignorance about 'skills' (have you even seen Cristiano Ronoldo dribble?!), let's take a look at the "scoring" argument. (It is always a popular hook.)

In 2013 - an up year for an up era in scoring in the NFL - all NFL teams averaged 1.6 passing TDs per game. They averaged 0.8 rushing TDs per game. Some very complicated math later and we get a league average of 2.4 touchdowns per game.

In 2012 the NFL average was 1.5 passing, 0.8 rushing, for a total of 1.3 TDs per game.

In the 2014 World Cup so far - an up year for an up scoring era in soccer - we have seen 2.8 goals per game. In the 2010 WC it was 2.3 goals per match.

NFL touchdowns:

2013 - 2.3 per game
2014 - 2.4 per game

WC goals::

2010 - 2.3 per match
2014 - 2.8 per match

I haven't looked up the EPL or La Liga stats yet, but you kind of see the point developing. Soccer, at the highest levels, does not generate more true "goals" than the NFL. The difference in scoring between American football and soccer can be attributed to two basic things. First, in American football, a single goal counts "7 points." So instead of an average "score" from those touchdowns of 2-1, you get a "score" of 14-7. Because, arbitrary points definitions from a single "goal." Secondly, in American football, if your offense sputters out and fails to score an actual goal, you get a chance to kick a "field goal" and get 3 points for it, where as in soccer if your skills fail you the ball sails wide of the goal and the opposition gains possession. I'll let others decide which is more "American" of a process in that regard.
   72. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:34 PM (#4739762)
Shouldn't you multiply those touchdowns per game by 2 for a fair comparison?
   73. Lassus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:34 PM (#4739763)
Softball pictures up in softball thread, BTW.
   74. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:35 PM (#4739764)
In 2013 - an up year for an up era in scoring in the NFL - all NFL teams averaged 1.6 passing TDs per game. They averaged 0.8 rushing TDs per game. Some very complicated math later and we get a league average of 2.4 touchdowns per game.

Did the complexity of the math confuse you? With your numbers I get 4.8 touchdowns per game.
   75. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4739765)
Yeah, but when the MLS cup final starts matching the NBA final's ratings, let me know.

Okay, well you let me know when they quit fixing NBA games and we'll be even then.


Girls! Girls! You're both unwatchable!
   76. Nasty Nate Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:37 PM (#4739768)
And does #71 not include defensive and special teams touchdowns?

So yeah, if you remove a bunch of touchdowns, and compare 'by team per game' to 'by game,' and disregard safeties and field goals, scoring in the WC is about the same as in the NFL.
   77. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4739770)
Shouldn't you multiply those touchdowns per game by 2 for a fair comparison?


I assume you mean to account for the "60 minute" game vs the "90 minute" game? If so, we'd need to multiply them by 1.5, not 2. But I don't know that we should. A soccer match requires a fan commitment of 2-3 hours, max. An NFL game requires a fan time commitment of 3.5 hours. So while the NFL is a shorter "clock time" game, soccer is actually much shorter "actual time committed to watching it" game.
   78. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4739774)
Did the complexity of the math confuse you? With your numbers I get 4.8 touchdowns per game.


Huh?

1.6 passing TDs per game
0.8 rushing TDs per game

Oh, I see your point. You're doubling it for TDs per game per team. Which I see the logic in. Not sure if that's how FIFA is counting the WC stats or not. I doubt it, so your point most likely holds.
   79. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:42 PM (#4739779)
Disregarding safeties and field goals is a feature, not a bug. FG's are participation trophies for offenses that can't actually score. I can see the value of the safety, but a FG is just weak "hey, you tried really hard, too bad about that stalling out at the 24 yard line; here's a cookie for you too anyway."
   80. bunyon Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:47 PM (#4739784)
those of us who grew up with the three major U.S. sports

If you're lucky, we'll keep sending you SS checks.

If nothing else, the parents are probably going to appreciate the 120 minute game vs. the 180 minute one.



You mean the "however long the ref decides it's going to be, but that's top secret confidential information" game.


A precise, public clock that stops every 8 seconds or a private one that pretty much doesn't stop? I know which I'd prefer. I think the NFL and NBA have huge problems going forward with how their clock plays out at the ends of games (and halves to a lesser extent). It's tedious and silly.
   81. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4739785)
The scoring thing is a red herring, in my opinion. Clearly there's an inverse relationship between scoring frequency and the average excitement generated by each score. Americans are happy watching baseball and they are happy watching basketball, which are on opposite ends of this spectrum. They are even happy watching NASCAR, which generates only a single result after many hours of game action. Soccer is more extreme than baseball, and perhaps the sport would be a little bit more attractive if there were somewhat more scoring, but I think it's absurd to think that Americans are not capable of appreciating the game because of the low scores.
   82. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:50 PM (#4739786)
It's tedious and silly.


It's less bad in football, but basketball is horrible. The end of basketball games are just flat awful, awful affairs.
   83. pthomas Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4739789)
(To the tune of "Rawhide")

Trolling, Trolling, Trolling......

   84. bunyon Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4739791)
It's less bad in football, but basketball is horrible. The end of basketball games are just flat awful, awful affairs.

YMMV and all, but I think this is backward. At least in basketball there is a chance the strategy will pay off. In football there isn't much chance. It's just more commercials.

Of course, I think this is like wondering if firing squad or hanging is the better way to go.
   85. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:53 PM (#4739793)
Soccer still has some work to do to convince the degenerate how to work the matches into their weekend parlay or fantasy game.
   86. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:55 PM (#4739797)

I suspect that the blatant and excessive flopping is at least some part of the reason why LeBron is one of the most hated megastar athletes in recent American sports history.


No, LeBron complains a lot on foul calls and non-calls, but he doesn't flop a lot.
   87. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:57 PM (#4739799)
Soccer still has some work to do to convince the degenerate how to work the matches into their weekend parlay or fantasy game.


Whu? You can literally text UK bookies with in-game bets on every aspect of a match.
   88. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:58 PM (#4739800)
No, LeBron complains a lot on foul calls and non-calls, but he doesn't flop a lot.


He leaves that to D Wade.
   89. Nasty Nate Posted: June 30, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4739802)
Disregarding safeties and field goals is a feature, not a bug.


But what about defensive and special teams touchdowns?
   90. Nasty Nate Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4739803)

A precise, public clock that stops every 8 seconds or a private one that pretty much doesn't stop?

But why not a precise public one that pretty much doesn't stop?
   91. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4739804)
I think the NFL and NBA have huge problems going forward with how their clock plays out at the ends of games (and halves to a lesser extent). It's tedious and silly.


Completely agree. That doesn't make the soccer way of doing it any less ridiculous though.
   92. bunyon Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:03 PM (#4739806)
What, exactly, is the problem with the way soccer does it? Why do you need a precise clock (assuming such a Platonic ideal could be done)? I'm not saying it's perfect. I'm saying that, in terms of timed sports, I find it much the best.
   93. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:05 PM (#4739807)
Soccer still has some work to do to convince the degenerate how to work the matches into their weekend parlay or fantasy game.

You can't possibly be serious. You don't think people are wagering money on these World Cup games? What rock are you living under?

By the way, the Brits are bigger "degenerate" gamblers, especially when it comes to sports, than Americans are.
   94. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4739812)
What, exactly, is the problem with the way soccer does it?


It's different and unfamiliar. I mean, that's not actually "wrong" in anyway but it bothers people apparently.
   95. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:13 PM (#4739815)
Whu? You can literally text UK bookies with in-game bets on every aspect of a match.


I'm talking about the guy who works in everybody's office who organizes all the weekend pools and survivor games. When that guy comes to me with his game re: EPL, or MLS, that's my '5th major sport indicator'. I think we're a generation or two away from that moment.

Until then, to me this is a great event to watch and I will resume my very passive interest in the game when it concludes.
   96. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:13 PM (#4739816)
I do think it would be better to have a precise public clock. It's exciting when everyone knows that the trailing team has one more chance. And the teams will get more desperate. Would create more interesting opportunities. The goalie would come up on offense more often. (The ref would be able to add time to it whenever he wanted so that this wouldn't lead to even more flopping and injury faking.)
   97. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4739817)
But why not a precise public one that pretty much doesn't stop?


For 2013 the league averaged 0.1 pick six per game, and 0.1 fumble recovery for TD per game. There were only 13 kickoff/punt returns for TDs all year, so the average doesn't creep above 0.0 rounded. Call it an additional 0.25 TDs per game, on average. Not really a factor in comparisons. The point about doubling the average TDs per game is a good one. FGs, safeties (extremely rare) and defensive/special team scores (also rare) aren't.

EDIT: in 2013, 13 punt returns for TDs, 7 kickoffs, and 20 safeties all year.
   98. PreservedFish Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4739819)
The point about doubling the average TDs per game is a good one.


It's not just a good point, it renders that entire post ridiculous.
   99. DA Baracus Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4739820)
What, exactly, is the problem with the way soccer does it?


There is no explanation why the particular amount of time is added, so the refs aren't held accountable for it.
   100. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 30, 2014 at 01:23 PM (#4739828)
There is no explanation why the particular amount of time is added, so the refs aren't held accountable for it.


This, and of course the amount of time left is an extremely relevant variable in determining strategy (although maybe less so in soccer?), so teams should therefore at least have access to that information. Just because that results in horrendously boring strategies in some other sports doesn't mean the solution is to do away with the concept entirely. Moreover, given that games tend to be low-scoring, giving the ref discretion to extend play as long as he sees fit if a "scoring opportunity" is developing has an outsize and sometimes determinative impact on the outcome. There's no way that should be discretionary.
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