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A double dose of what's wrong and right in sports today

POSTED: July 2, 2014 9:00 a.m.
Joel Samuelson, Lory Kaun/

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For today’s exercise in quality journalism, we’re going to look at two entirely different subjects and attempt to reconcile those differences with a common theme in the final paragraph or two. If that doesn’t work, we’ll leave on a big musical number to commemorate the events that have transpired.

It works in movies, so why not here?

The first question I want to pose to you, my faithful readers, is this. Why is soccer so polarizing? In the last few weeks while ramping up to the World Cup, a lot of Americans have been shouting their exuberance for soccer’s return (because soccer only happens once every four years). At the same time, some Americans loudly bemoan their disdain for the game with argument after argument decrying it as everything from the moral decay of America (really, Ann?) to not even being a sport (you know who you are).

Why? Why are we so bent on proving that soccer is either the greatest of man’s creations or some abomination from the eternal pit?

For starters, it’s really not so different from how fans of other sports react. We all know one or two people who claim to not like football, and I do mean football with a double-o and not a single u. When those people crop up in casual conversation, the rabid majority will shout them down as silly little people with no taste for athleticism and competition.

The same can be said for baseball or basketball. Mind you, there’s a huge difference between saying you don’t like basketball and saying you don’t follow the NBA, as even casual soccer fans will explain the disparity between the MLS and UEFA leagues. Most people will let that league displeasure slide, but to say you just hate the sport altogether will at least grant you the opportunity of seeing what someone’s glare of perpetual distrust looks like in most cases.

See, with most of America’s prominent sports, you are in the minority if you say you aren’t a fan. After all, more than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl every year, and at least 35 million probably lie about not watching it.

Baseball is America’s pastime, and baseball fans are a breed of crazy in and of themselves. Not to mention they are a large group of crazy.

Soccer, though, is a small sport comparatively in terms of fanbase, but not in terms of fan loyalty.

If you say you love soccer (for most of the four years between World Cups), you are probably going to be one of a few people. The rest will say they either don’t understand the game or they find it strange and hard to follow. Maybe they just don’t like it.

I will admit that I am in the latter. I would not say that I am a fan of soccer. I have no strong feelings against the sport itself, although I will gladly tell you my issues with the timing and general management of the sport at a professional level. Sure, there’s the rampant flopping, but the NBA isn’t so different anymore. Even the NFL and MLB have their examples, though they aren’t as prominent or frequent.

When it comes to sports, soccer is simply not a sport that I will spend my free time following. I have no problem with other people watching it or enjoying it, just like I would hope nobody has a problem with me passionately following emu racing. We all have our loves.

At the same time, soccer breeds a certain level of passion that most sports just can’t seem to match. Men have killed over soccer. Did you hear about that time soccer fans in Africa tried to kill a visiting player because they thought he was playing so well because he had employed witchcraft?

Such passion always incites confusion and unease in those who are looking in from an outsider perspective, and American soccer fans will often be the loudest of all since they stand out as a minority. So, the passion of soccer fans trying to preach the gospel of soccer often leads to the equally impassioned defense from those who would rather bathe in butter and bake themselves like a Paula Deen dessert.

In essence, these two groups don’t understand each other. People who really enjoy soccer can’t see how nobody else finds it entertaining. People who have no interest in the game have no idea how anybody could endure spectating such an event.

As a result, they tend to go back and forth for hours, adding nothing new to the conversation and just further alienating anyone who doesn’t understand where the debate even started. It’s almost like they should just change the subject when they can’t resolve their argument.

With that awkwardly obvious segue, let’s look at my second topic of discussion.

The Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers have seen their fair share of the new instant replay rules in baseball over the last two games. On Monday night, Dan Haren potentially had a no-hitter taken away from him. Michael Bourn reached first on an infield single, but he was initially called out at the bag. On review, though, officials said he was safe.

Bourn’s single was the only hit of the night for the Dodgers.

On Tuesday, the Reds were awarded a rare 7-2-4 triple play when the left fielder, Michael Brantley, made an incredible throw home to tag Dee Gordon out. The cather, Yan Gomes, then tried to throw out everyone’s least favorite player, Yasiel Puig, as he tagged up and took second on the play.

Puig was originally called safe (dang it), but Cincinnati’s appeal led to him being called out (hooray!) and a triple play…for the moment. The Dodgers, now mad about their impossibly bad luck, attempted to challenge the original out at home.

The call stood, though, and they were 0-2 on the same reviewed play.

Now for everyone in attendance and watching on television, the three-minute process was probably annoying and seemed unnecessary. True, nobody wants to bog down baseball games with endless process and deliberation, but let’s be real for a second. Aren’t we glad they’re getting plays right?

With the advent of video evidence, getting the call right should be a priority over the traditional view that on-field officials are blameless and perfect.

I hate it for Haren losing the no-hitter on Monday, but it’s better than him receiving a sham honor. Not to say that a one-hit game is all that bad, but still.

I have no problem with the Dodgers stumbling into an unusual triple play, but I’m glad that we know they actually did.

If more sports focused on getting the right outcome rather than moving the game quickly along, we might be more interested in them.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve found my connecting string. One common complaint, and one that I have previously addressed as recently as last week, is that soccer’s reliance on a running clock is a detriment to the integrity of the game. The technology exists to stop the clock. It’s actually quite simple. Most likely, they just need to press one button twice to stop and start up again.

When soccer solves that little problem and when it stops apparently being a “game of fate decided by the gods” according to one article I read on the matter that I’m not entirely sure I get what the guy was saying, maybe Americans will warm up to it.

What’s that? You don’t buy my tenuous connection? But it was so well fleshed out. And there. And totally not made up on the fly.

Okay. Well…um…here’s some parting advice, then, that is also totally related.

Don’t you…forget about me.

Always look on the bright side of life.

The sound of silence.

I will always love you?

 

Gee. Where is my mind?

 

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