Sunday, July 09, 2006

World Cup

Italy wins a 5-3 shootout against France after a 1-1 draw

I am not a soccer guy. I never play the sport and rarely watch it. But if I am going to sit down and watch a soccer match, let alone write about it, why not let it be the finale of the World Cup, which is inarguably the greatest sporting event the world has ever seen? So I watched as penalties led to two early goals. I saw an excessive amount of flopping and acting. I saw French captain Zinedine Zidane receive a red card after a nasty head butt. I watched two of the world's best defenses constantly disrupt the attacks of the opposing team's forwards. I watched as midfielders dribbled around killing time. Lots of time. What I fail to understand about soccer, as popular and successful of a sport it has become, is why each team is only allowed three substitutions per game. I understand stamina and conditioning are significant attributes of the game, but I do not understand why the final game of the World Cup has to come down to penalty kicks simply because both teams are too tired to make give a full effort to score in two overtime periods. The reason why basketball is currently experiencing a renaissance is because it features its best players performing at the climax of games. The reason why American football is ridiculously popular in the United States is because it features eleven well rested players seamlessly working together in five-second bursts. Why has soccer not taken a token from other sports and allow more, if not unlimited, substitutions? This would allow the best players to be well rested entering crucial time periods. Unlimited substitutions would add another strategic element to the game, giving the otherwise useless managers an important responsibility. Unlimited substitutions would prevent a billion people from having to watch exhausted players walk around the field in a dull overtime in the biggest match in the past four years. Unlimited substitutions would prevent referees' decisions from having such a large impact on the game. Unlimited substitutions would prevent a great player such as Thierry Henry from being substituted out of the game for good. Unlimited substitutions would prevent fatigue from building up into frustration, which was the cause for a legend being ejected from the match. Unlimited substitutions would prevent the world championship from going to the team whose keeper made a couple more good guesses in penalty kicks. Perhaps most importantly, unlimited substitutions would ensure that the World Cup goes to the best team.