There are many reasons why a rational person would hate soccer. Yes, I am American, which means my soccer intelligence will be assumed to be rather low. Yes, I do understand and appreciate the 'beauty' of brazilian midfielders samba-ing their way up the field. Yes, I get excited every time the US team scores a goal (and yes, I even did so prematurely on that last one that was taken back). I have attended World Cup games live. There is indeed drama, and, relative to soccer, 'excitement'. Of course, there's more excitement in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but that's for another discussion. With the prefatory remarks out of the way, let me get to the gist of why I hate soccer and why you should hate soccer too. Hopefully, if enough people hate soccer we can, together, reform it, or rid the world of its toxic banality.
I invite you to submit your own favorite reasons for hating soccer, but here are mine.
1) The Offsides Rule Part I
Soccer revolves around the offsides rule, and the rule is stupid. Sure, it makes sense that you don't want people cherry-picking goals by standing around the goalie the whole game. I remember in grade school, during phys ed, the most unathletic kid in class was the leading scorer, because he just stood around the opposing team's goal waiting for his opportunity to kick the ball in after the goal deflects it. So a rule discouraging this practice is not unwise. However, by having the half-field line be the limit of offsides, essentially half the field is closed off to the offense. This makes 'fast breaks' or counter-attacks that much more difficult and reduces the number of goals scored. Now there is more to life than lots of goals. Obviously, scoring a goal is a big deal, and if the average score were 14-17, then it would lose all soccer-ness. But the offsides rule should be modified so that you can only be offsides within the penalty box, or perhaps a line could be drawn 1/5 the way in the field where that would be the boundary.
2) The Offsides Rule, Part 2
The offsides rule induces the defense to stand as far up the field as possible rather than actually *playing* defense. How many times do you see a goal scored because the ball is passed beyond the defense and instead of playing defense, all the defenders are waving their hands in the air to signal to the referree that the offender is offsides? It's truly ridiculous to watch. JUST PLAY DEFENSE FOR CHRISSAKE! My imitation of a soccer defender is to stand around, watch the center forward run past him to receive a pass, and then wave one hand in the air while crying, with as sissy a voice as possible, "OFFSIDES!" to the ref. THAT is how you play defense, and the stupid offsides rule encourages this nonsense. A radically reformed offsides rule would force actual defense.
3) The Offsides Rule, Part 3
My third gripe with the offsides rule is that whenever the offsides is not completely obvious, the offsides is *impossible* for a referee to actually *see*. Why is that? Because, even though human beings are endowed with two eyeballs, both eyeballs focus on one and the same event at one time. And yet, to actually see 'offsides' happen, the referee must, at the very same instance, see the event when the ball is passed while also seeing where the offensive recipient of the pass is standing while also seeing where the nearest defender is standing. You need THREE F--KING EYEBALLS to ACTUALLY SEE offsides!!
I don't care how many refs you have on the field, I don't care if they triangulate the players and do all kinds of vector calculus to figure out if the bastard was offsides or not, because there is no way one, two or three refs can watch all this happen at the same time to accurately make the call. They just feel like blowing the damn whistle sometimes, and sometimes they don't. Now, usually, when it's called, it's obvious. But when it's not obvious, it's a huge controversy, often one that would lead to a goal or take away a goal. And since goals are so few and far between, this one stupid rule is usually at the center of it all. Either it's called ,when it shouldn't have been called, or it's not called, when it should've been called, and in any case, the defense is just standing around like nerdy kids in school, with their hands in the air, hoping the referee will call on them. "ohh ohh, look here, me, I know the answer...OFFSIDES!!" Since some people think I am just spewing my mere 'opinion' and that it has no rational basis, let me provide a crystal clear argument, that is both valid (its conclusion cannot be denied without denying the conjunction of the assertion of the premises) and sound (it's premises and conclusion are true).
Premise 1: A rule that no human being can reasonably be expected to call with accuracy is a *piss poor rule*.
Premise 2: The offsides rule is one that no human being can reasonably be expected to call with accuracy.
Conclusion: Therefore, the offsides rule is a *piss poor rule*.
(I spelled out the argument so that even a drunk British 'football' fan can understand it.)
4) No instant replay
As Keyshawn Johnson would say, "C'mon man!"
If you have a rule that cannot possibly be accurately and reliably enforced by any human being, you would think that at the very least FIFA would grant the use of instant replay during the biggest sporting event in the world. But no, when Moses came down from the mountain and spoke to the burning bush, it was written that thou shalt not use instant replay, and so it is done. Nothing short of that kind of irrationality could prevent the use of instant replay.
In fact, one of the most important goals in soccer history was a completely blown non-call by the referee: the infamous "hand of God" by Diego Maradona.
What distinguishes a sport like soccer from something like, say, basketball, is that in soccer you are NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH THE BALL WITH YOUR HAND. Unless you are really lazy and just like to stand around and do nothing but watch other people play (ie, that is if you want to be the 'goalie'), then your job is to run around the field and NOT TOUCH THE BALL WITH YOUR HAND. You are more than welcome, in the sport they call 'football' to kick the 'ball' with your 'foot', bounce it off your head, chest, knees, thighs, or even your genitals. The preferred method of touching the ball, however, is with the FOOT. Hence, the name, FOOT-BALL. And yet, in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, the most decisive play was the world's STAR FOOTBALL PLAYER of the BEST FOOTBALL TEAM putting the ball into the goal, not with his foot, but with his hand! How stupid is that??? Let me repeat--the quintessential rule in soccer, ahem, 'football', is to NOT touch the damn ball with your hand. And yet, the biggest goal of the entire 1986 World Cup was a GOAL scored with the star player's HAND. WHY DO YOU WATCH THIS GAME???! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??!?
5) No overtime
Here, in the first round of games of the World Cup, they have no overtime. Since so many teams already have enough of an incentive to tie, they just kick the ball around with a happy 0-0 or 1-1 tie. Nobody wants to risk trying to score a goal because you might open yourself up to a counterattack. And since the game is not going to go into an overtime sudden death, everybody is happy to just stand around and do nothing. The players are likely thinking, "Hey, it's not fair that we have to do all the work while the goalie just stands around and does nothing. We should ALL be able to stand around and do nothing", and so that's what they do.
The only thing worse than not having a sudden death overtime....
6) Penalty shoot-outs
So if you have an exciting game where nothing happens, and it's 0-0, and you go into sudden death overtime, and it's still 0-0, sometimes in soccer, they have penatly shoot-outs to decide the game. Penalty shoot-outs are exciting, it's one of the few moments where the ball actually goes into the net. The problem with penalty shoot-outs is not the lack of excitement, but the lack of soccer. After 100+ minutes of soccer, the game ends with something that is NOT soccer. You might as well have them play Bingo or flip a coin to see who wins a penalty shoot-out. This is the only sport I've ever heard of where the winner is decided by NOT playing the sport! In a bizarre irony, the most interesting part of soccer is when its own futility overcomes itself to create something exciting. Although it's exciting the way bingo is exciting, at least its exciting. Which is more than you can say for the previous 100+ minutes of standing around and not touching the ball with your hands (unless, of course, you're Diego Maradona).
Another twisted irony is that, normally, in soccer, nobody ever scores. So how is a soccer game decided? In a non-soccer shoot-out where almost everybody always scores a goal! How demented is that? What could be more antithetical to soccer than lots of goals? And yet, that is how the game is decided!!
7) The lack of substitutions
It's bad enough that the players spend most of their time doing nothing, but they get very tired doing nothing, to the point that, in the second half, many of the players are rendered so tired as to do even less than nothing. Unfortunately, there are very limited substitutions in soccer, so the coach can't just put in fresh players every few minutes. Obviously, you're going to get a lot of 0-0, 1-0 games if the guys are too damn tired. So why not at least have active players running around the field? Again, I can only assume that Moses had something to do with this level of irrationality.
8) No cheerleaders
In a sport where nothing happens, you would think that at least they'd get some cheerleaders to spice things up a bit. Maybe provide enough eye-candy so that the macho players will try to impress them in the second half instead of just standing around doing nothing. But no, no cheerleaders at the World Cup. The closest you'll get to cheerleaders are the Brazilian fans. Like this one woman, who seems to either be at every game, or has been cloned by the Brazilian government to provide their fans with something to look at once Brazil is ahead 1-0, and then waste the rest of the game kicking the ball back to the goal keeper.
I hoped to end this rant on a good note. And it doesn't get better than this. This woman represents the only good thing about soccer. The fact that her country's team inspired her to wake up one morning and be photographed for our viewing pleasure is the climax of 100+ years of soccer history. She is the only soccer 'highlight' worth watching. Savor the moment and turn off your TV for the remainder of the World Cup. Enjoy.
[NOTE: For more detailed arguments against offsides and other criticisms of my article, please see my comments below]
FOR MORE Space Oddity blog posts on soccer, click here:
Why I hate soccer (and FIFA), part 2
Why I hate soccer, part 3
Why Suarez is a cheater
FIFA and other evil and irrational organizations