Everybody's Got One
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Friday, June 21, 2002


Oddly enough, the success of the US team in the World Cup reveals some of the very reasons that most Americans don't much care for soccer as a sport. Yes, the game is slow and complex and low-scoring - all true - but the real problem is that skill isn't always the major determinant of the outcome. Okay, the US team is a bunch of talented guys, but does anybody really think they're one of the eight best teams in the world? (Or Turkey, for that matter?) No, they've been lucky – at least until they ran into the German machine today.
After shocking Portugal, all they had to do to make the second round was tie out – and they couldn't manage that. It took a late Korean goal – and the luck of the draw that put them in the same group – to make the round of 16 in the first place. Mexico didn't take them seriously enough – and the handball that should have been called in the first half would likely have tied the score at 1 and changed everything from then on.
Skill matters, of course – and conditioning, and preparation, and performance – but an awful lot of matches are decided by luck, and by bad calls that the referee does or doesn't make, and by acting ability. The fact that so many things have to happen right (or horribly wrong) for a goal to be scored makes the non-skill, non-athletic factors that much more important.
This may be a lot like life, but it's not how Americans want sport to be. Sport is supposed to better than that, to be a place set apart where talent and effort are all that ultimately matters, and justice (eventually) prevails. That's why traditional American sports seasons are so long, and championships are decided in a series rather than a single game. Over enough time, the truth will out and the best will triumph – but in a single game, riddled with variables, it might not.
Look at the New England Patriots.

posted by Kelly | 6:58 PM link