Monday, June 28, 2010

Making soccer more palatable for Americans

It is widely known that, even with a World Cup in process, non-immigrant Americans are not as fascinated by soccer as people in most other parts of the world.

I began drafting this tongue-in-cheek, but a friend pointed out that we could try some of my ideas in US professional soccer leagues.

I claim no originality in suggesting that most sports-loving Americans become impatient when watching soccer. While they may appreciate the ball control and amazing skill at passing manifested by professional players, there simply isn't enough scoring to keep their attention. They are accustomed to professional basketball, where a score of (say) 118-115 is not uncommon. In our version of football, although it often takes a little more time for one of the teams to get on the scoreboard, a game in which the two sides combine to score on
ten occasions or more is fairly frequent.

We need more viewers of soccer games on TV,  to support our economy by yielding to the beguiling advertisements. This could be achieved if we could make some changes to increase the
scoring.

I have given considerable thought to this question, and I have several "modest proposals" to speed up the scoring. Just as we have different rules in baseball's National League and American League (which allows a "designated hitter" to perform). I just suggest that we could adopt an optional program to ensure more scoring. I am not suggesting that traditional soccer rules be banned.

How to achieve this? Well, one very simple change would not cost very much, and would allow stadiums to offer traditional or "improved" soccer games. That would be simply to make the "target" more readily available. Wider goal posts and higher crossbars would soon accomplish this.

A second idea would be that when a defender accidentally kicks or heads the ball over the end line, the other side be given half a goal. If this seems too generous, I would suggest moving the point from which the attacking side kicks the ball half way in towards the goal from its traditional corner.

A minor change would grant two goals when the ball is headed into the net. Another change which could be made without additional expense would be to abolish the "yellow card". If the referee detects an infraction, the offender should immediately be given a "red card", and sent off, improving the odds for his opponents.

The simplest change of all would be to abolish the so-called "offside" rule. If a player can move quickly enough past all the offenders (except the goalkeeper), so much the better.

There have been complaints about the amount of "flopping" occurring these days: in other words, a player attempts to have a foul called on a member of the other side. I would introduce a rule that anyone detected flopping should receive a red card.

I would divide the game into four quarters, as is done in American football. In each quarter, one of the teams would have one fewer player, increasing the odds for scoring. Each team would need to do this in alternate quarters.

With these changes, soccer scores should at least become similar to those experienced in baseball. The anomaly in that sport is that when no player on one team even advances to first base, it is called a "perfect game". For the pitcher, yes; for the viewer, far from it.

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