Thursday, July 20, 2006

Yo Mamma so nasty, she'll, uh, get a ranking deliberative body to establish a short-sighted precedent!

I realize this isn't hockey and all, but there's some news from the world of fütbol that's gravy-ing my giblets at the moment, and it is something that could come up in any sport that plies in trash-talking: FIFA has suspended both Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi for the whole World Cup head butt thing.

I'm going to assume even the anti-soccerest of fans has seen this by now, and probably heard at least a little bit of the talk afterward (to summarize: Materazzi supposedly said something racist, then he didn't, then he supposedly said something about Zidane's dying mother, then he maybe didn't, then Zidane's mother demanded Materazzi's balls, then FIFA said it might sanction them both).

It's been absolutely amazing to me how Zidane has managed to turn a completely selfish, hot-headed incident that very well could have cost his nation the World Cup into him being some kind of cosmically wronged tragic hero, powerless not to act against such a godless, moralless scourge. He got called some names and went apeshit, but Zidane's practically claiming Materazzi was goose-stepping around in jackboots, going off on the Final Solution to the Algerian problem, and that his was the hard, bald head of Allied justice stamping out this despicable evil. Getting people to turn on Materazzi the way most of them have is something akin to Todd Bertuzzi painting Steve Moore is the bad guy, with the exception that Zidane didn't break anyone's neck, but Bertuzzi had the sense to not flagrantly break the rules in overtime of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final.

Zidane has been so effective at playing this card—though he does have that whole "I'm an all-star and subject to different rules" thing in the pocket, as well—FIFA is now punishing a player for trying to provoke another player. Not denying that emotional scars can be every bit as painful as physical ones, can you really equate "Hey fatty" with a scissor kick to the sternum? Outside of the obvious—namely racism, though FIFA hasn't exactly been a world leader in dealing with that—where do you begin to draw the line? Mother jokes out, questioning another player's sexuality in? Anything worse than "nice kick, no legs!" is a yellow card? Or maybe you could set up some sort of equivalency: implying that your sister touched his penis=one punch and a pile-on melee; suggesting your father enjoys the company of dogs=groin stomp. And what if a player provokes you with his scintillating crosses or deft handling?

Then, of course, there's the issue of accurately punishing the taunter—we still don't have any proof more concrete than Zidane's claim that Materazzi said anything worse than, "Your sister, she has nice legs"—summed up nicely by Salon's King Kaufman:

It's one thing to taunt and insult a great player, hoping he'll snap, retaliate violently and get himself tossed. Even if you get tossed with him, it's probably a win for your team, as long as you're the lesser of the two players. But at least the person being insulted is in control of the situation. He can choose not to react.

Now picture those two going at it in a world in which the provoker is punished at least as harshly as the retaliator. The provoker's job, to get the star tossed, just got a lot easier, didn't it? All he has to do is become the retaliator.

So he hauls off and whacks the star, then runs to the referee. "He called my mother and sister empty-headed animal food trough wipers!"
If you think soccer players are faking whiners now, lying motionless on the pitch after purely theoretical collisions, then miraculously recovering a few moments later, you'll love the crackdown on provokers.

Now, because of the fact this is an incident involving one of the greatest players of his era in the biggest game in four years, it's likely that trash-talkers will probably fade into relative obscurity again, but that doesn't make the decision any less retarded. In FIFA, you can now theoretically get suspended for "I bet you won't score this time, Ronaldo!" if Ronaldo decides that that statement is so grevious as to warrant him kneeing you in the face and applying the figure-four leg-lock until he's pulled off a weeping Fabio Capello. After all, perhaps Ronaldo was out on the town the week previous, and found a very attractive girl, who he thought he might marry, to fill the gaping hole in his heart, and his life, but on returning to his posh Madrid flat, he was unable to perform, and she fled into the night, laughing at his unengorged Ronaldhino, and now the idea that he can't score whenever he wants gets him so frustrated he just has wrench your ankle and drive his your ankle further up your back with his foot, just so YOU KNOW THE PAIN THAT HE CARRIES WITH HIM EVERY DAY!! YOU GABBY DAGO SON OF A WHORE!!!

Oops. Ronaldo just used an ethnic slur. Four-game suspension for him.


mike w said...

The more I look at the headbutt, the more I think it looks worse because of - what else? - Materazzi's huge dive.

I hope the NHL calls a whole lot more coincidental minors next year.

Pleasure Motors said...

Embellished, sure, but Materazzi didn't fake Zidane lowering his head like that. Besides, he didn't sell it enough for any official to notice until one of them looked up at the replay screen.

It's worth noting that Materazzi evidently isn't really a player worth defending, but still, this was just dumb on Zidane's part; as good as slashing Sean Avery in the face would feel, consider your team.

Anonymous said...

Zidane snapped. Leave it at that. Trying to paint soccer as a fringe shit sport is disgusting. Only a handful of players fake. Notably this World Cup was Brazil and Italy, by and large the other teams did not.

When you look at hockey there is just as much diving. It happens and players actually got yellow cards for doing it, but it's hard forthe referees to tell the difference. And for all of you who have never played the sport at a high level, you're moving at full speed using your legs to control to the ball, not your stick to control a puck, it's a hell of a lot easier to lose your balance and fall, and it hurts like a mofo sometimes, but you get up and shake it off a few minutes later.

Soccer as you call it, or football to the rest of the world, seeing as North American football is played holding the oval 'ball', is loved and played everywhere else in the world. Only the North Americans in large don't get it, so grow up, stop trying to bash something you really don't understand. Unless you think the whole world is wrong and you're right, we're not arrogant US presidents here.

You know what we said of hockey where I was from? It's a fringe sport where they hit people as a matter of play. They sanction fighting. It's a joke. Don't even get started on Steve Moore and Donald Brashear. Or what Dale Hunter did. Yet I didn't rush out to try to find or fabricate every little ounce of ill I could muster about those incidents. I came here, I watched a few hockey games, learned what it was about, and grew to love it.

I hate seeing you hockey fans bash soccer all the time, by and large it just makes you look ignorant, petty, and jealous of that sport's popularity. Hockey fans are better than that, so stop painting yourselves in such a light and doing soccer and yourselves an injustice.

Scarlett said...

I disagree. I watched dozens of game during this world cup and every game, there was diving. Not just one or two incidents, but in double digits. This is one of the reasons why soccer will never be huge in North America. You can't respect a sport when the tiniest contact results in a player reacting like he has been shot.

I know there is diving in hockey and I'm angry the league hasn't cracked down on it more. But you can't compare the diving in hockey, a contact sport, to soccer. There is no comparison in the type of contact and in the sheer volume of diving as well.

Showerhead said...

I'm going to go out there and suggest that you just embarassed soccer fans as a whole moreso than PM's hilariously satiric rant at FIFA embarassed hockey fans.

You seem to have a reasonably positive attitude, despite the tone of your post, but you have missed some key points.

PM didn't try to paint soccer as a fringe sport. With phrases such as "the biggest game in 4 years" and referencing the situation to game 7 overtime, it seems he is acknowledging the importance of the World Cup finals if you ask me.

In hockey, players do dive. You see hooks turn into falls and you see players tuck opponents' sticks under their arms to force hooking and holding penalties.

Despite this, it occurs to me that the rate at which it happens is lower than in high-level soccer. I say this with a full understanding that it is easy to get knocked down when you're running at full speed and controlling the ball. It really doesn't take more than a light contact sometimes.

I fully understand that you probably deal with a ton of ignorant comments on a daily basis from folks who don't understand soccer. As a University level player who is 1st generation Canadian, believe me I do too.

However, to try to dismiss the diving epidemic that nearly ruined this year's World Cup as restricted to "a handful of players" is either ignorant or a lie. There were a handful of players per team who were easily guilty of embellishment on any given match day. If you have game tape, go back and re-watch some of the eliminations, notably Netherlands vs. Portugal for a bevy of Dutch circus antics, just about any Portugese game for Cristiano Ronaldo's simultaneous display of brilliant skill and embarassing sportsmanship... the list does go on.

Forgive me if this post is patronizing but I see the same conversation between hockey fans and soccer fans every week.

Hockey fan: soccer players are pussies who dive all the time.

Soccer fan: there is no problem with soccer you just don't understand the game and are jealous.

As someone who loves both sports, I can't even begin to express my frustration at the ignorance on both sides . I have harped on you in this situation because I really can't find a part of PM's post where he denounces soccer as a sport. All I see is jest and a certain degree of respect.

As for the incident, Zidane snapped and I am happy to leave it at that.

Adam said...

I agree with Scarlett. Saying that the football diving was restricted to a 'handful' of players is ludicrous.

Secondly, there is diving in hockey. No question. However, the league has been taking significant steps to counter this embarrassment. On the other hand, FIFA has not taken any comparable steps. Why they haven't, I genuinely have no idea.

A clear step to take is to simply review game footage and identify OBVIOUS dives and subsequently suspend the offenders. Yes, the term 'obvious' is subjective, but the brazen examples shouldn't rouse too much objection. For those who say that video review would taint the game, remember that they just did the exact same thing in the Zidane case...

As for the comment from 'anonymous' about the realities of playing high-level football, I hope that you're not suggesting that the dives from the WC are proportional to the pain suffered from falling to the pitch from a tackle. They're not.

'Anonymous', I can appreciate your frustration from the ignorance you might have heard in N. America regarding football, but please don't paint everyone with the same brush. I can't speak for all of us, but I believe the criticism of the diving is rooted in disappointment in how it detracts from such beautiful athleticism.

Sorry about the non-hockey rant...

Anonymous said...

I apologize for my inaccurate and unjust comments towards PM. There is a lot of simulation. But there were teams out there that didn't, Trinidad may not have gone very far but the 2 games I saw them play not a player had a dive...but I realize that is more the exception.

I'm just sick of having to defend soccer all the time, and having to hear about the Zidane incident constantly, and only being asked about that by everyone at work for the last 2 weeks.

Eitherway, I was just plain wrong.

Showerhead said...

I'm just sick of having to defend soccer all the time
-Now that, I can agree with.

Arcanas said...

Now that we have the Hockey vs Soccer/Football arguement out of the way, I just have to say this.

Post Of The Year

MikeP said...

anonymous, so don't. Seems pretty easy to me. I don't bother "defending" hockey to some co-workers who don't understand why I prefer it to soccer (or football, if you prefer). They're obviously cracked, with opinions that are valueless. Feel free to similarly reject the opinions you feel are valueless as well. I promise you, we won't care.

Randy in the Med Hizzo said...

Coming in late on this one (Vacation). I just think it's a little IRONIC that this was billed to be the World Cup to end all racism, yet the whole world blames ZZ for defending himself against what's likely a racism taunt.

canablach said...

Let's cut it out.
The bald man snapped in action and then lied.
As the FIFA's disciplinary proceeding read, "both players stressed that Materazzi's comments had been defamatory but not of a racist nature".
Zidane was a great soccer player but as a man he has a few shortcomings and this was a blatant one.
The FIFA committee seemed happy to note of Zidane's pledge to do three days (wow!, 3 days!)of community service work with children and youngsters as part of FIFA's humanitarian activities but I wouldn't have this man playing cardgames with my children.