a couple of words about football.

today’s football games were riddled with the continuing controversy of FIFA’s refusal to incorporate technological arbitration for poor play calls.

for those that didn’t catch the games, England was down 2-1 against Germany and kicked the ball into the goal tthat was disallowed because the ball hit the top bar, bounced once close to the plane, and ended up bouncing out. The rule is that if the entire ball crosses the plane at any point even if it bounces out, it’s considered a goal. The immediate ref ruling was that it didn’t cross the plane so it was declared no goal, but a replay of the ball that was shown to everyone showed indisputably that the ball was a good full inch or more beyond the plane before it spun back out. Germany ended up winning the game 4-1 due to the England defense completely unraveling, but it’s impossible to say what would have occurred in the game dynamic if the game had been tied as opposed to still 2-1 at that point. strategy, position, substitutions are all so vastly different in a tie game situation as opposed to one goal against.

The second controversial play of the day was in the Mexico vs. Argentina game. Argentina was on the attack and one of the players ended up passing the ball to another player that ended up scoring, but that player was in a clearly offside position. The assistant ref failed to put up the offside flag and it was called a goal, but pretty soon after the score happened, the assistant ref went to the head ref to have a conversation about the play. In the meantime, Mexico players are trying to argue with the head ref as he’s trying to sort the whole thing out with the assistant ref, and a replay on the big screen shows how blatantly offsides the player was. The head ref was in a tough spot, but made the correct decision to not overturn the play because there is no current rule or precedent to do such a thing, so the goal stuck even though it clearly shouldn’t have counted.

The commentators of the games used these examples as well as the two US disallowed goals in their matches leading to the round of 16 to attack FIFA for its decision to not allow technological arbitration (read: replay challenges allowed in american football, computerized verification of in/out balls now allowed in tennis, &c), and i thought i’d take a moment to jump on that soapbox and say a big What The Fuck, FIFA. In a sport in which every goal has so much importance in shaping the entire game and in one of the very few competitive fields in which entire nations are being symbolized and represented, to not incorporate such a measure to help deal with human error is just flat out irresponsible. Get over yourselves and embrace the needed change.

as a related but tangental thought, i have to say this about football: i’ve always liked the sport; i even played it when i was younger and liked it pretty well even though i sucked at it due to asthma. But I appreciate the World Cup in particular now more than ever after the Saints won the Super Bowl. The idea that an athletic team can embody a community is something that i kind of acknowledged and understood but never truly grokked to its fullest level until the Saints won the Super Bowl. It’s impossible to describe what it was like to be a part of that, to participate in the Saints Victory Parade and have a 800,000 people stretched across a three mile parade route, all there for one reason, for one purpose. It’s hard to describe what it was like talking to the local community about it, to have people say things like, “i wish my uncle was still alive to witness this” as if the Saints winning the Super Bowl would have represented a personal victory for that person who had been a faithful Saints fan during the 47 years that they never got even close to winning. For the players and the coach and the community to see the win as proof that we’re still alive and strong after Katrina would have seemed baffling to me if i hadn’t been in the midst of it, in the midst of all of the people and all of the faces who believed it and took it to heart and used it as an avenue to create that personal life fire.

it was an incredibly moving experience, and after that, my understanding of that resonance makes the World Cup that much more significant to me, not necessarily in that i feel like i have any personal loyalty to the US soccer team versus any other, but because i now have a greater comprehension of what it is that is being represented on a global scale, that these teams are coming together and actually playing, competing, and fighting for their country in the form of a pretty amazing sport. To think of the image that the world now has of the US given their success in the World cup, to think of the image that the world now has of France after their disgrace in the World Cup, it’s interesting how much something that in some ways seems so small carries such magnitude for an entire nation.

Of course, the fact that i now appreciate this doesn’t diminish the sort of frustrated platform that i have regarding the attitude of athletics versus academics or versus the arts. Inspiration on a national and global scale can come in many forms and i still find it annoying how much the US society in particular tips favoritism towards athletics and “pop fame” and deemphasizes other potential inspirational platforms that have more personal significance to me.

That’s an entirely different discussion, however. Maybe next time.

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