Letter At Length, July 13

Examine facts about the game of soccer

Andres Oppenheimer's commentary that Americans "grow impatient in low-score games" should be challenged on the face of the facts.

First, in baseball (America's pastime), a 1-0 game is considered a classic pitchers' duel, especially if it ran to 12 or 14 innings.

Second, big scores are simply how you number them: Basketball fans wanted bigger scores so the 3-point line was painted on the court flooring. Better to have upped each basket to 10 points and free throws to five and watch the scores soar.

Third, soccer is a team game and the teamwork is the game. Before the many changes in basketball there was no thrill in any sport better that a three, four or more minute stall with a one point advantage. The shot clock surely shot such greatness right off the court.

Fourth, soccer is a simple game with few rules. Before anyone tries to improve it they must understand the game and how the rules (technically, "laws" in futbol) allow the game to unfold. For example, offsides is a well-known, controversial rule but is crucial for the game to work. Without it you would have each team running en mass from one end of the 120-yard field to the other depending on a offense mode or a defensive one. Might be an exciting phenomena to watch but if wouldn't be soccer or futbol, either.

Fifth, soccer must be played without commercial interruptions. The build up of tension, plays unfolding from constant motion, the red and yellow card controls, playing short if a red is given, officials in control and all the rest make the game.

Finally, perhaps, just once, maybe Americans could humbly salute the most popular and biggest game in the world. Play it, watch it, ignore it, but don't try to change it. Several billion people are alright with it as it is now, thank you.

Fredric M Latty


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