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Friday, June 30, 2006

 

Sports tonight

The World Cup is creating a reasonable degreee of interest, even with the US early bust. You do see fans gathered to watch the games outside bars and lunch places, but in truth, a lot of them seem to have English as a second language. The casual American fan just gets bored. And no wonder. There is litle or no meaningful offense in this game when it's played at a high level. That is not to say the players aren't skillful. The problem is the moronic offside rule. Compounding the problem is the penalty kick situation. Several games have been decided by a foul in the "box" resulting in a penalty kick, which is almost a sure goal. The foul doesn't even have to be severe - it just has to be in the box. You can decapitate a player anywhere else on the field and all that will happen is you get a red card, and your team plays the rest of the game a man down, which doesn't seem to leave you more vulnerable to a goal the way this game is played. But blow on a player in the box, and it's a penalty kick, a goal and your team goes home. Today's game was tied after two overtimes, necessitating a penalty kick shootout. So this epic struggle goes on for over 90 minutes, it's 1-1 (amazing it wasn't 0-0) and now a goaltender makes a lucky guess on a penalty kick and you win.

Soccer needs to junk the offside rule. The way the rule is now, defenders don't really worry about the attacker getting behind them. Instead, they rush up into the passing lane, and either cut the ball off or trap the attacker offside. So you don't have the athletic beauty of an attacker beating the defender as in American football or back dooring him as in basketball. All the goals are scored on big time blunders, lucky kicks just inside the post, or penalty kicks. Yecch.

If there were no offsides, soccer scores would look more like hockey scores, and even if a penalty kick were called somewhere along the way, it might not decide the game.

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Speaking of basketball, the NBA's worst owner, just took the league's worst executive, and installed him as coach of the league's worst team, to replace the best coach in the league whom he fired. A scalper would have to pay me to watch the Knicks. So they have the draft the other night, and guys who wouldn't watch an NBA game at gun point for some reason care where JJ Reddick gets drafted. And here's a guy who will have no position in the pros, since he's too slow to defend against any decent NBA guard. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, "Give me (the NY) Liberty, or give me (NJ) Nets."
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One of the interesting aspects of interleague play in MLB this year has been the domination by the American League teams. This has been building for a while, as the AL has been winning the World Series and All Star games with some regularity. I can't help but think the DH rule has something to do with it. AL teams need a ninth quality hitter in the lineup, and AL pitchers have to figure out a way to complete the early innings without that easy pitcher's spot coming up as in the NL. The specialization is having an impact, probably really in evidence when the AL team is home and the DH rule is in effect. Also, the big AL veteran hitters can DH when they get a little fatigued and sore, so they may not be aggravating injuries that would be a problem in the NL, where to rest a player, you have to confine him to pinch hitting duty. Just a theory.

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