We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Some people call it flopping. Others call it diving. Still others call it the theater of the absurd, what the soccer players are doing at the World Cup after they hit the ground. Myself, I don’t think the divas, uh, players, go far enough. The YouTube videos could be far more dramatic. Just equip each player with a microphone.

“I can’t feel my toes! I think I see my right hand on the ground all by itself, twitching. What madness caused this?”

And then in the fine tradition first established by professional wrestlers, the player rises to his feet to chase the ball, only to fall to the ground after tripping over a peanut shell.

And I thought Tom Hanks was a great actor.

And the Oscar at the World Cup — there can be no question of this — goes to Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, who, after biting an Italian player, sat on the ground, holding his mouth, grimacing as if a dentist just extracted his molars with a pair of pliers.

“To do that right in front of millions of people,” said Pat McDonald, coach on the Montgomery girls soccer team, “to have the psychology to do that, it’s unbelievable.”

There has been much competition for the Oscar.

In this World Cup, there has been more finger-pointing than a cop directing traffic, more crying than the first-day drop-off at kindergarten and more facial anguish than anyone who has walked barefoot over hot coals.

Much to the chagrin of a soccer purist, flopping has grabbed as much of the World Cup conversation as the exceptional skill moments in the game themselves.

It is due in large part to the nature of the act — screaming, grimacing, writhing tend to attract attention. Such histrionics carry an influence.

“This year, I’ve seen more penalty kicks and red cards than usual,” said Vinnie Cortezzo, Casa Grande’s girls coach, d irector of coaching for the Sonoma County Alliance and coach for the Sonoma County Sol. “I don’t teach my kids to flop. We (Sol) played a team from Chicago made up mostly of Croatians. We complained about all their flopping. After the game, the Croatians came up to us and called us naïve, that we only had ourselves to blame.”

The Croatians, in fact players from just about everywhere except the United States, view flopping as just an extension of gamesmanship. If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t trying, so goes the expression.

America is well acquainted with the concept. Our baseball players cork their bats. Our football players chop block. Our basketball players take extra steps with the ball. And we won’t even begin to discuss steroids.

But flopping crosses the line here in America. It’s because of the public spectacle it creates, in full view, no gray area of interpretation.

The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade found this out firsthand in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. He was fined $5,000 for acting like the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili took his head off when Ginobili didn’t even touch him.

When Americans see an athlete on the ground in pain, we want to believe the pain is real, the injury significant. We don’t want to doubt and laugh at what we see, as what happened with Brazil’s Neymar. Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zuniga kneed the superstar in the small of the back.

“When someone says they have a back injury,” said Debra LaPrath, soccer coach of the Maria Carrillo girls, “you are very gentle with them. You don’t take chances. But they were pretty rough with Neymar. They rolled him over onto this stretcher and the stretcher looked like a piece of cardboard.”

Neymar was carried from the field, and as he disappeared into the tunnel, I found myself thinking the same thing LaPrath was.

“Neymar was going to come running out of the tunnel, ready to play,” LaPrath said.

I was almost surprised to find out Neymar was actually hurt, having sustained a fractured vertebra in his back.

“What’s worse,” Cortezzo said, “is that the fallen player grabs the ball while he’s on the ground. Now the referee has to make a call because he now has seen a hand ball. So what’s he going to do? Yellow card a guy who is on the ground screaming in pain? No, he’s going to call a foul on the player who sent him to the ground.”

As happens in all sports, the game officials can change the culture.

Just as the NBA front office has told its officials to come down hard on floppers like Blake Griffin, flopping in soccer can be reduced dramatically with fines and game suspensions.

“You could give them a warning with a yellow card,” said Paul Dixon, who played professionally in Europe and has been the Santa Rosa United coach for 21 years. “Myself, I would go straight to a red card. You need to play the game honestly and fairly.”

While some places in Europe abhor flopping as much as the United States, much of the world accepts such theater, especially in South America. So why would the world listen to what America wants, a country that doesn’t embrace soccer as everyone else does?

I think we know the answer to that question.

“To me, it’s embarrassing,” said LaPrath about flopping. “It makes people (here) laugh at the sport even more.”

LaPrath understands flopping is an art form practiced by those who apparently spend as much time perfecting a grimace as a bicycle kick.

“It could be (entertainment),” LaPrath admits.

LaPrath would like to think soccer is more than that. It could be but then we see Al Pacino on the ground, holding his knee. Oops, did I say Al Pacino? Sorry. I meant, Arjen Robben of the Netherlands.

Truly one of the great actors of our time.

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.

Show Comment