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.