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Friday, June 22, 2018

A Dog's Eye: pushing the envelope

A video came up in my news feed on Facebook this morning of a guy reviewing some spectacular football 'dives'. Overlooking the liberal use of expletives, it was quite funny so I shared it. I had already been thinking about this issue for a few days, since Australia lost to France in their World Cup 2018 opener.

Image result for the beautiful gameFootball, or soccer as we call it here and in the United States, is truly the world game. The FIFA World Cup is a larger event than the Olympic Games.With an estimated global television audience of nearly half the population of the whole world, and ticket sales of nearly 1.7 million, it is impossible to deny the popularity of what many call 'the beautiful game'.

I don't watch a lot of soccer. I watch Australia's World Cup qualifiers when they are on at a sensible time, and I check out as much of the World Cup action as I can. There is a blight on the beautiful game. An embarrassment which even casual viewers like myself cannot help but notice and shake our heads at. The dive.

Image result for soccer divesPlayers often take dramatic falls and have exaggerated reactions to minor injuries. This is particularly laughable for fans of rugby league which is perhaps the most physically violent of all sports. The collisions between players in rugby league make mortals shudder and wonder how they can keep playing. The thing is even in rugby league, players 'dive'. It does not happen as often as it does in soccer but it happens.

The purpose of diving is to win a penalty or free kick for your team. In league it is known as 'milking', and you will occasionally hear the referee refuse to give a penalty by actually calling out 'milking'. 

I don't like this at all. To me, it is not in the spirit of the game, but the laws of the game-both soccer and rugby league- are such that decisions about foul play or illegal tackles are in the hands of the referees who must exercise their judgement as to the severity and genuineness of the offence. With such subjective assessments and enforcement of the rules, mistakes are bound to occur.

Players push the envelope to gain every possible advantage for their team. If they can get away with it, if they can dupe the referee into awarding a penalty or free kick, then why not? Why not? Because it's poor sportsmanship. I would say that the majority of players don't do it. I wish no one did it, but sport, particularly professional sport which involves such ridiculous amounts of money, is a microcosm of life.

Nearly everyone drives above the speed limits. Normally just a little bit over: pushing the envelope. That's just one example. In every arena of life, people try to bend and stretch the rules to suit themselves, to gain every possible advantage. It's normal right?

It is normal, but it speaks clearly of the rebellious heart within us all. A resistance to authority and to rules. We just don't like being told what to do. In sport, and in life in general the stakes are high, so we feel it is necessary to push the envelope regardless of how we may embarrass or injure ourselves or other people in the process.

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