There’s a player down on the field. He’s gripping his knee, face wrinkled in “pain” and rolling back and forth like it’s the worst injury he’s ever received. Seconds later, he’s back up. He hobbles for a second to reaffirm that he’s indeed hurt (which he might be … a little) and then proceeds to sprint off toward the play.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve witnessed such a thing in the sport of soccer, both on TV and from having played it for several years growing up. Hell, it even happens every now and then in intramural sports here at UC Irvine. Being someone that grew up watching and briefly playing hockey, I was always bewildered by this practice in a sport that’s really not even a contact sport. And if you think it is, then you need to watch other sports like rugby and football, and then reassess your view.
Granted, it doesn’t stop at soccer. Even in hockey you see players milking plays to try and draw a call from the zebras (a term that many hockey commentators like to use in reference to the referees) and get that ever-important power play. Anyone that knows anything about the sport knows that the moment players feel a stick between their feet, they keep their skates moving in order to get tripped up and draw the penalty. The other common instance is players gripping their face after a high stick (sometimes in earnest, other times when they see a stick get anywhere close to their face).
This also happens often in basketball, with players skidding across the floor, arms in the air after the slightest bump from another player. Every time I see this happen in any of these sports, all I can do is stand up and scream at the television (yes, I am that person …), telling the players to get off their ass and keep playing. These players are getting paid millions to play the game, not flop on the ground with the slightest touch. It doesn’t make for good entertainment, and it doesn’t add anything to the sport. In fact, all it does it strive to ruin the integrity of the sport.
I would love to see referees start to crack down on this more, offering up more red cards or game misconducts to players that clearly flop to garner penalties. While this may lead to other issues of subjectivity and judgment calls on behalf of the referees, I think it would be an important first step to halting (or at least slowing, anyway) this practice of players acting like overdramatic children who have never been bumped before.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve yelled, “YOU’RE NOT EVEN PLAYING A CONTACT SPORT YOU WUSS” after seeing a player in soccer or basketball go down and act like the smallest push from an opponent equaled the strength of all the Avengers combined.
And even if the referees don’t crack down on it, I would love to see the players crack down on it themselves. I would, at the very least, like to see teammates call each other out on their shit in they’re flopping. What happened to basic sportsmanlike integrity, people? The most basic and caveman-like part of me would even like to see players give players that flop a reason to be on the ground if they’re going to be pansies about it.
When it boils down to it, it all comes down to integrity as an athlete. I understand the desire to do anything it takes to win, but it always makes me sad to see players foregoing the tenants of sportsmanship to do so.
So next time you’re out on the field or the court and you feel another player bump you, don’t immediately dive to the ground like you’re running a fire drill. Get back up, dust yourself off and get back in the play. Ultimately, the only thing that’s getting hurt when you’re on the ground in the rest of your team. You’re not doing them any good rolling around like you’re on fire down there.
Zachary Risinger is a third-year English major. He can be reached at email@example.com.