Why Do Soccer Players Dive?
Every week, The18 takes the world's most frequently asked soccer questions and attempts to answer them. That way, when that clone of yours turns evil and tries to convince everyone that you're the evil one, your football knowledge will allow your friend to put a slug in his head, not yours. You know. Like in Star Trek. Or The Island. Man, Hollywood has used that plot device a lot. Anyways, this week: Why do soccer players dive?
If there is one aspect of soccer that the United States just cannot get its head around, it is the art of diving. Players throw themselves to the ground, writhing in agony, all with little to no contact.
It is a part of soccer that is incredibly divisive, even among die-hard fans of the sport. There are those who think it absolutely abhorrent, that it ruins the integrity of the game and so on and so forth.
Then, there are those who think that it is simply another aspect of the sport. Soccer is about winning, and you do what you have to to win. Some may refer to it as the "dark arts" of the game.
And finally, there are the middle-of-the-road fans, those who don't particularly like it, but recognize why it exists and why it is so hard to get rid of. At the end of the day, it's just something you have to deal with, like a bad officiating decision.
Whichever side you fall on, diving is here to stay, despite a lot of big talk from soccer's administrators saying that they will eradicate it. It's just simply too hard to call 100 percent of the time. Video technology may help with that in the future, but even with its implementation, there are still instances where it is too hard to call, even on replay.
So, why do soccer players dive? Well, that's a hard question to answer, but we're going to give it a shot.
First, we have to differ between diving and embellishment. Embellishment is when there is contact but the player makes the most of it in order to get a player booked or to win a foul. A good example of this is Jamie Vardy's embellished contact that got him sent off against West Ham last year. Not technically a dive, but still looking for a foul.
Diving or simulation is when there is absolutely no contact, and the player is essentially trying to con the referee into awarding the foul.
The reason it is important to differentiate those two things is because it has a lot to do with why players dive. Players embellish any and all contact they receive because, unfortunately, referees usually will not call fouls if they stay on their feet. This is especially true with game-altering decisions, such as penalty calls.
This is part of the issue that rule reform can help with. If referees were encouraged to call those fouls in which the player stays on his or her feet, then you would likely see a dramatic drop in players going down elaborately. Unfortunately, the consequences of getting those calls wrong means that most officials are hesitant to make that decision.
So, embellishment can possibly be reduced by reform, but with diving, it may not be so simple. Simulation is a yellow card offense, but that hasn't seemed to make a huge difference in the diving habits of players and part of the problem is that diving is so ingrained in the culture of soccer.
So, does that mean that simulation is here to stay? Probably yes. However, author David Fagundes puts forth a so-called "broken windows" theory in his article for Concurring Opinions. His theory is that, in a society where crime is common, nobody bats an eye at jaywalking or shoplifting. By contrast, in a society with a strict enforcement of law, those crimes seem much more outrageous.
That may very well be the case in soccer. Americans and English are more outraged by simulation because it is something that is taboo. As the game grows and becomes more global, we may see that outrage diminish. Sure, we'll still be bloody annoyed if we're on the receiving end of it, but it will not be such an affront to our moral sensibilities.
Why do players dive? Well, it is simply part of the game and, while most people would never admit it, it makes it much more compelling. It's a love to hate kind of thing. We'd rather have that than have a sterile game that is Draconian in its approach to rules. That's not to say that we condone cheating, or that we think it's super fantastic everytime someone rolls around, screaming like a petulant child.
We only mean that, in order to fully banish simulation, you would have to put so many restrictions on the game that it would essentially strangle our beloved sport to death. Sport will always have controversy, whether we like it or not. We can try to discourage it, but at the end of the day, these things will happen. They suck when they go against your team, but when they don't, you would be hard-pressed to find somebody complaining.
So, feel free to curse at your television set everytime you see someone flopping around like a dead fish on the floor. That is your right. However, in the near future at least, diving isn't going anywhere.
Follow me on Twitter @J_Hansen_89