Monday, July 10, 2006

Destiny Denied


The World Cup is over and Italy are world champions. I thought that France outplayed them in the second half and in extra time, but they were able to pull it out in penalty kicks. France had destiny on their side and after getting a gift penalty and taking an early 1-0 lead, it looked like they were going to pull off the upset and win the game. Italy tied the game before halftime, however and then relied on their defense and an incredible save by Buffon to maintain the tie.

I really believe the game turned on the bone head foul by Zidane. Destiny is a fickle beast. If you take it for granted, it will leave you to your own devices. I don't really think that there's a similar mistake by a great player in the history of team sports. Babe Ruth did get thrown out trying to steal a base to end the 1926 World Series, but at least he was trying to do something positive to help his team win, however ill conceived it may have been. I guess the closest analogy I can come up with is when Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear during their rematch. Boxing isn't a team sport, but Tyson did basically lose his mind in the middle of the ring. Zidane snapped on the biggest stage in the sporting world. With an audience of over a billion people, he let his emotions get the better of him, and in doing so, played a huge part in losing the game for France. I'm not sure if they would have scored in extra time, but that missed penalty kick would have somehow found it's way across the goal line. If sentiment or hope or fate or destiny or whatever you want to call it was on France's side up to that point, that single act of stupidity and selfishness eliminated that advantage.

We saw some incredible games over the three and 1/2 weeks of the World Cup. While the Cup lacked a singular star, there were more than enough interesting individual and team stories to keep fans riveted to the action. Of course there are changes I would like to see before the next World Cup in South Africa, the first and foremost being the addition of at least one more official on the pitch. One more official would help to curtail the preponderance of flopping. Players only pretend to be hurt because the official is usually too far away to see if a foul actually occurred. An extra official would help to minimize the bad calls and would cut down on players being rewarded for basically trying to cheat. Limited use of instant replay (at least on penalty kick calls), would also help to level the playing field, so to speak. Also, penalty kicks are no way to decide the winner of a World Cup. They should be done away with in this tournament all together. Could you imagine if the World Series was decided by a home run derby? Or the Superbowl decided by a field goal kicking contest? It really is that ridiculous. They should allow extra substitutes and just play 15 minute periods until a winner is decided. It seems only fair that the game should be decided on the field of play.

It's part of the fun of the World Cup that it only happens once every four years, but as we stand now at the farthest point from the next one, it seems a shame that we have to wait so long to see the best Football players in the world meet to decide world supremacy. Oh well, at least I know that unlike most things, it will be well worth the wait.

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