Flops and Dives

by Ben Perreira

You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.

In the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Brazil was leading the United States 2-1 in extra time of a semifinal match. One of team Brazil’s defenders went to the ground with an injury, stopping play but not stopping time, as is the case in soccer. The replay showed that she was not actually injured and was indeed stalling to try to secure victory. Commentator Ian Darke called her injury, “Slightly farcical, really.”

Despite the player’s best efforts, team USA would subsequently tie the game then win with penalty kicks.

This was an egregious example of a flop, but it happens all the time in soccer. It has also become more common in the NBA, where almost any level of contact draws a whistle. 

The worst part may be that players are acting within the confines of the rules when they flop. Only recently have these two sports begun to penalize players who clearly fake being on the receiving end of fouls.

So who wins here? Well, anyone who gets away with a flop wins in the very short run. It nets him or her a free kick or free throws. But anyone who enjoys the sport loses in the long run. Who wants to watch a game that runs on the equivalent of a cartel’s competitive tactics?

The best players know that they can win by playing the game the right way. They know this means they have to get extra good and they relish that challenge. About a month ago I wrote about how on-field malfeasance is so much worse than off-field mischief in the eyes of fans. This is a similar strain of cheating and fans know it.

(Flopping extends well beyond sports. Connect the dots as you see fit.)