The World’s Most Boring Game

June 18th, 2010 at 3:50 pm | 22 Comments |

| Print

As someone who tends to like all forms of sport, I think soccer is arguably the world’s most democratic game – inexpensive, simple, played everywhere.

And the World Cup is an event that electrifies the world of one type of fan, and isn’t spread around to a variety of sporting activities.

From a personal point of view, the World Cup in South Africa this year has clarified my feelings about soccer to a degree I never expected.  The players are so gifted with their dribbling, control, passing, endurance. Their footwork matches the best of, say, hockey players’ stick handling.

But the overall impression from watching the World Cup is: My god, soccer has to be the world’s most boring game.

As evidence, take the game between Brazil – rated as the world’s number one team – and North Korea, 105th in the world. In other words, the best versus the worst. And what was the outcome – 2-1 for Brazil.

When the best only beats the worst 2-1, something is wrong.

And then there are games that end 0-0. In one of these (I forget which) one team had 13 shots on goal, the other had no shots on goal. Can you believe it? Ninety minutes of no scoring and one team doesn’t even get a shot on goal?

In fact, a shot on goal is signal for rejoicing.

I guess it’s a triumph when the U.S. manages a 1-1 tie with England, which has been playing soccer forever (maybe even invented the game), but it’s not much of a recommendation for the sport as a whole.

I have no problem with those who think soccer is the “beautiful” sport, but as a game it cannot compare with, say, hockey, which by any standard is the world’s fastest, most exciting, most gifted game.

All sports, when you see plays slowed down on replays, are graceful and beautiful, but few match hockey where, for starters you have to know how to skate.

Basketball and baseball, when slowed down on replays, show grace and athleticism. Soccer doesn’t need much slowing down, because not much is happening anyway.

It’s puzzling to me why soccer fans riot in some countries. Is it because there’s no scoring? Or that a goal is either a calamity or cause for rejoicing? In that sense, soccer can be lethal for fans. Heck, a three-goal lead is considered a blow-out in soccer.

Apparently South Africans feel they have arrived by hosting the World Cup. Why this is so, is also puzzling. I guess it’s an achievement of sorts to have the world attending one of the stadiums built especially for the World Cup, to be bored en masse at a 0-0 tie, when one of the teams considers it a triumph not to be scored on.

Maybe, but is it worth rioting over?

The controversy of this World Cup seems to be the vuvuzelas – the raucous horns blown by South African fans – which some people (and players) want banned. Phooey, they are about the only excitement available. And as a reflection of African ethnicity, well, maybe the vuvuzelas are the apex of cultural achievement.

Even though soccer to me is the world’s most boring game (curling and baseball are gripping and tension-ridden by comparison), I’m pleased so many relish the World Cup and am happy South Africans are so happy.

And I’m especially reassured that the Sun’s three experts predicting winners – Mike Zeisberger, Morris Dalla Costa and Gareth Wheeler – at this writing have all managed to get more incorrect than correct picks.

That takes talent, too: It’s just as hard to pick losers as winners.

Me, I’m still dazzled by the team that couldn’t manage even one shot on goal.

Recent Posts by Peter Worthington



22 Comments so far ↓

  • chrisduckworth

    “And as a reflection of African ethnicity, well, maybe the vuvuzelas are the apex of cultural achievement.”

    Vuvuzelas as the apex of African cultural achievement? Excuse me?

  • TAZ

    Todays USA game rocked, even if they got robbed!!!!!!

    We Americans dont have the patience for a live chess match.

    I didnt in the beginning, but a few years overseas in the Army gave me a new view.

    To each his own, no reason the hate.

  • Nanotek

    Mr. Worthington,
    I take it you’ve yet to witness an entire game of cricket.

  • rectonoverso

    What a miserable life you must have to spend all that time writing an article on something that bores you.

  • easton

    Worthington is definitely a girly man, that is a man who doesn’t understand what sports are about. (actually, girly is a bit sexist against girls, who can be competitive as well, but I can’t think of another word to describe his fey attitude) Like any sporting match some games are boring and some are exciting, and Worthington doesn’t know this? The Mexico-France game was great, if you like Mexico, they completely dominated the French, humiliated them in fact, and as an American I can’t say I am displeased at that. Even the Britain-Algeria game was exciting though it ended in a 0-0 draw.

    chrisduckworth, right. Worthington is also going for full on douche as well. “apex of African cultural achievement” is flat out deranged. “And as a reflection of African ethnicity” is idiotic. Um…African is not an ethnicity anymore than European is. By the way, in case if Worthington has a touch of Palinsanity, Africa is also not just one country either. So Worthington is fey, ignorant, and a douche. Congratulations, he got a hat trick.

  • TerryF98

    Worthington another complete waste of space in the Linnane mold. Time for some decent writers!!

  • BobDevine

    I do not mind the soccer coverage when the world cup is on. After all the 27 fans in North America need some consideration.

  • Rabiner

    I find it funny when people try to dismiss soccer in the United States. Give it another 20 years and soccer will be on par with baseball and football in our sports fabric. In 10 years MLS has come a long way from a league on par with 3rd division European leagues to nearly on par with Mexican soccer and probably 2nd division European leagues.

  • RalfW

    If you find it that boring, just don’t talk about it. No one is gluing your eyelids open, tying you down and stealing the TV remote.

    Or are they………

  • drdredel

    @RalfW — cue Beethoven’s 9th

    @easton — “African is not an ethnicity anymore than European”
    The last census that I (reluctantly) filled out had, amongst my possible choices for “race”, Japanese, and Pakistani.

    I assume race and ethnicity are interchangeable (at least in so far as neither of them actually mean anything at all). Pakistan’s been around for ~50 years and already it’s an ethnicity!
    I was going to propose that perhaps they include the Bay Area as a race, or maybe more specifically the 1600 block of 19th Ave as a race, so that I can designate myself with more confidence.

    In the end I put “Human” as I am fairly confident that this is accurate.

  • forkboy1965

    I’ve listened to folks make the claim that soccer/football is boring and I figure ‘to each their own’. But I really have a hard time imagining how one can make the claim while giving sports like golf, baseball and even American football a pass.

    While many might raise an eyebrow at my suggestion that American football is dull, but think about it for a second. There is a few seconds of intense action followed by a half minute or longer of nothing. Guys standing around talking about the next play or referees discussing the call to make. If you were to average out the intense moments with all the nothingness that transpires between (conveniently filled by the instant and never-ending replay) you’d have a game that looks remarkably like soccer.

  • trafamadore

    Maybe the World Cup football should inflate their scores like America football, 6 pts for a goal (usually 7, how often is the extra pt missed?). Then ignorant fans like Worthington would be more impressed with a 0-2 game because it would look like a 0-14 game.

    Don’t forget, one of the reasons football does so poorly in countries that have commercial TV is that the play never stops, whereas in American football and baseball, most the time the players are sitting around wondering what to do next, so lots of good time for commericals.

  • mlindroo

    I suspect Worthington would care far more about soccer if Canada would be among the World Cup finalists…
    The average number of goals per game in ice hockey is not that much higher, after all.
    The main difference is Owen Hargreaves and Jonathan de Guzman won’t play for Team Canada…if they would, I am sure Worthington et al would be every bit as excited as the average American soccer fan.

    MARCU$

  • nhthinker

    Many games are no fun to watch if you never tried to get good at them yourself.
    I enjoy watching FIFA in high definition. Low definition TV makes it difficult to enjoy the continuous demonstration of fine motor skill.

    I’d bet Worthington played hockey as a child but never tried to get interested with getting good at soccer.
    With the rerouted ticker, he’s probably ready to try a new sport as opposed to spending all his time reading Robert Frost.

    Not that I mind Frost- I pass his home and the famous birch trees all the time. But I’ll pick coaching and playing and watching football(soccer) on most days over swinging on birch trees and writing about it.

    I bet Worthington can still beat Frum in a foot race. ;)

  • tequilamockingbird

    TerryF98 said: “Worthington another complete waste of space in the Linnane mold. Time for some decent writers!!”

    I disagree. I wade through Worthington’s nonsense because I quite enjoy some of the criticism in the comments.

  • easton

    “In the end I put “Human” as I am fairly confident that this is accurate.” Thanks for the laugh.

  • elh

    to whoever said football scores are “inflated”, i’d remind you that 0-0, 7-0, 14-7 games are theoretically possible in football but very far from the norm. If put in soccer terms, a typical football score would be more like 6-3, a score that is basically unheard of in high-level soccer.

    The lack of scoring is the basic problem with soccer, and “inflating” the numbers wouldn’t change that. Also football has secondary scoring possibilities like the field goal, safety, and extra point(s), which add a great deal more strategy and uncertainty into the game.

    Also, continuous play is not necessarily a virtue. Players need time to stop and think through their strategies sometimes, and without that time you end up with a sport that mostly consists of a lot of volleying mid-field and overly-frequent changes of possession. There is a need for stopping play even in a rudimentary sport like soccer, but the rules don’t incorporate it and so it has to be done informally, through faked injuries and arguing with the referees.

    And to whoever called the criticisms in the article here girly, what do you say about all those soccer players that fall over like wimps every time somebody brushes against them? I thought “selling the foul” had gotten bad in basketball, but jeez… those guys need to toughen up.

    To say soccer is boring is definitely debatable. I can see how all the dribbling and passing could be fascinating to someone who grew up with the sport. But determining who is the better of two teams is the point of an athletic competition, and a sport that fails to do just that with such frequency as soccer needs some adjustment in the rules.

    Hockey (thankfully) has taken steps over the years to make sure there is still plenty of scoring and not too many ties. A competitive sport that can end with a 0-0 tie, but leave one team feeling like the winner and another like the loser because of pre-game expectations, is a sport that needs to change its rules to encourage more shooting and more goals.

  • nhthinker

    I think all sports including soccer should be video-reviewed during the week after matches for unsportsmanlike conduct- Many sports do this for adding fines or suspensions for cheap-shots.- I think it also needs to be done for taking a dive. Just the act of being officially called out for taking a dive would be enough to dramatically reduce the problem with it.

  • Rabiner

    I love how people who know nothing of soccer are the ones who criticize it and attempt to make it like other sports they enjoy.

    “I think all sports including soccer should be video-reviewed during the week after matches for unsportsmanlike conduct- Many sports do this for adding fines or suspensions for cheap-shots.- I think it also needs to be done for taking a dive. Just the act of being officially called out for taking a dive would be enough to dramatically reduce the problem with it.”

    Diving if excessive is an offense that the referee can give a player a yellow card for.

    “The lack of scoring is the basic problem with soccer, and “inflating” the numbers wouldn’t change that. Also football has secondary scoring possibilities like the field goal, safety, and extra point(s), which add a great deal more strategy and uncertainty into the game.”

    While it may ad uncertainty it definitely doesn’t increase strategy very much.

    “Also, continuous play is not necessarily a virtue. Players need time to stop and think through their strategies sometimes, and without that time you end up with a sport that mostly consists of a lot of volleying mid-field and overly-frequent changes of possession. There is a need for stopping play even in a rudimentary sport like soccer, but the rules don’t incorporate it and so it has to be done informally, through faked injuries and arguing with the referees.”

    Players don’t need time to stop and think through their strategies if they’re good at what they do and are intelligent enough to adapt to the situation. Football players need stopped play so that coaches can make decisions on what the players should do. Stopped play in soccer occurs on substitutions and set plays from fouls and corner/goal kicks. The changing of possession occurs because it isn’t easy to pass a ball through ten players to get a shot on goal.

  • nhthinker

    Rabiner:
    “Diving if excessive is an offense that the referee can give a player a yellow card for.”

    You are, not surprisingly, lacking comprehension.
    Cheap shots are also an infraction that referees in all sports can make a finding on DURING the game.
    BUT it is the video tape review that the league officials use to bring special attention and fines/suspension that highlight for fans, players and officials, as to flagrant inappropriate behavior in the sport. The embarrassment of the league making a finding would be enough to reduce the outright unsportsmanlike conduct of some players that give a bad reputation to a sport. Flopping is causing a reduced market value of several games, especially soccer.

    As to the actual FIFA rule:
    “Decision 5
    Any simulating action anywhere on the field, which is intended to deceive the referee, must be sanctioned as unsporting behaviour.”
    http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/federation/laws_of_the_game_0708_10565.pdf

  • Carney

    The clock counting up is unnecessarily confusing compared to the self-evident simplicity of it counting down. Even worse is when random time is added on by the officials, that will be tacked on, but which is not shown on the clock, so you never know where you stand. That alone is so maddeningly stupid as to make watching this sport a chore. Major League Soccer did it right briefly but its largely foreign fan base howled and they were forced to revert to the moronic global norm. I defy a soccer fan to explain the rationale for this convention, let alone defend it as superior to the US norm of counting down.

    The vast size of the pitch makes only a handful of players relevant at a time; the rest just stand around or jog slowly toward the faraway ball for appearances’ sake. It also makes scoring nearly impossible.

    I have watched and like indoor soccer. With hockey-like walls, you can do trick shots and passes like a pool player, and the game doesn’t stop because of offsides because there are none. That latter plus the smaller arena makes the scores hockey or baseball like. It’s not ridiculously offense oriented like arena football, either – a nice balance. The only problem is the lack of real grass and thus the lack of tackling.

    But probably the worst aspect of soccer is how hugely unnatural it is. It violates every human instinct NOT to use your hands. It’s like bobbing for apples, amusing for a bit but as a lifestyle choice or serious sport it’s odd at best. You can call using your chest, crotch, head, or face to deal with an incoming ball “courageous” perhaps, but again it’s an odd kind of courage. Soccer would be a great sport for those who are for whatever reason tragically armless. For normal humans it’s just weird.