Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sooner or later, all our games turn into Calvinball

The good folks at BBC have summarized a strategy document recently put forth by the possibly shady characters at International Football Association Board (Ifab), who, on the surface, are seeking to streamline and liven up the game.

You just know that they spent millions on this.  It’s only missing its Nickelodeon logo.

Of course, we have repeatedly seen, but have rarely learned, that the best course of action with madness is to nip it in the bud.

That is almost certainly not going to happen.  But, with this missive, Bokolis will always be able to say, hey, I told y’all muthafuckas.

The stated purposes (in bold- rest is Bokolis’ take) are:
·      Improving player behavior and increasing respect
o   Improving player behavior can be done with cattle prods and more rules; each with its own slippery slope
o   Bokolis would argue that, in a win-at-all-costs world, there is no such thing as respect when between the lines.  Respect is something you can afford when you play for fun.
·      Increasing playing time
o   Apparently reasoning that world class players don’t do enough during the 90 minutes, the board are looking to have them spend more time running at full speed
·      Increasing fairness & attractiveness
o   Well, they couldn’t just explicitly state:  We want to make more money, so let’s figure out how to sell this shit to more people.

Bokolis bristles at the pregame handshake lines.  It is the players’ prerogative whether to shake hands before, during or after the game.  By all means, do it for friendlies or charity matches.  There is no way this should be done in competitive matches.

Besides, wouldn’t it be savage to have Wenger and Mourinho in a hockey-style scrap for 15 seconds instead of a hollow handshake?

To be fair, even if my pet cynic can see right through the purposes, not all of the proposals are horrible.  One of the decent and necessary ones involves making the captain the main point of referee communication.  Too often, we see the players of the aggrieved team swarm the referee to whinge about the call, or players from the rewarded team swarm so they can lobby for cards.

Bokolis would have to say the most famous recent instance was Chelsea-PSG in the Champions League a few years back, where Ibra went in hard on (what turned out to be) a late challenge on Oscar who, was making his own sliding challenge, but pulled back before he could make maximum contact, or do serious damage.  Immediately, seven Chelsea players mobbed the referee, with Hazard making eight and the late-arriving Diego Costa making it nine.  The only players not mobbing were Oscar, who was busy selling it, and the keeper.

It was so quick and coordinated that it seemed rehearsed.  Would anyone really put it past Mourinho to have his team practice mobbing the official?

Forget that PSG won the tie and that Ibra (self-)righteously called them “11 babies.”  Ibra does enough shit that he had an unjustified sending off coming. 
As a referee, Bokolis would never stand for that.  There'd've been 7 booked muthafuckas, 8 with Ibra, with Hazard and Diego Costa probably getting a pass.  Why does John Terry get one if he's the captain, one may ask.  For failure to control his mates, he's lucky Bokolis doesn't send him off.

Of course, I would make it abundantly clear during the pregame discussions that I expect to hear from the captain, and only from the captain.  Subject to my discretion, I would let the sanctioned player blow off a little steam (I’d allow one oh fuck off!, but if he says cunt, he better be facing away from me).  But, some guy not involved in the play- hey, if I want to hear from an asshole, I’ll fart.  I’d have them playing 7v7 if I had to, with no shame.

If the players understand that they don’t have a voice unless the referee grants it, they’ll surely know not to take any further liberties.

Because there is a running clock doesn’t mean there must be continuous action.  There is going to be a given amount of dead ball time.  It's sad to have to explain this but, “stoppage time” arises from when there is more dead time that you would expect.  In the past, we’ve been led to believe that “stoppage time” arises from goals (more from the resulting celebrations), from substitutions, from injuries (both legitimate and “tactical”), from the unforeseen.

While the paper states the most common stoppage times are one minute for the first half and three minutes for the second half, these are really best case scenarios.  Let’s focus on the second half because, if we short the sides a minute or two for the first half, they still have a second half to sort it out.

In big-time football, second halves have more than three minutes of stoppage time just as often as they have three minutes or less.  While Bokolis cannot offer statistics, this seems particularly true when the match/tie hangs in the balance, as more tactics are employed to slow down (the pace of) the game.  This 'three minutes' has leaked to four and five minutes.

If you follow the lower English leagues as Bokolis does, you know that five minutes of stoppage time is a good day.  I don’t get to watch enough matches to conclude whether this is due to restarts taking longer than they do in the top-flight, or whether they have expanded criteria for which to add time.  Bokolis would like to believe it’s the former, because the latter could get us into trouble with what follows.

In tossing around ideas, the board is fumbling between expanding the criteria for stopping the referee’s watch- thereby adding more stoppage time on the back end- and going to something akin to a NBA/NFL stopped clock.  Nowhere is it discussed to get things re-started more quickly.  Bokolis will take the ideas individually before laying out why the stopped clock deal is a bad fucking idea.

The board proposes stopping the referee’s watch:

·  from a penalty being awarded to the spot-kick being taken – They do take a long time these days, especially since, as explained above players are allowed to bunch up and complain to the referee en masse.
·  from a goal being scored until the match resumes from the kick-off  - Don’t they already do this?  That is what we’ve been led to believe from the commentators all these years.
·  from asking an injured player if he requires treatment to play restarting – Isn’t that why they call it injury time?
·  from the referee showing a yellow or red card to play resuming – Doesn’t the referee already do this?  Again, just like the penalty decision, this takes a long time because of the players bunching up, both the punished team and the rewarded team, the latter to defend against a reversal do to pressure from the penalized side, and the sanctioned player finally skulking off.
·  from the signal of a substitution to play restarting – See goal scored above…don’t they already do this, no matter how long the player takes getting off the pitch?  That is what we’ve been led to believe from the commentators all these years.
·  from a referee starting to pace a free-kick to when it is taken – Only if it takes longer than usual.

As far as Bokolis knows, these things were always left to the referee’s discretion.  I don’t see why we can’t continue as such and simply emphasize the point to referees.  Doing this will simply allow for "Fergie" time to bail out the bigger clubs.  The superior fitness level of the bigger side often shows itself at the end.  Adding a few minutes on the back end increases the chances that the smaller side will sputter.

If they make it that far, that is.  Trying to squeeze a few more minutes of action into the 90 minutes necessarily implies trying to squeeze a few more minutes of running out of the players.  It’s not a giant leap to reason that the increased energy expended by the players will lead to increased breakdown and injuries.  This would be quite ironic, as the football lords want as much star power as possible for every match of an impossibly congested fixture list, including those summer exhibitions where they trek to faraway lands to milk the marks (of their Marks) to watch football at 70% effort.

Bokolis has a sense that the players would adjust and create additional downtime to get them back to their current workrate and avoid breakdown.  If so, the football lords would have unwittingly created more drag on the game.

Since the typical game wraps neatly into a two-hour time slot, it is almost imperative that it is kept within that space.

The stopped clock would surely violate the two-hour slot and will prove to make the game unwatchable to the reasoned mind.  The easy argument is that it will destroy the flow of the game.  Sure, a stopped clock decreases incentive to move the game along, as even the winning side will not clamor to get on with it just for the sake of the pace of play.

That's not nearly the worst of it.  A stopped clock will provide opportunity for coaches to interject themselves into the game at every turn, for late stages to matter more than all the time before them and for endings contradicting to proceedings to be orchestrated.  Bokolis thinks the coaches (and lords) are quite involved as it is.  Clock stoppages will almost assuredly take us down a slippery slope that leads to time-outs and, horror of horrors, commercials.  That would be too much for Bokolis to bear.

We can speed things up by adding two linesmen- yes, linesmen, not assistant referees- and a second referee.  You cannot expect one referee to keep a grip on 22 players, each intent on getting every edge, permissible and impermissible.  Further, you cannot expect one linesman to determine passive offside- Bokolis does not believe there is such a thing as passive offside- and active offside from about 35 yards away, especially when players are deliberately going into offside positions to cause the back line to break down so that someone in an onside position can run in behind the line.

Covering both sides provides an extra set of eyes and would seem a no-brainer, as it would make such moves and calls far easier to determine and make.

There was never a need for those officials on the goal line.  With the quick resolution available through goal-line technology, the only plausible reason to have them is to call dodgy penalties for Barcelona.

This would get us to six officials, not quite in line with american football, but closer to it.

While the topic is not mentioned, if you had the prescribed officials, there wouldn’t be a need for Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR).  Besides, if you went to the replay for possible penalties, half of Barca’s penalties will prove to be dives and the other half will prove to be embellishments (however legitimate).  UEFA have no courage to sanction them- hence the term Uefalona- so it will be better if the referees are not empowered to know in real time.  To be somewhat fair, while Barcelona may be the prime beneficiaries / worst offenders, this is essentially true of most teams.  Everything looks like a dive in slow motion.

This compulsion to ensure that every call is correct is in the process of rendering other sports unwatchable.  It might play in sports where there is downtime, but downtime will render football into some other sport.

This may be the plan.  If the half-measures above don’t shake it up, someone may just resolve to turn it into Calvinball.  Here are some more proposals: 
  • passing to yourself at a free-kick, corner and goal-kick – This will lead to dodgy goals, which, whether it’s your side scoring or not, leaves a sour taste on the game.  The South Americans would love this shit, as they love to take advantage of the relative confusion after fouls, while Europeans see it as unsporting.  Unfortunately, my pet cynic informs Bokolis that it would just lead to clutching the fouled player well after the whistle- or, simply kicking the ball a few yards away- so that he cannot sneak off.  Cards will follow.
  • a stadium clock which stops and starts along with the referee's watch – Doesn’t the referee have enough to deal with without the crowd going crazy every time he forgot and let 10 extra seconds run or stopped his watch for the same?
  • a "clearer and more consistent definition" of handball – Since this is not absolute, this will never have a consistent definition or be an objective decision.
  • a player who scores a goal or stops a goal with his hands gets a red card – even if by accident?
  • a keeper who handles a backpass or throw-in from a team-mate concedes a penalty – That’s harsh, as it is not presently punishable by a direct free kick.  Besides, this doesn’t happen enough to warrant consideration.
  • the referee can award a goal if a player stops a goal being scored by handling on or close to the goal-line – This should have been enacted from the first time someone ever did it.  Luis “Handball” Suarez would’ve been lost to memory and might well have done less biting.  To send the team to the spot to have to convert (again) is scandalous.
  • a penalty kick is either scored or missed/saved and players cannot follow up to score to stop encroachment into the penalty area – Lacking a second referee to watch for it (or for the keeper coming off his line early, which is also never called), Bokolis might suggest moving them all further back, say 30 yards, so that the effect of any encroachment is muted.  If the penalty taker gets his own rebound and scores, that’s part of the reward.
In closing, it just seems like the football lords want to sneak an extra goal or two into games any way they can.  It is already the shame of football that marginal contact on players looking to fall earns a free kick 12 yards from goal.  This is a product of a bygone era, when it took far more to earn a foul and scoring was sufficient so that such a decision did not decide a match.

While the proverbial cagey affairs of today don’t make for an attractive show, it’s all right to swallow one here and there without inserting a dodgy goal to wind everybody up.

That’s all the fuck I got.

Friday, June 2, 2017

GOAT or goat?

Bokolis had put this down immediately after the Super Bowl.  I had thought to let it marinate before hitting send, but it would up marinating for four months because I checked off for a while.  This travesty reminded me of how rigged many championship matches often are, especially several of the recent NFL championship games.  I had to get away.

Through a combination of tragically switching off way too early, poor playcalling and coaching decisions, and having the officials turn a blind eye to the Patriots holding on virtually every play during the comeback, the Atlanta Falcons pissed away the NFL championship.  In the process, a whole sporting nation is doing the brick-pointing on Tom Brady's status as the greatest of all time.

Bokolis has stayed away from all the subsequent blathering.  The narrative will either focus on the incredible choke job and paint Brady as some sort of master for coming back from a 28-3 deficit.  So some extent, both of those are true, especially the choke job.  It will all ignore that the referees let the Patriots do whatever they wanted so that they could get back in the game.  I prefer to keep and crystallize my own opinion on what happened.  Hearing otherwise might tempt me to engage these assholes on their own terms.  As such, I gather that it will be quite the job for the folks at NFL films to edit out all the holding when they put together one of those super bowl episodes.