Respect

Posted on November 9, 2010 8:17 am

It’s probably far from unique but the fact that the United States Soccer Federation is FINING EVERYONE IN SIGHT – including a $5000 hit on management and ownership – on a team from another country nicely underlines two of my favorite themes: the weirdness of teams from other countries playing under the auspices of the USSF and the appalling lack of respect for soccer officials.

The former is apparently unfixable; it’s the kind of thing that we’re going to have unless and until Canada grows up and gets their own country instead of simply being Americas’ hat and I’m not holding my breath.

The second is the biggest problem with the beautiful game, and could be solved tomorrow.

There’s been much discussion about the new rules in the NBA where zillionaire players are now getting ejected for even the mildest dissent; the league decided to get serious about all the whining and fixed the problem with one simple memo.

Want to bitch about a call? Fine, see ya. And thanks for that enormous pile of money.

And while we can all stick our noses in the air and airily harrumph over the mouthbreathing, knuckle-dragging steroid freaks that the NFL calls football players, but the league referees – like game officials in every sport – routinely make game changing mistakes without being surrounded by crowds of insane howler monkeys, screaming and gesticulating and refusing – over and over and over – the officials’ orders to back off.

Is it because HandSpheroid players are more genteel and good natured than soccer players? More respectful of authority in general? Too stupid to understand when they’ve been shafted by a blind imbecile with a whistle? Less “fiery and competitive”?

Or is it because getting all up in an NFL officials’ face will not only find his wallet lighter by an enormous amount but there’s a good chance they’ll be suspended until they’re 40, and if it ever happened again they’d find themselves pushing brooms at a mall someplace.

In short “zero tolerance” doesn’t mean “we’ll be, like, really put out at you”. It means the wrath of Roger Goodell will descend upon your life and everything you do on a field will be put under a microscope from now until the end of time.

(And as a side note: what the hell does “suspending the Impacts’ Technical Director for six games” mean, exactly? That he’s not allowed to go down on the pitch? Wow. Talk about taking a hit.)

Yeah, yeah, don’t give me the “Well, they don’t make much money so a $200 fine or a $500 fine is the same as dinging Dwight Howard fifty million bucks” argument. I don’t buy it.

In the overall scheme of things, $200 is $200. Period.

I firmly believe that if MLS really wants to move up into the panoply of Big Boy Sports leagues the first thing – I mean the very first thing – that has to happen is for the players, at all levels, to learn that they have to say “Yes sir” to the guy with the whistle. Even when he’s wrong.

ESPECIALLY when he’s wrong.

American sports fans just don’t get this Debating Society school of game management. The call is the call. If it stinks, it stinks. The fans can boo as loudly as they want as long as they like. Feel free.

Soccer allows a different culture and it’s where incidents like this come from. Like they say about a problem kid in school: it’s not his fault, he was raised that way.

As for the Impact, this will sound churlish but it has to be said: that club and their fans have a serious thug mentality, for whatever reason – they always have – and MLS ought to stop counting the money for a few minutes and worry about it.

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