Don’t hate the ref, hate the game

Posted on September 6, 2011 3:52 pm

So on Labor Day the Kansas City Wizards (shut up) eked out a point against one of the stingiest defenses in the league.  They were screwed.  Not only that, they were screwed by a correct call.  Correct, at least, according to the simple-minded way we interpret passive offsides these days.  Future historians will look back on 21st century soccer, and wonder if we were drinking lead-flavored Gatorade.  But oh well.

For those of you too cool or lazy to click highlight links, on the first Los Angeles goal, Adam Cristman is strolling cheerfully near the penalty spot while Sean Franklin scores.  Good for my fantasy team, but bad for truth and justice. 

Insult was added to other insult later in the game, when Aurelin Collin’s goal was called back because he was offside.  However, replays showed that Collin was clearly onside.  Admittedly, it was Omar Bravo who kept him onside, but that’s no more silly than the rule as written.  Collin was the defender victimized by the first Franklin goal, as well, which made the sad mime face he pulled (at 4:33 in the video) all the more poignant and/or hilarious. 

There wasn’t visible daylight between Collin and the last defender, either, but I’m not going to win that battle any time soon, either. 

Law 11, by itself, isn’t the problem.  Law 11, despite its horrible reputation, is fairly easy to explain to newcomers – “It’s so guys don’t stand right by the goalkeeper waiting for the ball,” you say; “Ohhhhh,” says the newcomer; and you and your protege continue to enjoy the match.

This, on the other hand, is the problem: Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees – which is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.

Seriously, look at this:

A guy can be standing next to the six yard box, and not interfering with play.  Admittedly, that diagram is hilarious, but the idea that a goalkeeper isn’t going to be distracted by an opposing player that close to the goal offends common sense.  If you’re in the penalty area, you’re part of the play.

This is not what the Fathers of the Game had in mind when they wrote the Laws.  And if they weren’t busy spinning in their graves over African and Indian colonies being given independence, they’d be spinning over this.  And all for the misguided notion of “increasing scoring”, as if gifting a goal to Bunker Bruce and the Destroyers, on the road, will somehow stimulate offense.   

At least Peter Vermes didn’t foam at the mouth with cliched self-pity over – no, just kidding, he did of course:

“We know one thing; it’s us against everybody,” Vermes said. “Nothing is going to go our way. We realize that, and that’s why our guys keep fighting back. They have unbelievable determination to get back into the game. They’re not going to die.”

Vermes is the guy who calls up and screams at the minimum wage customer service guy fresh out of college|the halfway house|a Third World war zone, while the supervisor sits in his office smoking opium and watching “Toddlers in Tiaras.”  Way to NOT fight the power, Peter.  Especially seeing as how the calls made in that game were, like Miss Manners, excruciatingly correct.  This isn’t gutty Kansas City triumphing over a Trilateral Commission of AEG, SUM, and Don Garber’s bookie.  The problem is in Zurich, not New York or Chicago.   

Just to reiterate -LiVESTrong Park sure looks nice.  (I too can capitalize words at random.)  Let us pause to note the seeming economic viability of a $200 million soccer stadium that seats less than 20,000 and fits, apparently, less than 25K.  That’s a far cry from the “Move the Wiz!” chorus we heard for the league’s first ten years.  Part of that economic viability may come at the cost of the turf, which seems to be a victim of the stadium’s popularity.  The Galaxy, who for years forced visiting teams to play on an X-Games landfill, have little room to complain, but paying fans of the Wizards (shut up) might.

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