90 minutes of my life devoted to a game that ended in a TIE!!!
"I'm so glad the World Cup is nearly over. Who could possible devote 90 minutes of their life to watching a game that ends in a tie! Come on!"
That last part he said with a disappointed shake of his head.
To be fair, he said all this jokingly, but since I consider myself a writer (and therefore deeply sensitive) I am retaining the right to be offended by this. I almost considered crying myself to sleep that night at this most egregious of insults to my beloved game. So in the spirit of good natured jibing back and forth, I thought I would put together a three part guide to understanding the Tie in soccer for those less enlightened individuals.
I get it. I do. To end a game in a tie just sounds like both teams are accepting defeat right? I mean, it's like they just look across the field at each other and say something like:
"Hey dude, I got in a few good shots, you got in some, but I'm tired. What do you say we just call it a draw and go home and get something to eat?"
I mean the very word 'tie' has all sorts of negative connotations, even outside of sports. If you've ever worn a tie, you know they had to have been invented by a sadistic man, or a woman trying to get even with a man for inventing high heels. Wearing one to a job interview is like saying to the HR person across the table: "I dressed up for this, to show you how much I want this job." All the while in your head you're saying: "I'm really a slob and normally wear flip-flops, cargo shorts and t-shirts with BBQ stains, so don't you dare expect me to dress like this everyday or I'm outta here!"
If you say: "Yeah I tied up the dog outside." Someone from PETA is likely to come to your house and throw red paint at you and call you a dog hating Nazi.
If a man holds up a gun and says he's going to tie you up, you're probably not saying: "Awesome, I wonder if he'll give me candy."
If you do say something like that, I'm worried about you.
But to understand a game that can end in a tie, you must have a better understanding of soccer as a system. The fact is that the whole notion of games ending in a draw (that's the proper word for it - and by proper I mean, that's what the English say) is tied very closely to the concept of relegation, grueling tournaments, and making every game mean something to every team.
But before I get into the nuts and bolts of why Soccer games are allowed to end in a tie, I would like to contrast Soccer against some of the more popular "American" sports that us Yanks are so proud to support.
Is there a sport more boring to watch than basketball? Maybe badminton, professional bowling or curling. Though to be fair, curling does look like hard work, and those folks appear quite serious when they're attacking the ice with that little broom. Basketball, however, is a prime example of a sport that's almost too easy. In fact you really only need to watch the final moments of any game, because those are the only points that matter. Each basket scored prior to that has such a nominal value because of the flood of baskets to come that they have no real worth. Pass, dribble, shoot, score. Rinse and repeat.
Trying to tell me the value of any shot in basketball is like trying to sell ice to an Eskimo, or selling buckets of sand at the beach in Florida. Why would I want more sand, I already have it everywhere you dummy! It's here on my towel, stuck between my toes, in my shorts and, oh yeah it's EVERYWHERE!
Basketball is just about the only sport where it's nearly ILLEGAL to play defense. You see grown men complaining to the ref:
"Ref!" the player shouts in his whiniest voice, stomping up and down like a child denied a treat at the store, "He tried to block my shot ref. He touched me ref! I can't shoot if he touches me while I shoot. It's a foul. He's not allowed to do that."
Defense is so offensive (no pun intended) in the game, that if you do try to stop your opponent from scoring, the game is stopped and the poor victim gets free shots at the basket with NO ONE GUARDING HIM! They're actually called "free throws" they are so easy. I mean come on. Even in soccer penalties there is a goalie for crying out loud.
If you continue to play this way, you accrue fouls and you are eventually punished by being forced out of the game.
That'll show you to play defense you brute!
Watching a professional or collegiate basketball game is basically watching 5 guys drive to the hoop, while the opposition's 5 guys grab a breather and wait for their turn to drive to the basket. It's so rare to see a team actually playing defense. Nowadays a blocked shot is a bit like a Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster sighting. Everyone looks around incredulously at the folks sitting next to them asking: "Did you see that, or am I imagining it?" because it's so rare. There is something exciting when we see it happen because we know it's not supposed to happen. It's like they are breaking the rules, going all 'Bonnie and Clyde' on the establishment and blocking a shot, so we all jump up and root for the criminal we just glimpsed as though it were a unicorn or a leprechaun such is its freakish, fabled nature.
Here's another question for all you Basketball fans out there. Why have there been no major scandals involving professional Basketball players using performance enhancing drugs? Even the NBA commissioner agrees the NBA does not have the same PED problems as the MLB, NFL, and even professional cycling. (Granted the NBA commissioner stating there are no PED problems might be like Sepp Blatter saying FIFA has no problems with corruption, but stick with me for a second).
So why does the NBA not have their own Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, or even Lance Armstrong? Certainly it's not a case of the high moral standards of the players. I mean, looking for morality in any professional athlete is a bit like looking for ice cubes on the surface of the sun. So then why do NBA players not use performance enhancing drugs? The answer should be obvious to everyone.
Because the game is already too easy!
How about they make the game more difficult? Take away subs, don't let guys come off the court. Let them get tired. Make the rim move or something. Or, just a thought, let the TEAMS PLAY DEFENSE!
Or better yet, put a sniper in the rafter with a 12 gauge shotgun firing bean bags at the players.
Now I'd watch that!
Another good friend of mine, Joe, loves to extol the virtues of the manly sport of wrestling. I mean what is more masculine than pinning your opponent into submission in front of 3 to 5 adoring fans right?
Yeah, I don't think so.
(Also note, those 3-5 fans are ALL family members of the participant because no one really watches wrestling unless they have to out of familial obligation).
What is so masculine about strapping on a tight, revealing unitard and then getting on the ground and playing a bizarre game of twister with another sweaty man who is ALSO WEARING A UNITARD!
And you do all this, while the both of you wear a Princess Leia hairdo style helmet.
I don't get it.
Seems to me, they should make both guys face one another prior to the start of the match and say: "Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." just to see which one doesn't laugh at the other.
In part two of this series, I will discuss two more extremely popular 'American' sports that do not end in ties. In part three, I will discuss the nuts and bolts of the tie, to help understand why it's a vital part of Soccer.