AS45: Religion and Sports

We’ve gone a ton of shows in a row with demanding, intellectual topics. While this is definitely my favorite thing to do, occasionally it’s good to mix it up a little! So today is a more lighthearted topic: soccer. Is Ann Coulter right when she says it’s a liberal conspiracy to ruin America? No. It’s not even worth trying to make a little cliffhanger there. But I will ask this: is soccer an inferior sport? Is there such a thing? Thomas has got opinions as always!

Story referenced in the show:

8 thoughts on “AS45: Religion and Sports”

  1. You cannot provide objective and reasonable criticism on a topic of which you know almost nothing. I usually enjoy your podcasts, but this one was just ridiculous. I also applaud your trying a new sport and watching it. That said, wasting half of your podcast to disparage something that you know very little about was very frustrating to listen to.

    The biggest problem seems to be that you have certain criteria for what is an “exciting sport” (hockey and football, for you, based on what you said). Very American criteria. That’s like deeming Wall-ee as a crap movie because it doesn’t have enough explosions and and gunfights. The sports have different purposes, philosophies, and approaches. Soccer has it’s moments, but it generally isn’t an action movie (Football, Hockey). It’s more like a psychological drama. Like a chess game if each piece controlled its own movement, and the movements were constant and fluid.

    Soccer is a contact sport. Yes some injuries are faked. Some are not. Soccer players can actually become very badly injured while playing. They may not be as obvious as a bloody hockey wound, but the injuries are there. The reason why the players look like they are “flopping’ is because many injuries are muscle, bone, tendon, and ligament related. It’s the human version of slicing a puppet’s strings. You can’t keep playing/moving/standing even if can’t move your leg. And it doesn’t take much. A little twist or kick to the side of the knee, and down you go. Surgery to repair that fucking ACL again!

    You also seem to be underestimating the aggression down there. I played Stopper (position); my job was to separate the enemy player from the ball by any means necessary. My coach taught me how to tactile, elbow, take down, drag, stomp, kick, and otherwise harm the other player without a ref noticing. Most fouls aren’t caught. Soccer shoes and shin guards are really pretty useless to protect the Achille’s heel tendon and other weak spots. Add in poorly done headers, and you have even more “floppers” -> repeated minor concussions.

    Also, keep in mind that they are playing in Brazil (100+ temps) and many players are fasting (Ramadan). That is why the timing is extra fucked up. They had to add water breaks and other shit which normally wouldn’t happen in a real game. The environment is also increasing medical problems (heat stroke, dehydration, etc) causing more “floppers”. Not all flops are serious, but you think you’ve injured your knee ligaments/tendons/etc, then you do need sit still for a little bit. Esp if you’ve had prior injuries to that area. A little tear can turn to a giant rip, and you don’t want to turn a minor thing into another surgery.

    And no, that’s not every time you fall or get hit. At least where I played, we were trained to roll when we fall and pop back up to immediately run.

    Also, no. A good goalie is not guessing. And yes, I actually do say, “that crap goalie should have/shouldn’t have done blah blah blah.”

    It is not all jogging. Jogging is in-between lots and lots of sprinting. On that giant ass field. For almost 90 minutes straight.

    The rest is to help them recover from their injuries. Obviously. Soccer players, like players in other sports, get nasty, chronic injuries, and these games result in acute exacerbation.

    I will admit that time management strategies is a real concern amongst soccer fans. FIFA and other world organizations for the sport are extremely corrupt, and so changes occur slowly. When I played varsity in high school as well as in college, time was stopped for injuries, retrieving balls that had been kicked far out of bounds, etc.

    Also. World Cup games are LESS exciting than non due to the corruption of FIFA, extra rules, etc.

  2. Soccer. Sure, you can call it that. It will always be voetbal for me.
    About last second goals and stuff. Thats actually why the clock is like that. It is designed NOT to stop a goal in the making, just because they where 0.5 seconds late.

    About names. Who the hell are you to tell us that we are not supposed to pronounce names correctly? As a European person, i can tell you that pronouncing a name differently then they would say it, Why? Really. Thats their name. Just say it.

    My name is John. Everybody calls me John. I don’t live in a English speaking country, But why add a dutch accent when trying to pronounce my name? I like my name just fine the way it is.
    Maybe its different in `murrica, but this way works fine here. Where are not gonna dumb it down for you.

    1. Oh, and also, nice show. 4 stars.
      And thanking god definitly is not the way we usually do it for the dutch soccer team. Both our couch and captain are atheist. And for most other players i just cant find out.
      Still Robben is a christian. But i never saw him thank god or such. and i believe we have a Muslim or 2.

    2. I don’t think I get your point. Mexican people call me Tomas all the time and I guess I just don’t care. That’s how the name is pronounced in their language so they usually revert to that. I don’t know what John sounds like in a dutch accent but John is a pretty tough one to mess up, isn’t it? Anyway my point was their are SO many different languages and dialects that it seems like a waste of time with hardly any benefit to make sure everyone knows exactly how every name is pronounced in a given language and dialect. Example: if someone’s last name is Nguyen, how do you pronounce it? There are at least 4 different ways that I’ve heard people whose name that is use, so it’s just a guess every time. I’m just saying people ought not to care all that much about pronouncing it just right. But it’s true that it’s likely different in Europe.
      Thanks for listening though and I always appreciate the tough feedback!

      1. Well, if someone’s name is Nguyen, I would still pronounce it the way he/she himself does. What does it matter if there are 4 or 40 other ways to say it?. But the example you used is Obama. Who does not know how to pronounce his name?
        As to how to mess up the name John, probably the easy way is to add an S, Sjohn or it might up sounding more like Yohn.
        And its not that I would take offence if someone is unable to say my name. I would take offence if someone is refusing to do so because it doesnt match his or her accent.

  3. I enjoyed hearing your perspective on football (soccer, but I’ll call it football). A few comments, which may help you understand the reasons for some of the problems you rightly point out. I’m not trying to be an apologist for football, it’s not my favourite sport but I sometimes watch it. However, you are a bit off the mark in a couple of areas which I’ll hopefully explain.

    And the less said about that Ann Coulter article the better. She clearly does not know what she’s talking about.

    The acting contest

    Well put! Football has a big problem with players trying to fool the referee into giving decisions in their favour. European and South American audiences have become de-sensitised to this phenomenon, having been exposed to it for so long, and I’m glad some Americans are pointing it out, as I’ve tried to do this as a bit of an outsider to die-hard football circles myself, but to no avail.

    Players’ incredibly high wages are the root of this problem. Some of our top “stars” (who got knocked out well before the US strangely enough) earn obscene sums, the equivalent of about $1M per month. This cannot really be justified, although you’ll hear some people try. There is just too much money in the sport. This creates players with huge egos, and managers and fans who believe these players are beyond criticism. Hence the players become spoiled, mollycoddled divas who dive around, feign injury and are more concerned with their appearance and how they can seem to be unfairly treated victims, than actually just getting on and playing. The game becomes about fooling the referee rather than trying to be better. Of course, all this ties into the “flopping” problem.

    Flopping Hell

    I’ll call it “diving” as that is the word used in the UK. It has become prevalent for a couple of reasons, firstly simply because it’s often easier to go down and pretend you were fouled than actually beat a player one-on-one, especially if you think the referee either won’t spot your acting, or will just accept it and not punish it.

    The second reason (more my own take) is because of the failure of FIFA (the sport’s world governing body) to provide adequate resources and training for referees, to help spot the problem, and refusal to back them up if they dare to clamp down on it. This has led to the diving problem becoming so entrenched. Some FIFA advocates may claim that FIFA don’t have much influence over the game apart from World Cups, but who knows how far their influence goes into the national associations? It’s strange that World Cups are proving grounds for little rule tweaks that always seem to later make it into the game at large, if they really are so powerless.

    FIFA have long been insistent that referees should be the sole arbiters of the game on the field. They have repeatedly resisted attempts to introduce proper innovations, like TV replays or goal-line technology (the latter is actually new to this World Cup, believe it or not) or any new kind of technology into the sport. This is of course made worse by the fact that they don’t even provide proper support to referees either, and we often have the problem of not being able to find enough refs (why would anyone want to get shouted at by players from both sides and threatened by fans?).

    Chief among the culprits for this malaise is Sepp Blatter, the dinosaur at the head of FIFA who is so resistant to change, it’s unreal. He seems to have some strange myth in his head about the “purity” of football. Furthermore, the game is run by a Byzantine network of committees on both international and national levels, leading to red tape and more resistance to change.

    The Time Check

    Of course it would be great if timing in matches could be controlled by giant digital stadium clocks, which could stop when the ball goes out, and be run by a device on the referee’s wrist. Such ideas have been suggested many times, and pretty much ignored by FIFA. Note however that such technologies could only be used at high levels of the game and not your local amateur kick-around.

    Your suggestion that the time system is completely random does seem to be a bit off the mark though. The referee is in control, and is supposed to add the time on equivalent to that of stoppages at the end of each half. The time to be added, which has a plus or minus thirty second variance (in theory), is revealed at the 45 and 90 minute marks via a scoreboard from the assistant who is in contact with the referee. So in theory it works, but in practice I’ve seen little evidence to suggest that the time added is either consistent to what was stated before, or consistent with the time lost during that half. Likely some referees add too much time, others too little. Again, we’ve become so used to it, it barely registers.

    Sorry if this seemed like a rant but I needed it. In conclusion, many of the problems you’ve correctly identified can be traced back to FIFA and their failure to advance the game on so many levels. I recommend you check out this article from the BBC showing our perspective on “the American perspective”.

    Hard luck on the US getting knocked out: I’d have like to see you beat the Argentinians after Belgium. Your team brought some much needed direct attacking play to the competition. They are way better than England.

    But again, thanks for calling it as you see it as far as football goes, as these problems have just been accepted as part of the game for far too long. If FIFA only woke up and smelled the coffee, I believe they have the power to solve many of these issues.

  4. I have to say I did not really enjoy most of this episode.I am a person who has no interest in watching sports as I find them boring unless I am playing myself. I realize this is a personal preference and talking about sports is fine but you spent two thirds of the podcast talking about it. I ended up skipping ahead trying to get to the end of it and was shocked that I had to go to the thirty minute mark to get there. So my feedback would be to try and not spend so much time on things that have nothing to do with the main subject of atheistcally speaking. The first part where you talked about sports doesn’t really seem to fit into your podcast unlike the later part.

    That said keep up the good work as I enjoy your podcast even if I do get frustrated with you in the debates sometimes.

  5. I think the American analog to soccer flopping is professional wrestling. I wander how many retired soccer players bulk up on steroids for a second career on cable TV.

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