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Old 05-26-2001, 06:10 PM   #1
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Soccer continues to suffer as a spectator sport in the U.S. for many of its deficiencies that sports fans disdain. People continue to wonder how soccer continues to be played by million of youths but has never translated into a major league sport that the same players or parents will watch on television or attend in person. And for this reason, you would have to believe that other sports would study soccer and not follow rules and actions from soccer that have been so detrimental to soccer's acceptance. The NBA already suffers from losing the Jordan mystique, but fails to recognize other factors contributing to declining ratings and fan support. Clearly no one would follow the example of a sport that has almost no fan support and copy their paradigm, unless you want a road map for disaster. The NBA adopted one rule that helps to explain why soccer has few fans and may never be accepted even over hockey as a national sport, the flagrant foul and its consequences.

Fans who want to watch athletes rolling on the floor in feign anguish after a phantom hit normally watch pro wrestling and its choreographed script. For unknown reasons David Stern must believe that people actually enjoy seeing people pretend injury and miraculously rise from the injustice of the non-hit. Stern must imagine that the reason for the WWF's hold on the demographics that the NBA craves has been because of the wrestlers pretending injury and then, with the fan support, fighting back from career ending hits.

Every player who has been fouled may now be compared to Rocky. And somehow since people paid to see all those Rocky movies they certainly would be much happier being able to see NBA players rising to Rocky music after having been slapped on the wrist or a touch foul. The NBA must be considering having each arena play Rocky music as the player writhers on the ground waiting for the refs to determine if the foul was determined to be flagrant. Unfortunately the players do not have the same convincing performance as those wrestlers from the WWF, and instead of being drama and sports entertainment, it only delays the game and deflects fan interest. Maybe all NBA players need attend mandatory WWF training in the off-season on how to act.

The flop has become an integral part of the game, but doing the European soccer carnage act should be stopped before it further damages the game and more fans become disillusioned with the tactic. Just as no one believes that a soccer player lying on the floor screaming has really been hurt after the doctor and trainer emerge and then the player somehow heroically plays through the broken leg/arm/spleen after finding out the opponent will not be removed, but the downed player suddenly has sufficient energy to arise, chase the ref, and plead his horrific injury should be cause to remove the opponent. Of course the injured player continues playing and all that has happened is 15 minutes of dead time. The WWF understands how to turn this into excitement, the NBA has no clue why it works for the WWF or Rocky, but not in the real world of sports.

The NBA could have adopted a tough flagrant foul rule without having to alter the flow of the game or interject more bad acting. Soccer has no clue on how to treat flagrant fouls and has no fan support, so why bother adopting rules from a sport that has only proved to turn off fans? The NHL would have provided a better model and has shown not to slow down the game with hockey players falling onto the ice, unless they really have been seriously fouled, and then action also follows with fines and suspensions for the action. The NFL also understands the importance of the flow of the game, and reviews plays and will issue fines for flagrant hits. But the NFL does not want quarterbacks in a fetal position after each sack or contact and turn into a soccer style game of players no longer appearing tough but as wimps and games lasting inordinate amount of time while phantom injuries must be addressed.

The NBA needs to address their flagrant foul rule and its impact upon the game, and how more and more players have gone from a mere flop, to feigning injury. And the flagrant foul feign will only continue to happen at a higher rate and for players to stay on the floor for longer periods of time attempting to bait the refs into calling a flagrant foul, where none existed. The NBA should reconsider its adoption of soccer rules, and instead adopt rules from successful sports when attempting to fix a problem. The NBA instead of actually fixing the flagrant foul, actually has exacerbated the problem by adopting rules which encourage players to feign a flagrant foul. If the NBA continues to want their ratings and fans interest to head towards soccer numbers, then they will continue to incorporate soccer's worse features into the NBA. Time to abolish the flagrant foul rule as instituted by the NBA and adopt rules that will not harm the game, but also provide real protection against the flagrant foul.

Louis Sears
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