By Mark Carpenter –
As many of you are already aware, I like to give a hard time to all the soccer aficionados in my audience, explaining to them how dull their game is and how the rules make no sense. Most of this is just good-natured fun on my part, but I still have issues with the rules of soccer, perhaps because of my lack of understanding. To be honest, if it wasn’t for North Adams girls coach Dave D’Avignon, I may never be able to write a good soccer story, though I do now know what the term “clean sheets” means and Coach D didn’t even tell me.
To be honest again, I really don’t actually watch many soccer games, I just view them through a very tiny lens opening in a camera, following the ball around the field, looking for that magic action photo which will look good on our Sports pages. I do still have to look at the scoreboard, however, and that is where I begin to get aggravated. (High school soccer games are far too long, but that is not for this column.)
I think it is time to make some major changes in soccer rules. The rules now are geared to low-scoring, boring games when fans want to see action and scoring, at least this reporter does. Give me a good 9-8 soccer game any day of the week and the very first rule change in high school should be to eliminate all ties. These kids worked hard all week, prepared for a game, and then tied? Really? What fan wants to leave a game, not knowing who won or lost. We are a competitive society, we want winners and losers, not ties.
The answer is simple-shootouts! Think about how exciting that would be for the kids and fans to decide ties games with the shootout process. One on one for the win. No one goes home not knowing who won the game, though everyone should get their money back after a tie because they didn’t get what they paid for. If the shootout with the kids drags on and on, then bring on the coaches. Who wouldn’t love to see Coach Ike Wooten going one on one with Coach Kevin Hunter? Intense! Or how about Coach D’Avignon battling it out with Coach Brian Seaman? Just ideas, folks, but I like them.
Here’s another plan to increase scoring- for two minutes of each half, the two teams have to play without a goalie, like hockey teams do at the end of a close game. Think of this sight- a nice long shot is heading towards the goals and a defenseman is racing at his top speed to get there and kick it away, with both teams racing right behind him. Now that would be some soccer fun and make for some great camera shots.
Then there is that crazy thing in soccer called offsides. Penalize the offense because a defensive player gets caught out of position. That is like the NBA saying that LeBron is not allowed out ahead of the pack for a dunk, he has to wait for the other team to catch up. Take away the offsides and watch the scoreboard light up.
Here’s another unique idea. How about soccer get a penalty box like hockey? A flagrant push or a handball, or even the dreaded yellow or red card sends you to the penalty box. I am positive that somewhere here in Adams County there are a few old outhouses that could be set next to the soccer field to serve as the penalty box. Decorate it with a few pretty flowers, enhance the beauty of the pitch. (There’s another soccer term for you Coach D.)
How about this idea for keeping the fans and players totally engaged in the game? Play with two balls at once. How much fun would that be and how focused would the players have to be to handle that? Now it might be a little hard on me since I have a tough enough time following one ball around through the lens, but I could adapt. You might have to add a referee or two but that would be a small price to pay for the pinball-like excitement.
Here’s another way to add some excitement to the high school game-allow the players to celebrate after a goal. Of course, that would be guys only ripping their shirts off, but how many high school soccer players wouldn’t love to choreograph a dance to perform after finding the back of the net? If there is only going to be one goal scored in 80 minutes, might as well make it a memorable one. I know that North Adams’ Lakyn Hupp would be right on board with this idea-she is always smiling, posing, or dancing.
Now here is my one more pet peeve on soccer, and I know it is a European thing- but stop calling it football? Or futbol or whatever. Football is what I watched all weekend, sitting on the edge of my seat as our beloved Bengals pulled one out in the Big Apple. Now there was some excitement, not 80 minutes with a 0-0 outcome.
Yes, I am being facetious (for the most part) and no, I don’t totally hate soccer. Remember I had a daughter that played the game and played it very well through high school and three years of college, but I still didn’t want to see one of her games end up tied. I have offered up the answers. See you on the pitch!