As a stadium full of people in Germany and an impressive TV audience in the U.S. watched the last few minutes of Sunday’s Women’s World Cup game between the teams from Brazil and the U.S., a Brazilian player named Erika decided she could help her team hold their 2-1 lead by tumbling to the ground. In soccer it’s called “diving.”
The delaying tactic came back to bite Erika and Brazil in an area northwest of the quadriceps, but that’s not the point here.
Erika’s dive was not unprecedented. Male soccer players tumble to the turf as if they will die regularly enough so that some people say that’s why they don’t like soccer. Some call it theater. Others call it cheating.
But aren’t these players only doing in their fashion what those involved in other games do in theirs?
Baseball’s hitters take pride in pretending the fastballs with which they’re drilled don’t hurt. They don’t rub their arms or legs as they trot to first base, let alone fall to the ground as if they’ve been shot. But what of the coaches and managers who wander out to the mound, allegedly to talk to pitchers? What can they be saying beyond, “Throw strikes?” The conference on the mound is a transparent tactic designed to stop everything until the relief pitcher gets warm. Sometimes the outgoing pitcher and manager don’t even share a common language.
Football players and their coaches don’t need wily ways to stop the game; TV timeouts do it for them. Basketball players get those, too, and their game is also stopped cold about every 45 seconds so nine guys can stand around while one guy bounces the ball 11 times, breathes deeply, and tosses up a free throw. Even so, basketball players have their own version of “diving.” How often have you seen a whistle inspire the player upon whom the foul is called to lunge into the role of aggrieved innocent?
“Me?! You’re calling that on – I never touched him!” Up come the arms, empty of bad intentions, as our man pleads with everyone in the arena to recognize and rail with him against the referee’s insane decision. The player postures in vain, of course. Even he knows that. But having seen the boffo performance, will that official be slower to tag that player again?
Do soccer players dive?
Yes, and the sparks fly upward, and those soccer players have lots and lots of company.