So, when was it that we as a civilization were endeared to making success by faking misfortune? Was there a high-water mark that hard work, dedication and “nose to the grind stone” was surpassed by showmanship and exaggeration of injustice? If so, I must’ve missed it whilst I was busy engrossed with my head down working tough jobs for meager wages and trying to better myself. I digress….
I’m sure to earn a lot of scorn, and maybe get a small bit of praise for the following. I am not nor have I ever played the game of soccer. Except once in the late 80s in Mississippi at an Air Force Base. At the time we had these British and Irish gents enlisted in the USAF. I’m not sure they still have this program, but at the time someone from the UK could serve in the US military and earn citizenship. Anyway, we had a series of “football” games on Saturdays in which their prowess and skills clearly outshone mine. But it was all in good spirits and no flopping broke out.
I’m sure by now most people are aware of the art of flopping. Basically, it’s the melodramatic display an athlete takes when pushed or physically challenged. This “malingering” to gain an advantage has some historical precedents, but it’s about the same con we take to work on the sorrow of others.
Like most Americans, I don’t dislike soccer, but also don’t take the same rabid fervor to follow every aspect, stat and angle of the game. I just don’t see the same religious dedication to details as one that can recite the ERA of top baseball pitchers of the MLB or the mundane facts of Fantasy Football as one who follows the NY Red Bulls or the LA Galaxy. But like most of us who run furiously to catch up to the accelerating bandwagon of the World Cup, I watch with an attention span that has an expiration shelf life of about 3 or 4 weeks.
So, it was my surprise to see top athletes from around the globe fall in apparent ersatz injury. I’m not saying these athletes don’t experience pain. For God’s sake, just the physical skills necessary to play at such a level are amazing. But when I see someone get bumped, then fall down on the pitch and writhe in such agony as to mimic the death scene of Sgt. Elias in the movie Platoon, then instantaneously bounce up and run at full force as if nothing happened…..
This normally may not disturb me except that I am acutely aware of the story of Bert Trautmann. You see, Bert was a German POW in WWII who stayed in England and played soccer. Bert was the goalie for Manchester City in England’s prestigious Football Association (FA) cup final in 1956 against Birmingham City. In the last portion of the game, an opposing player collides into Bert with his knee on Bert’s neck. Bert is knocked out flat but is revived and assumes his position in the net, playing all the while his one hand caressing his sore neck. He actually stopped a key goal and eventually Manchester won the FA cup. Afterwards, Bert complains but soldiers on to meet Queen Elizabeth at the closing ceremony. Three days later it was discovered that the knee-neck collision actually resulted in the dislocation of 5 vertebrae in his neck, one of which cracked in half, potentially being fatal. I can only imagine what Bert Trautmann would say about the flopping antics of the World Cup if he were alive today (actually he died on July 19th 2013).
Flopping exists. Flopping has always existed in one form or another. But have we rewarded flopping in our society? I can’t imagine Tom Joad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grapes_of_Wrath) falling down in pain in the fields of Weedpatch Camp to elicit sympathy from local sheriffs. But then again, if they had YouTube in the Depression, his antics may have gone viral, ensuring him of his 15 minutes of fame.