Soccer in America
On Tuesday evening I watched game 7 of the Caps/Flyers series at the 51st State in Foggy Bottom. Yeah, that's right... I got on the Caps bandwagon hard. And it hurt. It was Chad Barrett scoring at RFK last November, it was the Cavs outpacing the Wiz by 30 on Monday night and then it was an OT goal at the Phone Booth on Tuesday night. And then I went home, turned on the computer and had pocket aces cracked by pocket jacks. Brutal all around. But this isn't the point.
My friend S, who is very smart and observes all, made an interesting comment to me as we made our way through too many pints. He said, "Look at baseball, which is the most popular sport in America, but is, for the most part, a boring game." True. He pointed out that American sports fans seem to have a preoccupation with statistics and that maybe baseball is so popular because there are so many statistics to throw around while you are trying to make your way through three innings of shallow pop flys and slow roller ground outs to the second baseman who has chewing tobacco juice on his shoes. You are always hearing about "on-base percentage after the 7th inning with runners in scoring position by lefties against righties from Spanish-speaking island countries" and "slugging percentage". And all these statistics have fun, convenient abbreviations, like OBP(A7RISPLvRSSIC) and BB and HBP.
So maybe MLS would do well to create (invent?) more statistics for viewers to track with the hope of keeping the American sports fan occupied through 0-0 draws and defensive bunkering. Perhaps teams stats like "most team passbacks from the middle third to the keeper" or individual stats like "percent time of possession spent with back to goal". In fact, in all seriousness, I heard on last Thursday during the CLB @ DCU match that Alejandro Moreno was the most fouled player last year. It wasn't immediately obvious to me what it was about AM's game that would put him in a position to be consistently fouled. I don't know that he is a big flopper.
Do you have ideas for more stats that MLS could track? Is this plenty? Discuss your ideas in the comments and be sure to give some thought to how too many numbers being tossed around may cause Eric Wynalda's head to explode.
Only tangentially related to this topic: Mike and Mike, on ESPN2, spent a TON of time on their show Tuesday morning talking about how Andrei Kirilenko had flopped (OMG!) and drawn an offensive foul call at the end of the Game 2 of the Jazz/Rockets series. The foul call waved off a made 3 pointer and allowed the Jazz to steal a road win. Golic was absolutely astounded that such an injustice could be allowed to stand. Green was more practical, trying to figure out how to punish a player who flops within the current NBA rules of fouls and technical fouls. It was hilarious to see two grown men so upset at how a blown call or slight embellishment by a player could effect something like 3% of a team's total point instead of, as any soccer fan knows, perhaps 50% or 100%!!