The World Cup soccer matches on ESPN over the past few weeks have been so stirring that it makes you wonder if soccer will really gain a foothold as a major sport in the U.S. once a champion has been crowned. The athleticism, the conditioning, the patience and strategy to attack at just the right time make futbol irresistible. Anyone who watched Netherlands star Robin Van Persie track a ball that traveled 40 yards on the fly and then somehow head it at full sprint, and watch it land in the net just beyond the goalie’s reach, can see how remarkable this game is when played at high level. But can the sport ever catch on here–where the top sport is the kind of football where players get smashed and jump right back into the huddle–with all of the rampant flopping that seems such a distraction in these World Cup matches? In today’s tense match between Brazil and Colombia, there were more awards caliber performances delivered than in American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, combined. After every collision, a player hit the ground in agony and stayed there, like they’d been shot by a rifle. If there was no whistle, they healed in remarkably quick fashion, jumped up and joined in the sprint for the ball. It seems to be getting progressively worse, because the refs are falling for these performances time and again. Even Reggie Miller, the Indiana Pacers sharpshooter who turned flopping into an art form on the basketball court, would think these guys are overdoing it. The refs disallowed a Colombia goal on what looked like a bogus off sides call. They called that one badly, so how about making up for it with a couple of yellow cards to stop the most incessant ham-handed floppage performances? It might go a long way toward making a great sport even better, and you don’t get a better showcase than the World Cup.
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