The Question of Diving

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 1.50.11 PM

“I’ve seen some flops in my day. If they get the call, you actually got to kind of give them a little slow-clap for it, because it’s tough to do.” — NFL defensive end Jared Allen on flopping in the NFL, NFL Films

By now, you know what happened. It was Sunday in Brazil, and in the final minutes of a 1-1 match, the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben dribbled along the end line and cut inside on his left foot.

Mexico’s Rafa Marquez stuck his right foot into the play, missed the ball, and caught Robben’s toes with the slightest of trips at close to full speed.

If you haven’t seen the video, you can here.

Robben, of course, went flying into a theatrical dervish. The Netherlands earned a penalty in an eventual 2-1 victory. And Twitter nuclearized into a storm of moral outrage and diving jokes. I know this, of course, because I was on a flight somewhere over middle America, following the game on Twitter. For nearly two or three minutes — maybe shorter — I had no idea what had happened. All I could do was feverishly hit refresh. Robben dived. It was egregious. And how can you ANYONE enjoy a sport where a game can end like THIS?

“Just when I start to love you, soccer,” tweeted an American sports scribe who shall go nameless, “you go and pull some crap like that. Garbage.”

There was more.

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 1.25.27 PM

***

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 1.22.43 PM

***

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 1.21.56 PM

Anyway, you get it.

After the game, Robben admitted to diving — but not on THAT play. (He had actually committed a REAL dive, he said, in the first half.) The Mexican coach, as he is prone to do, lost his mind, ripping the referee. And we were treated to the usual debate about diving in soccer and the predictably annoying American reaction to said diving.

But I think something always gets lost in these back-and-forths, lost in all the noise, something that is right there in front of us. We are often told that diving is unsportsmanlike and un-American; that it is soft and unsavory and, for lack of a more nuanced word, stone-cold cheating. Diving is the thing — among many things — that keeps the casual American fan at arm’s length from the beautiful game. That’s one narrative, anyway.

But there’s something about these debates that always feels misguided. Yes, nobody likes flopping. Nobody likes the idea of a player taking a truly dishonest dive — especially one that could sway the game. Well, nobody, except Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and receiver Hines Ward, who were once captured by NFL Films clip, gleefully celebrating a bit of simulation from Ward.

“Like Danny Ainge,” Tomlin yelled, “taking a charge!”

“That’s a Vlade Divac,” Ward said.

That’s the segment from NFL Films. You have to wait a bit to get to Tomlin and Ward, because, well, there’s are lot more Robbens in the NFL than you might believe. Over-exaggerating calls might not be a major fabric of the NFL culture, but it is certainly there, and apparently even hard-asses such as Jaren Allen can appreciate it.

It’s interesting, of course, that Tomlin and Ward used NBA players as their flopping role models. But maybe not that interesting. We’re guessing Ward and Tomlin don’t watch a lot of Serie A, and the NBA has had issues with flopping for years, trying to legislate the practice out of the game.

But the real question, and one that I’ve been thinking about for the last 24 hours, is this: When is it DIVING and when is it selling a call? And can we talk about this in a way that’s slightly more nuanced than ripping an entire sport after a heady play from a world-class forward in the final seconds of a great match.

Robben was tripped at close to full speed in the penalty box, and he sold the call with a slightly hilarious flourish. And given all the evidence, he should have. So what’s wrong with this?

When Nets guard Paul Pierce was a young player in Boston, he regularly led the NBA in drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. A reporter asked him about this once, and he responded with a line that was equal parts funny and brilliant. What was his secret? Well, when Pierce met a defender at the rim, he would often scream: “AHHHHH!!!!!”

This happens in all sports, of course. Punters flop on the ground, and college basketball fans rip Duke for taking too many soft charges, and in a very distant cousin to flopping, baseball hitters theatrically leap out of the way of borderline inside pitches, a visual cue to the umpire: That was definitely not a strike.

This is what Robben did yesterday. He provided a visual cue — one that even Kobe could appreciate.

And then there is LeBron James, arguably the greatest athlete in the world. LeBron is about 6-foot-9 and 380 pounds, so you would think he could survive a little contact here and there. But during his first decade in the NBA, James has gained a slight reputation for milking calls.

Really, you say? Yeah, really.

But here’s the thing about LeBron. In nearly every one of these “flops”, there was some sort of contact and some sort of foul. But that didn’t stop James from exaggerating the contact — just as it didn’t stop Robben. Most of those exaggerated fouls on James, of course, didn’t decide a game. But sometimes, of course, they do.

And so here we are. The World Cup continues. Netherlands moves on. And more players will try to win calls in the penalty area. And perhaps Robben, a paper-machete striker who looks like he’s 47, is not the best poster-child upon which to build a diving defense.

Nobody likes a phony. People hate the real DIVING in the NBA and NFL, too.

But for the past 24 hours, I’ve been thinking about Robben and his final play. And amidst all the noise, jokes and ethnocentric soccer hate, it seems pretty clear: What’s more American than a little bit of selling?

Advertisements

Running Boston.

3540_10101302461678319_2096793145_n-1

BOSTON — The city was quiet.

The sidewalks were empty. The sun was luminous, reflecting off the Charles. The humming of traffic echoed off the concrete and against the exterior of Fenway Park.

It was a Thursday in April, three days after the bombs went off, and I decided I needed to run through Boston. I had arrived in town on Wednesday, to see a girlfriend, a vacation scheduled weeks before the annual marathon. But as I laced up my running shoes for a jog from Cambridge, just near MIT, to Back Bay, where the bombs had ripped through the finish line, the man hunt was still on.

I don’t know why, but running felt like the right thing to do. Whenever I hit a new city, I always like to explore with a pair of running shoes. You can feel the pulse that way; you can feel the way the neighborhoods connect, the way people live and work in a great American town.

So yes, I wanted to see Boston, to feel the sidewalks underneath my feet, to feel the remnants of the marathon. But mostly, I just wanted to see how the city was surviving.

Continue reading

Forward in Boston

photo 3

I went to Boston last weekend because I wanted to see the marathon the year after.

Marathons have environments that defy logic. I’ve seen them in St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas and now Boston. To think: An event that considers its origin the death of a Greek messenger sharing the good news of a battle is equated with a party. But it’s true. Marathons have evolved from the necessity of Pheidippides, to the straight-business approach of most of the twentieth century, to block parties full of behavior that would be considered odd in about every other circumstance. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

An ode to bad beers

photo (7)

The bar’s shipment of PBR had not arrived, and I really didn’t know what to order. And they didn’t have Coors Original, either. So the top two beers I am most likely to drink were not options.*

*I know these beverage choices could not sound more hipster, but I promise I was drinking PBR before I knew any hipsters did. …AND I also realize that saying you did something before someone else or being in hipster denial are the most hipster traits one can possess. Damn it. 

Resultantly, on Wednesday night, I spent a solid minute looking at a list of beers that might as well have been written in Farsi because I knew nothing about the selection in front of me. I settled on what may have been a seasonal Sam Adams beer but pretty much just wanted to tell the waitress to pour anything of amber tint in a glass (except for the famous Sochi water) and I’d be happy. And I got to thinking, (and when I get to thinking, I often get to writing sprawling blog posts, so here we are): I have no clue how to differentiate beers and I don’t even have a preference for different tastes. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

My most reliable rebounder

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 3.38.41 AM

For as long as I can remember, my dad always answered the phone the same way:

“Frank Dodd!”

It was his signature, the emphasis always put on the second syllable. “Frank-DODD!” From rotary phone (our house had one), to the years we installed a second line to appease my older sister (early 90s!), to the black car phone my dad installed on the floor of his 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis, it was always the same: “Frank DODD!”

These days, it’s an iPhone.

You should see it. My dad can do many things on that new iPhone. He can check Facebook, and “favorite” my Tweets on Twitter, and he can fire off a group text to his four kids. On Tuesday night, my dad’s 70th birthday, I was sitting courtside at the Baylor-Kansas game in Waco when the latest text buzzed in.

“KU was in control all the way,” my dad texted.  Baylor should be better!!!!”

(Yes, Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew takes heat from everyone.)

But for every tech upgrade, for every new year and every new phone, my Dad has always answered the phone the same way: “Frank DODD!” There is something friendly about it, something honest, simple and helpful

Something that feels just like him.

Continue reading

Being in India

09300025

The car accident was actually the perfect welcome to India. About ten or fifteen of us, fresh off the plane and jetlagged from twenty hours of travel, boarded a bus for a ninety minute ride from the Kochi Airport to the hotel in Thrissur. It was inescapable to not quickly notice that we would experience an eventful ride. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Best of 2013*: The List

Screen shot 2013-12-27 at 10.14.37 AM

So every December, for the last couple years anyway, I’ve been compiling a list of my favorite songs from the previous 12 months: My year-end mixtape, so to say.

Now before we go forward, my list is a little different. And the ground rules are pretty simple. The list is not limited to songs from 2013 (or whatever year it happens to be). They can come from any year … with the following caveat: This list is songs I listened to A LOT in the past year. Some were old, most were new, but all meant something to me. And when I hear these songs in the future, I’ll probably think about 2013.

I’ve been passing out the mixtape for the last couple years, and this time, I’m sharing the track listing here. So enjoy.

1. “Providence” — Fourth of July

Year it was released: 2010

2. “Running If You Call My Name” — Haim

Year: 2013

2. “Afterlife”— Arcade Fire

Year: 2013

4. “Shadow People” — Dr. Dog

Year: 2010

5. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” — Drake

Year: 2013

6. “Letter From An Occupant” — New Pornographers

Year: 2000

7. “Cannons” — Youth Lagoon

Year: 2011

8. “Further On Up The Road” — Bruce Springsteen

Year: 2002

9. “French Navy” — Camera Obscura

Year: 2009

10. “Byegone” — Volcano Choir

Year: 2013

11. “Sunday” — Earl Sweatshirt, Ft. Frank Ocean

Year: 2013

12. “Then He Kissed Me” — The Crystals

Year: 2013

13. “Friend of a Friend — Fourth of July

Year: 2010

14. “Another Is Waiting” — Avett Brothers

Year: 2013

15. “Man” — Neko Case

Year: 2013

16. “Everlasting Arms” — Vampire Weekend

Year: 2013

17. “Elephant King” — Yellow Ostrich

Year: 2012

18. “My Face” — ACBs

Year: 2011

19. “Love” — Dr. Dog

Year: 2013

20. “Young Fathers” Typhoon

Year: 2013

Stuff…and not having any of it

For two weeks this summer I had to be a drifter. This transformation of lifestyle was driven not by choice but rather inconvenience as the lease at my old place ended on July 31, a full two weeks before the lease at my new place began. This is a common problem in State College, where I live as a writer, aka a conscientious objector of the real world.  Unlike in most cities, where I suspect these two weeks would be viewed as an obvious nuisance, State College has the perfect can-do attitude that turns any obstacle into an opportunity. This city, after all, ranks among the places leading this country in intelligence, as well as among the places leading this country in arrests for drunkenly stumbling into the wrong house at 4 a.m. (Ed’s note: The mayor would not confirm this last detail for me.) One of my friends opined, in fact, that bumming around on couches is a Hajj-ian experience for college town residents, an action that must be undertaken at least once. Over these two weeks I easily found refuge at two friends’ apartments and was even able to sleep on a mattress. There was no need for an extended stay motel or to browse AirBNB. Problem solved.

So the hard part wasn’t securing a free bed; it was figuring out what to do with my bed. WTF was I going to do with all my stuff? Continue reading

Tagged , ,

The last match of James Blake

Source: AOL

I bought so many headbands in the fall of 2005. Not the 90s fashionable kind for women, mind you, the athletic kind. I bought a black headband and a Carolina blue headband with the white Nike swoosh, a red headband with the black Jordan jump-man logo and, knowing my taste in tropical colors, probably something neon yellow.

I bought all of these headbands because of James Blake. He had become my favorite athlete. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Coming to the (late) realization that “Garden State” really sucked

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 8.16.30 PM

In the summer of 2004, a few months before I entered my senior year of high school, I saw the movie Garden State for the first time.

This is almost 10 years ago now. Dubya was still in the process of running for a second term, the Iraq war was in its second year,  and the iPhone was still three years away.

And along came Garden State, a little indie flick that seemed predisposed to capture the morose and whiny nature of a generation of 20-something dudes in a post-9/11 America . It was also, depending on whom you asked, the “it” movie of the summer. And it reached this status for a number of reasons. It had a trendy soundtrack (more on The Shins in a minute), a young director (Hey that’s Zach Braff from Scrubs!), and it came onto the scene as an emerging internet culture greased the skids for a more friendly atmosphere for independent movies.

So, of course, I saw the movie that summer, and to put it one way, I was down with Comrade Braff and the movement. Garden State was cool. But it was cool in a way that the bands “Grizzly Bear” or “Sufjan Stevens” are cool. It was sardonic and darkly funny and sort of depressing and also greatly ambitious. But it was all these things … while still also maintaining a level of authenticity. Maybe it was cool because Braff was just a young kid that wanted to make a movie. And he did it. Or maybe Garden State was cool, because you saw it, and the rest of your high school hadn’t. Or something like that.

Continue reading

Advertisements