The seven deadly sins of World Cup diving

Tensions rise, flags wave high, people cry, and players … players dive. Okay, that’s not all that happens in a World Cup – there’s a lot of good stuff – but we also can’t ignore it. The practice of diving seems to have become part of the game. Fortunately, the VAR (Video Assistant Referee system) is helping refs be less gullible and make the appropriate calls. Even then, it’s worth looking at these soccer “sins” that end up corrupting the beautiful game.

Slothful moves

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We’ve all seen that dive in which the forward can well keep running after a tackle but dives as soon as he sees the ball is a bit too far and is not convinced he can get to it. This ancient tactic seeks to fool the ref as it tries to do the least work possible for greatest result possible, many times faking a penalty kick. We’ve also all experienced those times a player dives to kill time when his team is winning.

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Angry-bird dive

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Players tend to get a bit heated and end up doing stupid things. And it seems that when they do, the following move is to dive as if the other player had done it. But, don’t despair, there’s hope. Players usually have the capacity to refrain from punching. They’d rather headbutt the enemy before diving. This gives them a lesser chance of not getting expelled. At least they keep some sanity.

(Zidane’s headbutt is, of course, an exception.)

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Envying-another’s-Oscar kinda dive

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An envious player is the one who just can’t get past other players’ best dives. Okay, maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration. But sometimes it seems that the game is about who is able to pull off the best diving move to trick the ref into calling a foul. This leads players to devise all sorts of creative (and overly exaggerated) dives and Oscar-worthy moves.

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Dive with pride, roll if denied

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A player will never admit he faked a foul. Even if the ref books him or if VAR confirms his acting, a player will not step back. For him, it will always be a clear foul and he would swear with his life that was the case, even if he knows it wasn’t. And trying to convince the ref that this is the case, the player will roll for as long as possible to see if the ref takes him seriously.

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Greedy-needy falls

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It’s not enough just to fool the referee with a dive. If the ref believes it, the player will want more by begging for a yellow or red card. It all comes in a package. The player will want to make the most out of his acting piece. At the end, it’s the nature of the soccer player to argue with the ref, no matter what happens.

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Gluttonous agony

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Don’t let the fit body fool you. Some professional players are more gluttonous than they seem! A glutton is never content with what he has and always wants more to fill his belly and life with excess of things. In the same way, some players are never content with deceiving the ref once. They have a performance of falls and dives for any minor reason: a simple touch on the arm, face, or (worst of all) the hair.

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Honorable mention (Footage of the ball definitely hitting Rivaldo in the face):

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And then there’s Suarez’s more literal example of gluttony:

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The lustful escape

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Let’s not take this one too literally. But we can say that just like lust can become an “easy escape” of momentary experience for a person struggling to confront the challenges of life, players tend to look for an “easy escape” to a challenging game by diving in the goal box,  – not to mention the pleasure they find in diving and fooling the ref and everyone else.

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COMING UP: A caveat on the great Tom Wolfe

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When the great Tom Wolfe died on May 14 — he of the white suits, the spats, and the prose style as exuberant as his wardrobe — I, like millions of others, remembered the many moments of pleasure I had gotten from his work.

My Wolfe-addiction began on a cross-country flight in 1979, shortly after The Right Stuff was published. Always an airplane and space nut, I was fascinated by Wolfe’s re-creation of the culture of America’s test pilots and astronauts at the height of the Cold War. And there was that extraordinarily vivid writing. At one point I burst out laughing, scaring the daylights of the elderly lady sitting next to me but not daring to show her the passage — it must have involved Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club, a saloon outside Edwards Air Force Base — that set me off.

After The Right Stuff got me going on Tom Wolfe, it was impossible to stop. The first half of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers — Wolfe’s scathing account of a reception thrown for the Black Panthers by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein — remains the quintessential smack-down of political correctness among the 1% cultural elites. From Bauhaus to Our House explains why anyone with an aesthetic sense thinks something is seriously wrong with modernist architecture, and does so in a way that makes you laugh rather than cry.

Then there was Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. One of its chapters, “The Masque of the Red Death,” takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe and with mordant humor dissects the vacuity of Manhattanites consumed (and in some cases destroyed) by their grotesque, over-the-top consumerism. I recently re-read that stunning set-piece and the thought occurred, as it had before, that it was a far more effective polemic against materialism than anything ever issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Bonfire was also brilliant in skewering the destructiveness of New York’s race hustlers, the obtuseness of a values-free media, and the fecklessness of too many politicians.

Asked once by monks who run a prestigious prep school what they might do to disabuse parents of the notion that their sons were doomed if they didn’t get into Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and the like, I suggested giving a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons to the parents of every incoming senior. Wolfe’s fictional tale of life on elite American university campuses in the 21st century is a sometimes-jarring exercise in the social realism practiced (a bit less brutally) by Dickens and Balzac. But Charlotte Simmons, like Wolfe’s other fiction, has a serious moral core and an important cultural message. The young innocent, the brightest girl in town who makes it to an elite university, gets corrupted by stages: and her moral corruption is preceded by intellectual corruption — the class in which she’s taught that there’s really nothing properly called “the truth.”

I do have one post-mortem caveat to register about Tom Wolfe’s oeuvre, which takes me back to The Right Stuff (and while we’re on that subject again, forget the inane movie). The central figure in Wolfe’s tale of aeronautical daring-do is Chuck Yeager, the man who first broke the “sound barrier” in the Bell X-1, and did so with a couple of broken ribs, which he managed in flight with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle. Yeager was an extraordinary figure who never became a national celebrity because of the (absurd) news blackout surrounding the X-1 project, and Wolfe clearly wanted to pay tribute to him as an unsung American hero.

To do so, however, Tom Wolfe seemed to think he needed a foil, and he cast astronaut Gus Grissom in that role: “L’il Gus,” the Hoosier grit lampooned as a bumbler to make Yeager look even better. And that was a grave disservice to the memory of Virgil I. Grissom, who did not mess up the second Mercury space flight (Wolfe’s account notwithstanding), and who gave his life for his country in the launch pad fire that consumed Apollo 1 — which Grissom knew to be a deeply flawed spacecraft and had urged NASA to improve.

So now that Tom Wolfe and Gus Grissom have both crossed what Wolfe once called the Halusian Gulp, I hope these two American patriots are reconciled. Both had the right stuff.