Another World Cup has begun and that means another opportunity to explain away America's global soccer failures on our stubborn obsession with fairness and sportsmanship.
Experts agree that American soccer players are particularly bad at one essential skill of the sport: flopping. On the cusp of the U.S. team's opening match against Ghana, The New York Times reminded us why the U.S. just doesn't flop very well, or much at all. The practice of the flop is a tried-and-true method of manipulating each game's referee to make calls go your way by aggressively exaggerating fouls or the appearance of fouls. The benefit — as Brazil's Fred showed on the opening day of the World Cup (image above) — can be as decisive as an occasional undeserved penalty kick.
However, American-born players rarely flop and aren't great at selling their falls. The prevailing theory why that is? Flopping is dishonest and... un-American:
That idea [of flopping], though, runs contrary to the ethos of idealized American sports. As [World Cup assistant Tab] Ramos said, American athletes are typically honest on the field, no doubt influenced by years of being told to be strong, battle through contact and finish the play. The tendency of American soccer players to eschew diving, [ex-player Kyle] Martino said, is directly related to the fact that diving is one of the things that soccer critics in the United States rail against so passionately.
To the major practitioners of the flop — Europeans and South Americans — flopping is part of the game. In the States, however, it's often cited as one of the key aspects of soccer that keeps it from wider American acceptance. In basketball or hockey, for instance, the worst thing you can be accused of is taking a dive just to get a call.