Soccer is more interesting than Baseball

April 17, 2007

There are only two things that will get me to watch baseball on TV:

  1. The Astros are playing
  2. The World Series.

The rest of it is such an incredible bore of watching 7 people stand around holding their jocks while 2 guys play catch.

Now Soccer (er, Association Football) isn’t the thrill a minute sport of Basketball or Hockey, but at least everyone is doing something, running around and being athletic (barring the goalie). In baseball? Um…well…Home runs are exciting especially now that half the players are steroid-fed monsters. Watching a pitcher dominate an opposing lineup can be fun, except that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should (unless Roger Clemens is on the mound).

Baseball: Great game for going to the stadium and talking and drinking beer and only occasionally paying attention.

Soccer: Great game for going to the stadium and talking and drinking beer and paying some attention because there is always someone running around kicking a ball.

Therefore: Soccer > Baseball, but both less than American Football. And Basketball. And Hockey.

FlavaDave Says: This is one of those inevitable topics that we just had to discuss. I am aware of the fact that you are making a very specific arguement: Soccer is more interesting than baseball. I’ll stick to that.

One thing really bothers me about soccer: that the first half virtually does not matter most of the time. If both teams fail to score (or if they battle to a tie) and no major injuries occur, then nothing of any significance has happened. Yeah, players get tired, but both teams will be equally as tired, so it is a wash. Also, both teams have a better understanding of the other’s style of play, but that’s nothing a thorough scouting report couldn’t provide. All they really accomplished was to get a better idea of how the other team plans on attacking and defending them. That’s important, but not exactly earth shattering.

The first six innings of a baseball game are far different than the last three. Why? Because pitchers get tired. When you change pitchers, you might as well be bringing an entirely different squad onto the field. Every strike a batter fouls off and every ball he takes speeds up the exit of the current pitcher. Every curveball sets up a fastball. Every fastball sets up a changeup. Every hit causes a pitcher to throw out of the stretch and every stolen base takes away the double play. Every out takes away a chance to hit. Every error gives a chance right back.

If a soccer team gets a 4-on-3 and screams down the field, passes it around, tosses up a cross, and misses the shot, play stops. Goalie retrieves the ball. He kicks it into play. What has changed?

When a pitcher throws an inside fastball for a ball on a 2-2 count, you could argue that nothing happens. Then he throws an outside curveball on a full count for a strikeout. Now, you could argue that the previous fastball didn’t matter, and it was the curveball that worked. But in reality, it was because of the fastball that the curveball worked.

When that soccer team missed the shot, they regrouped, played defense, and got the ball back later in the game. They charged down the field again, and this time they scored.

My question is, why did the first missed shot matter? Until an actual goal is scored, isn’t it all sound and fury?

FlavaDave says: Now, if soccer was more like this, then it would be a whole different story:

Flinchbot Says: Car soccer rocks! There’s your new sport to take over the world. Forget the damn UFC – gimme soccar! (See how I spelled that? I’m a genius!)

As for your previous missive, well you missed. Based on your logic that if no one scores in the first half then it was a waste of time, explain a basketball game that ends 45-45 at halftime, or a football game that ends 14-14 at halftime? Was that all a waste of our time too? Barring injury, nothing happened, right? Both teams are equally tired so it’s still a wash?

In soccer, is it a wash at halftime of a 0-0 game if team A (Let’s call them FC Bayern Munich) possesses the ball 65% of the time and team B (Let’s call them FC Lottstetten 01) is chasing the ball around all damn half? And if FC Bayern unleashes 15 shots on goal and FC Lottstetten unleashes one shot on goal from roughly 27 yards away that ends up 48 rows into the stands? Was that really a wasted half? Because, barring the bizarre, FC Lottstetten will be exhausted in the second half (even after their three subs) while FC Bayern will be much fresher. And let’s not forget the mental game. I’ve been in plenty of basketball games where I felt lucky to be tied or close at half time and I’ve been in plenty of other games where I felt that the half time score was not indicative of what the score should be. In most cases, the second half ends up being dominated by the team that dominated the first half even if the score was close.

So were all of the missed shots in the first half just sound and fury? Nope – they were one team (FC Bayern) imposing their will on another team but for some reason (stellar goalkeeping?) not able to convert those shots.

Baseball is a game of statistics and minutiae, which is its main redeeming value. The ridiculous amount of statistics generated in baseball is awe inspring, invigorating, ridiculous and sometimes just plain stupid. But I don’t like minutiae. I don’t like watching a guy foul off three straight pitches, take a pitch or three, foul off another ball, then ground weakly to the shortstop. That wasn’t a waste of my time? I guess the pitcher got tired. And the next batter up could see what the pitcher was throwing. And the shortstop and the 1B could play catch for a second. And all kinds of small little things happened. ANd all of those small things could finally add up. That weak grounder could have been thrown into the stands. Then the runner steals second. And the batter bunts him to third, then a sacrifice fly scores the run. Hooray! A bunch of minutiae and strategy. But I forgot to mention that this all took about 8 minutes. No shot clock on the pitcher; 3 throws to first base to keep the runner close; a half dozen foul balls, etc. Yawn.

At least in soccer, somebody is always running or chasing something. The announcers spend just as much time as baseball announcers trying to be entertaining with amusing anecdotes since there is so much time to kill.

So really, it’s your choice to like a game that is constantly in a state of waiting with a potential burst of action versus a game that is contantly in a state of motion. Both games have about as much scoring overall (last season Germany’s Bundesliga averaged 4 goals per game) it’s just what you prefer to watch.

FlavaDave Says: Soccar. I love it.

Is a 14-14 Football halftime score mean that the first half of the game is virtually irrelevant in respect to the second half? Yes. Yes it is. I wouldn’t say it was pointless; I bet it was fun. Tony Romo sang some Journey, Joe Horn called his mom, or Bob Sanders took a dude’s face off. But competitively pointless? Yes. Barring no major injuries, the teams are right back at the start. The game has effectively been cut in half.

The difference between Football and football is that in Football a tie at halftime is not very common. A typical Sunday of games will have maybe one or two ties at halftime, but usually someone has the lead. Now, I don’t have the stats to back this up, but tie scores are pretty decently common in soccer, no?

The other factor is that football only resets at halftime. I don’t have to convince you of the importance of field position in Football. The previous play has a significant impact on the circumstances of the next play. What down is it, how many yards do we need, how close are we to the goal line? A coach and the players factor these questions into their thought process.

Shit, I’m supposed to be talking about baseball. Okay then, why does a batter shorten up his swing? Because there are two strikes in the count. The previous two pitches have a direct impact on what happens on this particular pitch.

But in soccer, your actions on any given play rarely are an effect of the play that happened earlier. Your team, while on offense, tried a cross with a header. It was very well defended and did not work. The next time, you try some penetration with a backwards pass to try and drill it in from long range. And yes, you are trying something different because your previous strategy was no good. But are you doing this specific play because of that specific play? No, you started something. It died. Now you are starting something else. You could do anything. You could even try the cross again. Whatever.

What if Team A dominates a soccer game, but never scores. Team B stinks up the field. But a player on Team B draws a penalty kick and coverts. One play, one fleeting moment of success. Team B wins. What?

This is impossible in baseball. If Twins dominate the White Sox, the offense is going to score 6 runs and the pitching is going to allow no runs. But let’s say the Sox get lucky and chip a homer off of Joe Nathan. One pitch, one fleeting moment of success. Way to go, Chitown. Instead of losing 6-0, you lost 6-1.

Look, soccer is fun to watch. I’m not saying it isn’t. But there is a difference between fun and interesting. Rollercoasters are fun, but they aren’t interesting. A car on a fixed track goes really fast. That’s it. The essays of Ralph Waldo Emmerson are interesting, but they aren’t fun. I enjoy them, but I’m not like “Wheeeeeeee!”

You mention the great conversation associated with the baseball experience. Why don’t we associate conversation with Football? There is more dead space in an NFL game than an MLB game (8 seconds of action followed by 40 seconds of nothing). The reason is that baseball is facinating. It stimulates conversation. Batting averages, pitch counts, double switches, WHIP, sabermetrics, hit-and-runs, batting orders, outfielder positioning, should they bring in a lefty?, why haven’t they pulled the pitcher yet?, he should have taken that curveball the other way, etc.

Soccer is kinda fun, I’ll admit. It’s like hockey without the hits. But it isn’t very interesting. Some might argue that baseball isn’t fun (and I think you are). You know, I think I might agree. It isn’t fun to watch sometimes. But what’s wrong with just being interesting? Is there room in the modern sporting landscape for a purely intellectual endevor?

Flinchbot says: Let me wap this one up…If you imply that the first half of a tie game doesn’e matter, then by association it also menas that (in most cases) the first 40 minutes of an NBA game doesn’t matter. You know the old saying about the NBA – You only have to watch the last two minutes. So why don’t they make NBA games 2 minutes long and just be done with it? Make it like Volleyball and the first team to win 3 out of five 2-minute games wins the match.

As far as dominating a game and losing, ask Andy Hawkins who threw a no hitter and lost the game 4-0.

Anyway – I knew your strong British heritage would pull through and realize that Association Football is every bit as worthy as Baseball, if not more so.