When William Shakespeare wrote, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”, not even he could have imagined that centuries later, it would be literal.
Modern day sports handle the pressures of centre-stage extremely well. Filled with drama and what not, they’re equally good value for money. You get your regular three B’s: banter, booze and babes. Of course, there are the goals and party-tricks that come along with those. But if you’re really lucky, you get some Oscar-worthy performances as well.
In the sport of football, the art of conning the referee is not new. Diving to gain an unfair advantage by going to ground easily and/or feigning injury is considered extremely unsportsmanlike. Manchester City‘s Sergio Aguero is of the opinion that overseas footballers are treated differently and with bias by referees in the Premier League. Manchester United manger Sir Alex Ferguson in response to Aguero’s comments claimed that foreign players are the ‘worst culprits’ of what FIFA describes as ’simulation’.
Across the Atlantic, the NBA has a term for it too – flopping or acting. Flopping is when a defensive player intentionally falls to the floor after little or no physical contact with an offensive player in order to draw a charging foul by an official against the offensive player. Funnily enough, it is widely practised and has even been perfected by many great professional players. Lebron James and Manu Ginobili are considered to be the league’s best floppers who currently play the game.
But unlike the English Football Association the NBA has actually done something about it. They’ve announced flopping penalties for players who are considering a career in acting after retirement. A player receives a warning the first time, followed by a $5K fine for the second. The third and fourth offenses warrant hefty $10K and $15K fines respectively, while a fifth violation makes your wallet $30K lighter.
NBA Commissioner David Stern spent a good part of last season vowing to get rid of flopping from the game. Floppers will be identified by video reviews. This means in-game refs who already have a lot going for them, will continue to officiate the game as they have. They obviously can’t prevent the floppers from influencing the outcome of the game. However, they will continue to keep an eye out for players with a reputation for flopping.
Footballers generally earn themselves a reputation for diving. Liverpool‘s Luis Suarez has always had the ‘diver’ tag associated with him, even during his days as an Ajax player. And the Uruguayan’s reputation has cost his team at least three legitimate penalties in the last three matches, at Sunderland, against United and at Norwich City.
Ferguson’s remarks about foreigners being culprits when it comes to play-acting is, at best, dubious and controversial, much like most penalty decisions lately. Manchester United’s Ashley Young, who is English, won two contentious back-to-back penalties last season against QPR and Aston Villa. The United manager himself went on record to say that the winger was earning himself a reputation as a diver.
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis wants the FA to ban players who dive, for a minimum of three games.Post-game reviews with regard to disputable decisions could help ease the tensions of those who feel aggrieved.That could be the start to stamping out simulation in sports. And the FA could learn something from their counterparts across the ocean.
In today’s digitally controlled environment, a football field or a basketball court is a stage in itself. With multiple computerized eyes watching every move. But that doesn’t mean players switch professions and become actors. Because the reputation a player earns as a ‘flopper’ or a ‘diver’ is one that is hard to shake off. Just ask Derek Fisher or Didier Drogba, respectively.