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And Now, a Few Words About Soccer--but Not Good Ones

For all the international attention they generated, the England-Argentina and Romania-Croatia World Cup games exemplified soccer’s critical weaknesses. Croatia won not on a goal produced in the flow of the game, but on a penalty kick. Argentina won in a shootout, akin to deciding a World Series game with a round of Home Run Derby. It’s obvious to anyone but a FIFA traditionalist that the game needs to generate more scoring chances.

And don’t tell me that soccer enthusiasts really enjoy low scores--when game highlights are shown on European TV, they show the goals and scoring chances, not the 89 minutes in between.

PAUL BERGMAN, Los Angeles

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The inmates on death row have unanimously turned down a generous offer from the governor of California, who gave them a choice between the gas chamber or watching a World Cup soccer match. The inmates have filed a lawsuit, alleging that the governor is trying to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on them.

CHARLES SELESNOW, Woodland Hills

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There are precious few times that sports coaches are presented with Knute Rockne-like situations where there are conditions for great motivational tactics. Steve Sampson was handed such an opportunity before the game with Iran and failed to capitalize on it.

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His young players probably respond well to electronic media. Immediately before the game, or at the half, why not show a two-minute “highlight” video of the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran?

The World Cup is every bit as much about past wars and nationalistic fervor as it is about football. Sampson failed to take advantage of a monumental opportunity to motivate his underachieving team and has now paid the price for that failure.

RICHARD SHERMAN, Port Hueneme

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I wish the USA team would exit the competition gracefully. Our team was adequate for regional play, but didn’t match up to the big boys. Why blame Coach Sampson or anyone else? They sound like a bunch of whining schoolboys.

ROD VICKERY, Mission Viejo

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Fret not, U.S. soccer fans, I have the solution to your woes. What the American Soccer Federation should do, you see, is assemble a soccer Dream Team (much like our unbeatable basketball Dream Team) to ensure that we simply roll through World Cup 2002 like no man’s business. What’s that? That was our soccer Dream Team?

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Never mind.

JIM MALLON, San Luis Obispo


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