Monday, June 30, 2014

A Penalty Kick To the Gut

Forgive me if you have heard this before....but penalty shots are the DUMBEST way to decide a sporting contest ever devised by man.  We've seen two World Cup games decided by "Penalty Shootout" already--and the way things are going, there will be another five or so that end the same way the rest of the tournament.

There is nothing I hate more in sports than shootouts.  The NHL adopted them to break regular season ties in 2005--but still awarded one-point in the standings to a team that loses in the shootout (while still giving the team that wins 2 points, making an overtime game worth three points but a game that ends in regulation worth just 2 points which makes absolutely no sense).  That point is almost a concession: "We know this is a stupid way to decide a winner so we'll give you half-credit for the tie."  But the NHL does not use the penalty shootout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs--when, you could argue, the games are the most important.  Instead, it is played until a sudden-death goal is scored--five-on-five--just like you did in regulation. 

So why then does FIFA rely on the PK shootout to decide a winner in the biggest sporting event in the world?  Why stop at 120-minutes of "real soccer" to play a completely different game to send one nation into delirium and another into total despair?  It would be like the NFC Championship game finishing the first overtime still tied, and the teams kicking extra points until one missed and the other goes on to the Super Bowl.  Would that give you as a fan a satisfied feeling that the better team won that game?  Or game 7 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals being decided by a dunk contest after the second overtime.  Would you say the winning team "earned" their spot in the Finals?

The argument I get from soccer fans (who also admit to hating the Shootout) is that the players are so tired after a full game and overtime that you run the risk of injury by playing the "real game" until you have a winner.  Then might I suggest a more liberal substitution rule than just three for the entire game--regardless of how long it goes.  And go with sudden-death instead of playing the full 30-minutes of "extra time".  That adds a whole lot more drama and excitement to every run into the box--while shortening the game as well.

Besides, the Shootout is un-American.  We like it when people earn their victories the "hard way"--instead of having it just given to them from 12 yards away.

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