People who know me personally know I’m a soccer fan. Some have even heard me refer to the game as my novela (novela is short for telenovela, which is a Spanish-language soap opera). And indeed, it attracts colorful characters from all kinds of different backgrounds and cultures. A friend recently asked me what I liked about the game, and then added, “Besides the drama.”
“That isn’t enough?” I replied, only half-joking.
It’s entirely possible to follow the game just for the drama (by the way, the preferred term in the soccer community is “narrative”), and I’m sure some people do. But there are things I like about the game itself, too.
Out of curiosity, I looked up how long it takes to complete a typical game in different sports. Here’s what I found:
* Football – 3 hours, 12 minutes source
* Basketball – 2 hours, 18 minutes source
* Baseball – 2 hours, 55 minutes source
* Hockey – 2 hours, 19 minutes source
* Soccer –1 hour, 50 minutes source
If you read the source on football, you’ll notice that it also mentions that the ball is only in play for about 11 minutes. A typical NFL broadcast spends more time showing replays than it does action on the field.
By contrast, during a soccer game, despite the reputation it has among its critics for time-wasting and faking injuries, most of the time in a soccer game clock is actually spent playing soccer. In England’s Premier League, even the team with the worst record in this area has had the ball in play for an average 53 minutes and 34 seconds per game, or a little more than half the official game time of 90 minutes.
If you’re interested in how much active time there is in other sports, this page has a good roundup. Basically, I like that soccer has clearly defined time boundaries and less “dead time” than other sports.
I also like the fluidity of the game itself. Since soccer allows for few substitutions, the players on the pitch generally have a mix of responsibilities in both attack and defense. The attacking team can suddenly become the defending team and vice versa, so a player also has to be very switched on mentally to be successful.
Finally, I like that there’s a little bit of chaos in the game. Even though some leagues are introducing video review, its use is limited, and the implementation is far from perfect. Naturally, this means that sometimes teams get good outcomes after breaking the rules.
But that’s life, isn’t it? We may not like it, but we’d also do well to avoid assuming doing the right thing all the time is going to get the result we want. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be any merit in doing the right thing.
It might seem a bit weird to embrace a sport that seems to be a lot like life, especially when many people turn to sports for an escape. But I’m a weird person, in case you haven’t figured that out by now.
Do you have any interesting stories about how you came to follow a particular team or sport? Share them in the comments!