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Why The Los Angeles Times Can Bite Me


The Los Angeles Times can bite me.

Call it “pulling a Suárez,” after the incident involving the Uruguyan midfielder who bit an adversary in an earlier World Cup round.

Maybe Brazil’s harshest critics got it slightly wrong. The team might not have been the biggest flop early in the World Cup. But it was the biggest flopper.

In a column headlined “Flopping takes center stage at World Cup,” columnist Mike Tierney borrows statistics compiled by its East Coast cousin to erode the good name of the Cup semifinalists, and especially Brazil.

So says the Wall Street Journal. With an enviable amount of time on their hands, some staffers slogged through replays of the first 32 tournament matches and calculated the number of downed players writhing in pain — real, exaggerated or out-and-out fake.

Typical columnist: Let others do the slogging while you flop down — writhing in busyness — and wait for your chance to inject the facts with a dash of snark.

“Some staffers with an enviable amount of time on their hands” is another undeserved crack. The W$J has a separate research department devoted full-time to the sorts of trends and situational analyses that help make it a perennial Pulitzer mill.  Maybe our columnist believes Technorati is an adequate substitute for journalistic elbow grease.


In fact, the flopping piece is far from taking center stage in the W$J’s coverage of the Cup semis — a sample, above — and featured four other teams as most notable for doubts about the role of flopping:

  1. The Overall Writhing-Time Champions: Honduras
  2. The Team Most Likely to Grin and Bear it: Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. The Team With the Most Carnage in One Game: Chile
  4. The Fastest “Injury” Yet: Ecuador

Nor does the infographic accompanying the W$J story convey a sense of shocking irregularities.

Brazil, for example,  “flopped” 17 times, but the presumptive flops only gained them 3 minutes and 18 seconds.

OG-AB772_COUNT6_G_20140624210645 (1)

Viewed in terms of “writhing time” — a felicitous turn of phrase — France emerges as the champion.

But none of this strikes you as particularly dramatic. What role does the referee play in the fact that most flops last only a few seconds, at most just enough to spray a bruised area with a topical spray? Without statistics on other matches, such as league and confederation play, it is difficult to measure the progress of refereeing, if any.

Even so, Brazil is tarnished with the label of champion flopper and the flopping rate is promoted from a clever statistical sidebar in the W$J to “center stage.”

Now, if Mike could tell me how these numbers compare with average league play and previous Cup matches, he might have held my interest.

A googling of “flopping World Cup statistics” yields no immediate results beyond the  Times column — I am a blogger-columnist and therefore too lazy-busy to dream up and substantiate my own topics — while culture vulture site Uproxx records a joke making the rounds about flopping players and an event sponsor which manufactures prophylactics.

Durex’s #DontFakeIt ad hilariously lampoons the stereotype of flopping soccer players …

Get it? Pretty funny. It reminds me of the Simpsons episode in which Homer is the referee and Lisa is the chronic flopper. Former World Cup champion Reynaldo shows up to announce that he travels the world in a quest to eradicate the flop from the jogo bonito.

… while promoting the cheeky innuendo that we’ve come to expect from the condom company. And not only is Durex making us laugh, but the company is also dropping some World Cup sex statistics on us, too.

As Paulo Moreira Leite writes in this week’s Isto É,

The real scandal here is the lack of indignation. After having a field day with the incident of the Uruguyan player who bit an opponent, sports observers are silent on the criminal aggression committed by Zuñiga.

So, bite me, Los Angeles Times, on account of your columnist’s derivative, Schadenfreude-ridden sensationalism.