Meddling with soccer
Jun 28, 2010
3 minute read

Two of my favorite intellectuals, Arnold Kling and Richard Epstein, have each offered opinions on how to “improve” soccer. I am dismayed and disappointed. Their proposals are not for modest changes (e.g., electronic assistance for the referee) that would preserve the basic feel of the game. Instead, they want to induce “more scoring” (Kling) and make the game more like basketball and hockey (Epstein).

Kling’s post is particularly frustrating. It begins with the sentence:

I am not a soccer fan.

In my opinion, this should be the end of the post. If Kling does not appreciate soccer, can he not at least leave the several billion of us who do alone? If Kling feels six words is too short for a blog post, he can follow it up with this:

Therefore, I have no opinion on this game that brings joy to countless other people. Value is subjective, and I am happy to respect others’ subjective preferences.

If Epstein believes that his rule changes would improve the game, he should start his own modified soccer league and profit from its success. I would wish him the best of luck. But I am pretty sure he would not succeed, and that is because most of the world is basically happy with the way soccer works now.

As my regular readers know, I despise meddlesomeness. People should basically leave other people alone, particularly if they are not interested in receiving help or advice. However, I cannot resist the urge to engage in some retaliatory sports meddling, offered with my tongue implanted firmly in my cheek.

I am not a baseball fan. It’s too slow and boring. I propose some rule modifications borrowed from basketball and hockey. First, baseball needs something like a shot clock. I propose that no player (especially the pitcher) be allowed to hold the ball for more than five seconds, and that no more than 30 seconds should elapse between pitches under any circumstances. Violations of these rules will result in two minutes in the penalty box, and the defending team plays a man down. These modifications would not only increase the speed of the game, it would result in the elimination of fat people from professional baseball. Let’s face it—the fact that you can be both a fat slob and a successful baseball player is a damning indictment of the game.

Update — Kling, always a class act, tempers his claims: “…I gladly admit that my opinions should not count, since I know nothing about the sport.” He makes other interesting points in this new post, with which I mostly agree, addressing criticisms other than mine.