The Second Goal
June 21, 2010 13 Comments
I was reading this worthwhile soccer rant by Ferdinand Bardamu when I recalled my idea for fixing soccer:
Add a second goal.
It could be just a little goal, even hockey-sized. Just a little goal off to the side of the main one. Still worth one point.
Can anyone honestly say this wouldn’t make soccer dramatically more exciting?
The problem with soccer, clearly, is that there just isn’t enough scoring. I gather that soccer enthusiasists would see that as an ugly-American, no-attention-span, TV-addict type of complaint. Because all Americans have ADHD and sub-Neanderthal IQs thus need constant scoring to pay attention. But that’s not the main problem with too little scoring at all. There isn’t that much more scoring in baseball yet it’s far more tense.
The main problem with soccer is that (unlike even baseball) the outcome of a game isn’t in doubt for nearly a high enough percentage of the game. At any given time in a game, if you look at the scoreboard, you’re looking at the Most-Likely-Final-Score. If it’s tied, chances are, the game will end in a tie. If one team is ahead, chances are, that team will win. So why are you still watching? is a question you can ask yourself of every soccer game – at virtually any time in the game.
Games are only interesting if the outcome is in doubt. Right? Imagine a limiting case where the goals were one inch wide. No scoring possible. The score will be 0-0, regardless of either team’s ability. Can we at least admit that this would be a boring game to watch?
Soccer is not like that, obviously. The goals are wider than one inch. They are wider than the ball. They are even wide enough to allow for (I guesstimate) about 0.9 goals per game. So soccer is unlike my limiting hypothetical ‘no-scoring-possible’ game. It’s just that it’s not unlike it enough.
Now compare soccer to basketball. In a typical pro basketball game, each teams scores perhaps 40-60 times per game. Does basketball really suffer from this? The outcome is in doubt a lot. It can swing back and forth. Yes, one team might dominate from the start (due to better ability). Shouldn’t they (if they have better ability)? But as long as teams are not hugely separated in ability, chances are, a basketball game will stay interesting to watch for most of the duration. And teams can beat better teams, it happens all the time. So there is doubt in basketball. Clearly this is a better-engineered sport than soccer. And I say this even though I’m not really a basketball fan.
If you think about why basketball is this way, it’s primarily because it’s far easier to score. Teams score on a significant percentage of their attempts (I don’t know whether it’s 20% or 40% but it’s significant.) Why couldn’t soccer be this way? What’s the reason?
One reason seems to be that offensive attacks are too hard, and defense too easy, in soccer. Well okay then, make defense harder and offense easier. One way is to just make the goal bigger. I’ve considered this but not sure that’s the way to go, because you’d just increase the number of Hail Mary-type kicks.
A ‘second goal’, however, and suddenly you’ve got something. Does the defense keep two players back? Do they still just keep the one goalie back and hope he can run to the side goal if need be? With two goals to cover, chances are only 9 instead of 10 guys get to cover their half of the field for defense. Now you’ve got more holes and lines and angles. The offense will have an easier time.
The only counterargument I can see to this is “the offense will have an easier time!” Yes, the offense will have an easier time. Exactly. Feature not bug. Do you want to make soccer better or don’t you?
I get the feeling people don’t. If soccer were more interesting, certain folks wouldn’t be able to get nearly as much mileage out of pretending to like it.