And on why they are both ultimately unsatisfying athletic endeavors.
I do not intend to rain on anybody’s parade here. Viva Espana, Hup Holland Hup and all that. I appreciate the love that many have for futbol, and yesterday’s post from gomez was both enjoyable and enlightening. And when it comes to football, I am, of course, a fan of the SEC, which is the best conference in NCAA football. One simply cannot argue with four of the past five national champions — Florida twice, LSU and Alabama. (And I think all you fans in your cute little conferences like the Mountain West and WAC and PAC 10 or 12 or whatever they are calling it these days are just so cute when you argue among yourselves. Please continue.) I am also a fan of the reigning super Bowl champs, the New Orleans Saints. I say all this in order to demonstrate that my ugly Americanism is not a factor here. Both futbol and American football have a serious and I believe uncorrectable flaw.
The referee can disallow scores. This matters a lot in sports where there might be only one or two scores in a game.
When your team scores a touchdown in football you can’t cheer, you first have to look back upfield to make sure there are no flags. This is especially true of the sports most exciting plays — long runs from scrimmage, long passes, and punt and kickoff returns. In a sport where holding could be called on literally every play, this is just crazy. But at least with football, there is some explanation. Somebody on the field in a striped shirt is waving his hanky and making idiotic motions with his hands, like patting himself on the head or hacking off his leg at the knee. In the past three weeks of watching futbol, I gave up counting the times goals were disallowed, and there usually wasn’t even an explanation. The referee just waved off the score and everybody started jogging back the other way.
The only parallel I can think of is with basketball, where a goal can be disallowed because of interference. But with basketball, it is one goal of probably 120 or more in the game, and it is unlikely to decide the outcome of the game. With futbol, when it is so important to score first and when games are decided by scores of 1-0 or 2-1, this matters a lot.
We watch athletic contests because it is enjoyable to see highly skilled performers compete at a high level. The outcome of the match or game should be decided by the performers themselves, not the referees. Futbol and football suffer because the referee can unduly influence the outcome of the contest, and I don’t think anything can be done about it.