Put a Stop to the Flop
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 00:09
I am willing to bet that a good number of football, basketball and hockey fans believe that their team’s biggest rival has more whining floppers than any other team in the league. But there’s a problem with that belief: Every team has floppers, and a lot of them.
Recently, the curtain has been pulled back on flopping in professional sports more than ever before. Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher recently admitted that the Bears had a designated “dive guy” who would pretend to be injured whenever the opposing team’s offense was in a rhythm. This past week, the New York Giants were accused of faking injuries for the second time in three seasons. We may be more informed about flopping now than before, but that doesn’t mean that players haven’t been doing it forever.
Last year, I heard many fellow Patriots fans complain about how teams would act injured in order to slow up their offense when it went no-huddle, and these complaints were completely legitimate. The thing is, the Pats, like just about every other team in the league, are guilty of the same practices. In one of the best Patriots vs. Colts games of the past decade, the Pats held on for a four-point victory after an epic goal line stand in Indianapolis in 2003. What people forget is that the only reason the Pats’ defense had the right personnel on the field is because Willie McGinest had a “cramp” only a few plays before he (miraculously) returned in time to make the game-saving tackle on fourth down.
If you’re even a casual pro basketball fan, you’re aware that the Miami Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh probably dive more than any other American superstar athletes save Michael Phelps. If you’re a hockey fan, you’re aware that stars like Sidney Crosby are routinely criticized for diving way too much, but the reality is that there are probably more players in hockey who have faked or played up an injury than those who haven’t. And if you have a pulse, you know that soccer players flop like fishes.
So, if this faking phenomenon is so widespread and so obvious, why are the leagues not doing anything serious about it? Yes, I’m aware that the NHL penalizes players for diving and that NBA Commissioner David Stern inserted a rule before last year that fines players $5,000 for flopping for the first time, which ascends to a one-game suspension after their sixth offense. Calling that progress, however, would be like Congress claiming that they had made progress in an effort to become more bipartisan by sitting next to each other at the State of the Union address a few years back. Better than nothing? Sure. Anything to be excited about? No.
As LeBron simply put it, players flop “because it works.” If we are to believe that players care primarily about winning, isn’t it plausible that they would forfeit $5,000 to swing a playoff game on a big play? In the NHL, when a player dives, and if the refs catch it, they usually call matching penalties against the player who dove and the opposing player who supposedly did whatever caused the diver to dive. Not much of a penalty.
No sports fan wants his or her favorite games to be determined by flopping. We’d all rather see scores that reflect athletic ability, not acting ability. But, because flopping is such a low-risk, high-reward move in just about every sport, it poses a difficult problem that requires immediate treatment. There needs to be a harsh deterrent in the minds of the players. In the NBA, Stern’s rules are not nearly tough enough. Six times in a season before a suspension? Really? Change that number to three, and make the first two fine amounts much greater than they already are. After all, LeBron James probably made more than five grand in the time it will take you to read this column.
While both the NBA and NHL need to fine players heavy amounts, leagues also should make rules that the league office should be able to review if a player flopped during the game. If there were a play that looked fishy, and if the league office informed the refs during the game that a player flopped, the ref could assign a technical foul or two-minute penalty. And, maybe most importantly, if a player dives, even if the opposing player did actually commit a foul or penalty on him, the fact that the player dove would wipe out the preceding infraction.
Football flopping is the hardest to enforce because it’s impossible to watch replay and disprove that a player went down because of a cramp. But if a guy grabs his leg without making a real effort to get off the field quickly, he should be forced to sit out a designated number of plays until he returns, and his team shouldn’t be allowed to make substitutions for that play. Hopefully, with the competitive nature of football players, the idea of sitting on the sidelines with no injury is unappealing enough to resolve the issue.
If a player got caught diving under these rules, he’d look not only like a wimp, but a wimp who was hurting all of his teammates’ chances of winning. This is the kind of powerful deterrent that professional sports leagues need.
Tom Hoff is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. DOWN TO THE WIRE appears every Friday.