Soccer Clichés: Game On, Mute On

Soccer commentary is so full of inane clichés that my fingers have memorized the location of the remote's mute button for when a game comes on my television.

I recently arose in the wee hours to watch a live English Premier League game.  Ironically, the commercial immediately preceding was for the "All-New Jaguar XF."  The hook:  people who speak in clichés think in them – and they don't drive Jaguars.  But they do commentate soccer games.

I appreciate that some soccer analysts are affable dunces who have mastered Scouse or cockney English but struggle with the Queen's version.  Perhaps that's why they're keen to burden us with incessant clichés in what masquerades as "analysis."  Soccer is fairly uncomplicated, so we can allow some license for repetition; however, the following clichés are mind-numbingly insipid.

A team is organized and solid in defense but "loses composure on the final pass," or "the move was good except for the final ball."  Variations of this banality are oft-repeated, especially in the EPL, where less technical players sometimes stumble around while having "arguments with the ball," so to speak.  I get their point – again and again – but it's really meaningless: the move will always break down on the final pass…unless it's a goal.

Then there's this tidbit when the stadium atmosphere is a bit flat: "sometimes it's for the fans to lift the team; other times it's for the team to lift the fans."  Well, that about covers it – thanks for the insight!

Sometimes I put the mute on and view without the verbose nonsense; other times, I turn it off.

Here's another observation I'd prefer not happen around of my ears: "it's all happening in front of our eyes."  As opposed to…?  "It's all happening" is sufficient, but to avoid being too pedantic, and with deference to commentating rhythm, we can give a bit of leeway to this one: "I wouldn't believe it unless I saw it with my own eyes." 

That's reasonable, but "these are the kinds of games you have to go on and win" is a standard concoction that implies an absurd antithesis:  there are games you can go on and lose.  Then why play?  Even at the end of the season, there are positional bonuses and professional pride at stake.  That's why "it's important to not lose at this stage of the season."  The latter utterance is a bit absurd, because each win earns 3 points, and each loss gets you nada, no matter what stage of the season.  Crystal Palace, for example, can be grateful they won so often early in the season for on recent form they'd be relegated.

What about "2-0 is the most dangerous score line"?  Well, what if the self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in and the leading team "take their foot off the pedal"?  Perhaps they make a defensive substitution and decide to "park the bus" (sort of like prevent-defense in football), hastening a momentum shift.  Even if the other team gets one back, it's likely "too little, too late," for in most competitive leagues, 2-0 is a rather comfortable margin.  Indeed, a 2-0 score being dangerous implies a decent chance the trailing team will score at least 2 goals to tie or 3 to win.  Turns out these scores are quite rare in soccer.  It's much easier to come back from being down 1-0, so that would be more dangerous – in this case, the stats don't lie. 

During the same match, I heard the announcers articulate seemingly contradictory clichés – one moment exhorting that "this is a contact sport," the next moment spouting "I've seen them given" when questioning a referee's decision against awarding a penalty.  That's wishy-washy fluff that doesn't add any value.  Watch enough games, and you'll see many things; besides, in the same game, we were told "it wasn't a foul, just a coming together," albeit with great venom.  I can imagine the defender pleading his case: "I really didn't mean to knock him silly, ref; it was just a coming together."

This one is a peculiarity that I don't necessarily blame on lazy commentators running on auto-pilot:  when the ball crosses the goal line, it then smashes – or nestles for weaker shots – into the front of the net.  But they always refer to the back of the net, as in variations of "what a shot; the goalie didn't have time to react before it hit the back of the net." 

Sometimes the ball actually goes "in the net," not into it but in it, which is remarkable, considering the mesh size is typically 50% – or less – the size of a regulation-size soccer ball.  I suppose this one's also a bit nitpicky, but tricks like that happen only in the world of quantum physics. 

Irrespective of which part of the net it hits, did you know that "that goal was preventable"?  I'm guessing that's a euphemism for the defender screwing up royally, for most goals are ultimately preventable.  Even a stunning free kick that gives the goalie no chance could've been prevented – don't foul him!  Even a wicked banana kick that has the goalie floundering could be prevented – foul him!

Soccer is the beautiful game – at least when played outside the USA – but the clichés used to describe it are "six of one, half a dozen of the other" ugly.  When it's "game on," it's mute on.

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