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One of the biggest sticking points most non-soccer fans have with the sport is all the purported flopping, diving and fake injury stuff that serves to slow down the game and generally make soccer players look like a bunch of wimps. I admit that it was a major hurdle for me, but I began to enjoy soccer once I understood that A) the good players don’t need to flop (See: Messi, Lionel) and that B) flopping is sort of a tactical advantage. It’s gross, and it’s unsportsmanlike, and it goes against everything American sports fans love, but let’s not pretend there isn’t plenty of bush league stuff in our sports already.
This is all a long way of trying to defend what Deon Grant and Jacquin Williams did against the Rams Monday night, and what Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell apparently teaches his players. If any other team did it, I’m sure I’d be aghast. But since the Giants did it, I think it deserves a closer look before passing judgment.
Ok, I looked. Still wrong. But, let me at least try to explain it.
First of all, the Giants have had so many injuries this year that I had to google Jacquin Williams just to see who he was. Apparently he plays for my favorite team – who knew? Losing Domenik Hixon this weekend was just the icing on top of the ambulance trip that has been the Giants season thus far. So when Grant and Williams both went down at the same time, it wasn’t so far fetched to imagine that both had suddenly snapped their ACLs, or had stingers, or gout, or the vapors or something – it’s been that kind of a year so far.
However, I happened to be watching the game on a movie screen at a sports bar filled with Giants fans. Flopping looks even worse when it’s projected onto the side of a bar, unless that bar is in Manchester or Barcelona, I imagine. Deon Grant claims he is too tough to fake an injury like that. Grant may not be good enough to make the Pro Bowl, but he is already gaining strong Oscar buzz for Best Actor. Too Rick Reilly for you? How about: the Emmy committee was seen shaking their heads furiously, upset they had scheduled their ceremony one night too early. Better? I’m saying Grant is lying.
Of course, he’s not the only one:
“It’s always been in the game,” Ravens All-Pro safety Ed Reed said. “It’s all tactical stuff you need to use. Whatever it takes. … If you’re tired, you’re tired. You get a break however you can.”
Ed Reed is one of the top three defensive players of the last decade. If Ed Reed can fake an injury for a tactical advantage, then Deon Grant can do the same.
It comes down to how you view flopping – is it gamesmanship, or bush league? If a soccer player goes down like a sniper bullet caught him in the calf, is he being a wimp? Or is he actually giving his teammates a breather, after they have been running around without stopping for 45 minutes? Would you rather Grant stay up and get burned on a touchdown pass from Sam freakin’ Bradford, or go down and give the Giants an extra two minutes to turn that TD into a field goal attempt?
Coaches in the NFL do this all the time: icing the kicker with a timeout, fake plays, going to no huddle specifically to prevent the defense from substituting. Players stay down longer, pretend they weren’t holding or interfering, and God knows what happens at the bottom of a fumble. In baseball, catchers call timeout to allow relievers to warm up, and guys steal signs, and balls get doctored and bats get corked. Basketball had a whole flopping mania a few years back, partially due to a xenophobic reaction to the Euro player influx, and is still as hard as ever – if you don’t think so, check out Dwyane Wade’s body armor.
Winning in sports is all about taking advantage of as much as you can – all things considered, most teams are pretty even talent-wise. But if you’re willing to do the extra things required to win, you gain a competitive advantage over your opponent. This is not to praise flopping in the NFL – I still don’t love the idea, but I understand it. If I just had to sprint backwards after a wide receiver four times in four minutes, I’d need more than a little nap.
So let’s give Grant the benefit of the doubt, and hope that next time he decides to kill some time chillin’ on the field, he has the good sense to do it after a collision. You can only blame a phantom injury on an actual phantom so many times before people remember that ghosts aren’t real.