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Malik (6/28/10)

If anything, the World Cup has shown a few simple lessons. One of the main ones for the US and England are how history loves repeating itself. Germany has a history of taking down England, and Ghana did the same 2-1 victory to eliminate the US in 2006. Of course, that's not to say all history will repeat itself in the World Cup. I mean France (2nd in 2006) and Italy (champions of 2006) both left in the first round...which is also doubly unusual since France and Italy never both leave in the group phase.

Of course, if anything is going to be a long standing lesson so far from this World Cup, it's that there are rarely any good solutions in soccer/football. I'm talking about some really bad calls from the refs and how to handle this in the future. Yes, some officiating has been pretty good, but then you have things like disallowed goals that are perfectly good (happened to the US in the second and third group games, and England in the first half against Germany), players ejected or penalized for doing nothing (like the US player who had a face called a hand or Kaka being ran into in some sort of flagrant case of "being in the wrong place").

Yes, soccer always has some trouble with officiating. It's a simple problem that cannot be fully solved. I'm talking about the nature of the game and how hard it would be to keep the game fluid (no excessive stoppage just for a replay or a discussion from the officiating crew) while also remaining fully watched and fouls fully called. There are some "simple" solutions, but that's something that only really would work in the heat of the moment.

For example, when your team gets screwed out of a goal because of a false penalty being called, it's easy to start screaming about how soccer needs instant replay. However, this would slow down a 90 minute game and turn it into a infinitely long mess of every damned movement on the field being scrutinized. Replay only really works in a few sports, such as American Football, because it's a sport that has constant breaks in the action. It's the nature of a play based game to allow a replay...and even then it can become a problem. Any NFL fan cannot say replay is the solution to soccer when they are the same people who will become enraged at the long pause in the action during any NFL game for a coach's challenge.

A replay system is slow on a play-by-play type of game. To add it to a non-stop game like soccer would just be the same as asking soccer to no longer be soccer. Can soccer be soccer with constant breaks in the action? To change this would be like saying a boat is good, but it must not be allowed in which case, is a landlocked boat really a seafaring vessel anymore?

That's not to say the other side of the argument is any good. Too many people (usually people who work for FIFA) like to argue that the "human factor" is what makes soccer good. That's just a lazy way to try to say that you don't need to face a problem. Of course, FIFA is so damned secretive about anything dealing with officiating that I imagine FIFA would be happier is soccer would never be played in front of spectators and would actually be some sort of secret cult that only plays under the light of a full moon in some abandoned meadow.

One real solution, or at least a partial step towards making progress would be for FIFA to remove the secrecy to some extent. I mean if an official on a major game (like a World Cup game) is making the type of mistakes that really do screw someone out of advancing, then that ref needs to be held somewhat accountable. People do make mistakes, but it would be nice to know if the officials are actually held to any real standards.

When Kaka was ejected on a second yellow, the ref called it a yellow based on not knowing anything. All he saw was a man on the ground with his face obviously hurt. He could have determined that it was an accident or a flagrant attack. It's obvious which choice the ref made, but can you really apply "guilty until I prove you innocent" thinking in such a scenario? True, if it was the other way around (a player punched another in the face and didn't get a penalty since the ref missed seeing it), the world would once again stand in false judgment. However, that's what FIFA is facing with the idea of the "human factor". However, it's better to leave a call out, when a ref missed something, instead of automatically punishing everything without reason.

When this happens, FIFA needs to do more than just announce who will officiate at the next round of a tournament. They need to reveal to the fans if these refs who are making opinions instead of official calls face any sort of consequence. After all, if a team is eliminated on a bad call or two, the team is being punished. Imagine if the US tied Algeria and was eliminated from the group round...because of how their 2-3 "tie" against Slovenia went down. Did the ref face any consequence beyond not being retained for the next round (and many refs go home after each phase anyway as the number of games decrease)? At least in the wild west that is the NFL, we fans do learn if a ref is fined or suspended for flagrantly bad officiating.

However, I do think one other step can be helpful in cases like the dismissed goal when England should have tied up with Germany. The technology exists to solve this problem, and it can even be secretive, like FIFA loves to keep things. Just go with the old fashioned "chip in the ball" idea. You put a microchip in the ball and a sensor across the goal line. If the ball crosses any, a small tone or alarm of some sort goes to the ref. This could be a vibration from a pager of sorts, or a small noise sent to an ear piece. Either way, it can be kept secret, so the ref can decide if it's a real goal or not, without the world judging the judgment quite as strictly. In other words, if a ref misses a close quick goal, like the England goal, but didn't miss the action and knows no foul exists, then his blinking (or whatever cause the goal to be overlooked) would not cause an obvious error in play calling.

However, to repeat what I have said a few times recently, technology is not the fix-all for soccer. The ball sensor technology, if it was ever implemented, would be as far as technology should ever go. If instant replays become the norm, it's opening a Pandora's Box that will cause nothing but misery in its wake.


Malik (7/1/10)

It's a weird time for me right now, since I'm just not feeling the geek vibe. I don't want to play any more Super Mario Galaxy 2, since it's just not entertaining enough to search out the green stars. Maybe I'll go back at some point, but it's hard to find the energy for this stuff.

The green stars are supposed to be a "Where's Waldo" of SMG2. However, it's not as much a challenge to find them as it is to get them. However, I don't mean you have to find then and then determine how to reach that location. I mean you have an obvious means to get them, but you need the patience for a perfect approach. You may have to do an ideal triple jump from the exact correct location, or you may have to make a blind suicide jump and remember precisely where you must fall as you die. In the end, it mainly comes down to finding enough 1-Ups, which isn't too hard (just tedious), to keep trying something that's not fun due to a camera (while better than prior 3D Mario cameras) that is just not forgiving.

It doesn't help when some stars are at the end of a stage, but require a power-up from the start of the stage. I'm talking about ones like the third green star on the fire/ice level. One hit and you lose your cloud power, or one too many twitches of your wrist and you'll spin out all three of your clouds prematurely. Then, if you hit any check points, you must exit the level and start again from scratch. It's not hard, as in's just annoying.

I'm now trying to find a new game to divert my attention, but it's just not coming to me. I've also been thinking about old games to play again, but each one seems to have a reason to draw me away from it. For example, I don't want to face the annoyance of most of the second disk of Xenogears, the frustration of missing too many of the good quests of Legend of Mana, the annoyance of the aluminum quest on Lufia 1, or the tedium of the final grind-fest that makes up Phantasy Star 2 (while trying to get Megid).

At least in the meantime, sports are diverting my attention nicely. It helps that the Sounders FC did something above average, for once this season, in beating Portland in the US Open Cup. True, it did take a long game to do so, since it was tied 1-1 after overtime. It also helps that Keller is a damned good goalie, which makes up for some sub-par striking.

Also, the Mariners seem to have found some momentum. I mean they beat the Yankees twice in the last two games with some authority. I think the return of Branyan was a nice booster of moral or something. Plus, when he hit a two run homer last night in a shutout of the Yankees, you can't argue with his power.   I mean even in today's loss, the only runs came in the 8th on a 2-run RBI double from Branyan.


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