I’m a big soccer fan—in particular of FC Barcelona and the Selección de España. 2010 was a good year to be a fan both teams as they’ve been winning almost everything and have been playing almost perfect soccer doing so. Actually, it’s been a good couple years now to be a fan of these teams (making up for the heartbreak during the beginning of the century).
The perfection, and subsequent dominance, has started me thinking about what makes good sport and what we find appealing about sport in general. There has been a lot of criticism that Barça and España are too dominant and their style of play results in boring games. Both teams keep possession of the ball almost two-thirds of the time (using offense as defense) and are so good that most opposing teams opt for a strategy of defend, defend, defend, and hope for a lucky break. This results in games where only one team is trying to play while the other is trying to prevent play. Not fun.
What’s amazing to me is that many people end up being critical of Barça and España for being too good and thus, not interesting to watch. This reminded me of a common complaint about well-pitched baseball games being boring because nothing happens.
In both cases, the complainers appear to have defined sport in a much more limited way than I do. For them, what matters is action and scoring; to hell with tactics, defense, and fundamentals. While I admit that an error-filled game can be exciting and fun, I also know that given the choice, I’d much rather watch something cagey, tactical, and fundamentally sound. I don’t know if that makes me a sports purist or a sports elitist.