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The Art of Flopping

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Brazil's Neymar lies lifeless on the pitch in 2014 after an "injury" he was up and playing ten seconds later. Photo: Reuters

By Shawn Reynolds |

Why is this player on the ground? In baseball, the player was valiantly diving to catch a ball or to steal a base, sacrificing his whole body for the good of the team. In football or hockey, being on the ground is a result of collisions more befitting gods in battle than mere mortals (cue the NFL Films music). In soccer, however, the player has flopped.

As the Women’s World Cup is currently being played, I realize that the issue of flopping will again rear its ugly head. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, flopping is where a soccer player begins to  flail his arms and legs in the air and fall on the ground dramatically, grimacing in agony like he is giving birth. This is all an act. The hope is that the referee is so moved by the pain and torment that he makes a call on the poor suffering flopper’s behalf.

The sad thing is that it sometimes works. The sadder thing is I am a recovering flopper. While I have earned my 5 Years Without A Flop pin, it is a struggle I face every day. I still need to go to Floppers Anonymous meetings every week. Having hit the bottom for no reason, I beg of soccer players, especially the young ones not to make the same mistakes I have made.  For your consideration….

  • My lack of acting skills ruined my chance for a movie contract. I can’t even get  a part in community theater. In fact, my kindergarten teacher denies I was in her Thanksgiving play.
  • My flopping generated derision from opposing players, fans in the stands, and late night talk show hosts.  
  • The referee labeled me a flopper, and believed I was faking contact even when I was not. The other team could (and did) rip my arm out of its socket and beat me over the head with it, and I would not get the call. The fellow who gets the call more often is the brave Marine Corps type who struggles valiantly to continue onward, but succumbs to the repressive fate gravity has in store for him. That type of player will not only get the call, he will also be honored with a statue in Washington DC. Any statue of me would get a ticket for loitering.

And finally, the worst part of flopping is

  • Many times a flopper gives up on a ball too early. If I had kept running, I would have had a real chance for a goal, a professional contract with an English football team, an Italian sports car and a hot girlfriend. Instead, I am lying on the ground complaining loudly to God and the official while the ball is gently rolling into the relaxed hands of a goalie.

I know the temptation is there to flop. Take it from me; it is just not worth it.

Shawn Reynolds has previously written for The Sport Digest, most notably “My Greek Tragedy” October 11, 2016. Most of his writings can be found in Cycle California magazine. He is the co-winner of the 1981 Angola Middle School Creative Writing Award. 

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