Feeling the urge to riot, I decided not to make my bed for three days
OK, what’s the deal with all the soccer rioting? I want you people to knock it off. And I mean it.
Your team has just won the championship — overcoming incredible odds, enduring great hardship, including pain, exhaustion and repetitive interview requests. And what do you fans immediately rush out to do to honor your heroes? You smash windows. You loot the 7-Eleven. You set fire to parked cars (only because the moving ones are hard to light).
Soccer fans are the worst. In Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, fans paid tribute to their victorious World Cup soccer team in the traditional way, by angrily pelting the team bus with rocks.
It seems that the Brazilian world champions had the temerity to cut short their victory parade, since they had just endured a 30-hour transit from Japan. This infuriated the thousands who had gathered to greet them, and they attacked the bus, smashing three windows and trying to tip it over. One reason the parade was cut short was that it began four hours late, due to congestion from the raucous street celebrations in the city.
Another potential problem: the Brazilian team was accompanied on the parade by samba singer Zeca Pagodinho. Never mix samba with a world championship celebratory parade — it will only lead to destruction.
Sure, there are sports riots in the U.S. But soccer fans have taken civil disobedience to a new level, actually creating a kind of performance art. It doesn’t matter what continent you’re from, or to what culture you belong; if your country enjoys soccer, then rioting comes with the territory. You won’t find a lot in common between the people of Ireland and Iran, for example, except that in both countries, in order to buy property you have to prove that you’ve been in a soccer riot.
A war actually broke out between Honduras and El Salvador because of a World Cup qualifying match. And the worst soccer riot in history began when a goal was disallowed in a 1964 Olympic qualifying match in Lima between Argentina and Peru. Three hundred nine people were killed with 1,000 others injured.
And even I myself, usually an amiable, even-tempered sort, was so infuriated by the controversial non-goal in the U.S.-Germany World Cup match that I stubbornly refused to make my bed for three days.
Sociologists explain this behavior with something called LeBon’s Theory. In 1895, Gustave LeBon made an extensive study of soccer rioting and came away with a landmark paper on the phenomenon (he also now walks with a limp).
LeBon contends that people within an overly excited group — such as a soccer crowd, or Enron shareholders — are very vulnerable to the suggestions of a leader. Primitive urges toward violence and destruction are let loose, and rational thought it lost.
I have my own theory. Because there is so little scoring in soccer, fans are unable to vent their pent-up energy. A typical soccer fan may go days, even months, without his team scoring. In no other sport does this occur, unless you follow the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
This frustration has to manifest itself somehow, and riots are the result. If we could just tweak the game a bit to create more scoring, I think we could solve the problem. We could, say, eliminate the goalie. Booming shots toward an open net would not only let fans work out some of their aggressive tendencies, but make the sport more popular here in the U.S.
Some other ideas for more scoring in soccer:
— Play on a tilted field. Each team gets to go downhill for one half, kind of like the other team having to defend the deep end of the pool in water polo.
— Arena Football net. They should erect a large net behind each goal, and when your shot misses over the crossbar, the ball bounces back onto the field and play resumes. We could also have padded walls on the sideline so the ball is never out of play.
— Let fat guys play. All those superbly conditioned, agile soccer players are boring. They all look the same. Things only get interesting when you have someone like Gilbert Brown chasing Marshall Faulk. Or Luc Longley trying to defend Michael Jordan.
— No sitting on a lead. You know soccer — whichever team scores first will nurse that 1-0 advantage like a delicate rare baby condor. Open it up a bit with a new rule: for every goal you score, the other team gets to add an extra player.
But ultimately, responsible soccer viewing is left to you, the fan. I suggest this: If you are planning to attend a soccer match, go to the basement and whack yourself in the head a few times with the fireplace scoop, or a stout wooden rake. You know it’s probably going to be a scoreless tie, so vent some of that frustration before going out to the stadium. Maybe you could hurl yourself down the stairs a couple of times.
That way it won’t be necessary for the taxpayers (assuming your country has taxes) to assume the burden of your wanton post-game destruction. Also, what’s the deal with all the players with only one name?
Thanks. See you next week.
— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at