Tag Archives: Rafael Nadal

The dark art of diving

From  New York Magazine

Rafael Nadal is in acute distress. He’s just lost the game, he’s facing a momentum-defining tiebreaker, and his opponent has his second wind. Rafa’s just hit yet another impossible shot from an impossible angle, and one foot seems to have borne all the acrobatic brunt. He’s in deep crouch, trying to gauge the extent and implications of the pain. Then he heads to his chair and calls for the trainer; the tiebreaker will have to wait; his opponent, oozing adrenaline, will have to cool his heels. After a tense interlude during which his opponent, visibly upset, remonstrates with the umpire to restart, Nadal returns, takes the tiebreaker, and romps. The press waits with bated breath to hear the results of the MRI — will he be able to carry on and defend his title? The results show nothing of any concern, and Nadal smashes his next opponent in four sets, fresh as a daisy.

As a counterpoint, consider a key moment in the most recent season of another Spanish juggernaut, soccer’s FC Barcelona. They’re in the midst of a crucial Champions League encounter they are expected to win, yet the game remains tensely poised, and Barça are potentially facing elimination from the sport’s most prestigious competition. As if on cue, the Barcelona players respond by crumpling to the ground in operatic agony whenever they brush up against an opposing player; clutching their faces as if their eyes had been gouged out after a contested header; and gang-griping to the ref after any phantom infraction by the opposition. The collective pressure tells on the official, an irreplaceable player on the other side is soon sent off, and Barça go on to win not only the game but the entire tournament.

Of course the opposite of the desired effect can happen.  I was watching a segment about legendary NHL ref Kerry Fraser who was reffing a game with the New York Islanders and Alexi Yashin.  Yashin is tripped and is called for a dive.  As he was yipping to Fraser about the call, Fraser says back, “I’ve seen you drive to the net with a piano on your back, give me a break”.  I still love it when players get called for diving (or flopping).  We need it to be called more often.