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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The prevalence of flopping in sports needs to stop

It’s a word that has long and deeply-rooted negative connotations in sports and society writ large. To even mention the word during the Middle Ages was grounds for a jousting duel. Flopping in the Old West was commonly seen during the counting off of paces. Meanwhile, horrific acting meant to bring about a desired result is often pointed to as the reason the Treaty of Versailles failed. In the sports world, “flopping” is a piece of terminology with plenty of negative connotations.

Sports have seen its share of flopping in recent memory. The issue itself gets magnified when the playoffs come around and a win-at-all costs mentality is adopted. Lakers fans still mumble about Paul Pierce’s Benny Hinn-like ability to rise from a wheelchair and help the Celtics to a title during the 2008 NBA Finals. In the same vein, Memphis Grizzlies fans were heard decrying the Clippers’ attempts to sway referees during their first round series this year. The city was heard derisively playing off the team’s sobriquet Lob City, calling them Flop City, especially saving their disdain for Blake Griffin. As a side note, if you have been unable to locate Lob City on a map, it is located well before Title Town. Perhaps Clippers Nation needs a new capital. Sorry, I just had to.

The apparent problem of flopping has become such an issue in the NBA that David Stern, the league’s capo di tutti capi, has openly declared that the rules may be changed to penalize these basketball thespians. LeBron James was seen doing a pirouette during this year’s playoffs after getting brushed aside on a Tyson Chandler screen. Pau Gasol — or Disavow Gasol as he is known to Kobe Bryant — has been mildly annoying fans of all shapes and sizes for years with his rendition of Swan Lake on a basketball court. Throw Anderson Varejao and Manu Ginobili’s names in there, too. They should each have a star on the mythical Hollywood Flop of Fame.

Basketball has certainly seen its share of European influence over the last 20 years. Perhaps this is one side effect. Most of the people in this country look at the sport of soccer with equal parts contempt and scorn for what we know as flopping. In soccer — as well as hockey — the practice is known as diving and unlike basketball, it is sometimes penalized. When it is not, it is looked upon as gamesmanship: Writhing around on the ground like Curly Howard to try and draw a yellow card from the other team is just another part of the game.

There is even a webpage that details a handy seven-step guide of how to flop in soccer. The first step, appropriately, is to rid oneself of dignity. Not surprisingly, that was also the first step on how to become a sportswriter, according to my training.

Flopping, though, has now been seen springing up in sports where it would once be unthinkable. The NFL saw a couple of incidents this past season that were more Messi than messy for the organization’s reputation. Recall the New York Giants’ Jacquian Williams and Deon Grant falling faster than the Berlin Wall in a Monday night game against the Rams this season, as well as Brent Celek and Jerome Simpson trying to capture a share of the NFL’s version of the Razzie for their attempts at method acting.

The public never really witnessed the movie “John Carter” (or “Get Carter” for that matter), as evidenced by its interplanetary disaster of a box office showing, but had they done so, it might have looked oddly similar to what opponents have been doing to try and stall Oregon’s offense in recent years: Fake an injury, grab an orange slice, and stop the clock.

There probably is a moral to this story. At least I’m trying to find one to fill out the rest of this article, the result of waiting until a deadline to put something together. It is that, if at first you don’t succeed, mortgage any lingering self-respect in the name of drawing a favorable call. As long as the rules allow it, there will always be plenty of boys crying wolf and Timmy’s at the bottom of figurative wells across the sports spectrum.

Heck, even baseball has seen its share of the practice of floppery. A player feigning being hit a pitch, then being told to return to home plate and having to lick his imaginary wounds. New Yorkers still believe that Curt Schilling’s bloody sock — regarded by Bostoners as a Horatio Alger story manifested through hosiery — as nothing more than fake drama concocted with the help of high fructose corn syrup and a little bit of red #40.

Flopping is not just confined to the sporting world. Apparently, that is why insurance fraud is so prevalent. Put another way, you can look at the bad acting done by your favorite athletes in order to coax the officials into a call as sports’ equivalent of making it seem like suffering a severed vertebrae after getting bumped on a rolling stop. However, it is unlikely you will soon find a sports star wearing an orange jumpsuit as punishment for the former. Though, there is hope that the act goes the way of some other famous flops. I’d toast a New Coke to that if I could.



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