Look, even soccer fans won't argue that there's too much theatrical diving in the sport. We don't need the anti-soccer brigade shouting at us about the umpteenth instance of a player rolling around in the grass, clutching his ankle with a grimace a horror movie actress would be jealous of to admit that point, okay? Especially not when we have stone cold facts saying that yes, teams often do fake injuries, often for their own advantage, as the Wall Street Journal has put on offer.
The Journal examined the first 32 games of the World Cup and calculated both the number of "injuries" each team suffered and how long the player laid on the pitch in pain—what they call "writhing time." In total, there were 302 injuries, with 132 minutes of writhing time. However, nine of those injuries resulted in the player actually being substituted, so those instances were discarded. That left 293 injuries and 118 minutes spent in agonizing, though not debilitating, pain.
As the stereotype would predict, Brazil suffered the most dubious injuries—17 of them, to be exact. However, their 3 minutes and 18 seconds of writhing time was on the lower end of the scale, because they were quick to continue on with play once the foul was called. (By way of comparison, Chile had the second most injuries, at 16, but wasted almost seven minutes recovering from them.)
The true dramatists in the tournament have been Honduras and France, the only squads to rack up over seven minutes of writhing. Our boys, you might wonder? They come in fifth in overall time spent off their feet with 6 minutes and 24 seconds of writhing time. The true iron men have been Bosnia-Herzegovina, who've only gone down twice, for a total of 24 seconds. All that honesty will undoubtedly leave them with warm memories on the long flight home after their group stage exit.
The most telling results, though, are the situations when players choose to go down injured. Here's the Journal:
The amount of histrionics your players display during a match correlates strongly to what the scoreboard says. Players on teams that were losing their games accounted for 40 "injuries" and nearly 12.5 minutes of writhing time. But players on teams that were winning—the ones who have the most incentive to run out the clock—accounted for 103 "injuries" and almost four times as much writhing.
This is obviously a calculated maneuver, so instead of decrying the flopping, maybe we should embrace it. When your team is winning and one of their players looks like he was shot by a gun hidden in his opponent's boot, you can appreciate the heady play for what it is. When your team is down and the opponent convulses on the pitch like a squirrel having a seizure, you can lustily boo that scoundrel for his nefarious tactics. At least no one gets bitten.