Speaker by Various Artists

59

Knuckleball

by FIF WORLD CUP 2010 WK 2

The World Cup only comes around once every four years, this means everyone has a good chance to save up all their whinging for one month-long burst.

First it was the vuvuzelas. Our broadcasts were suffering from the death of a thousand plastic horns. It seems now the attendees have learned how to create some kind of tune with them as the monotone is more of a sine wave.

And then there's the ball. The Jabulani (which means rejoice) is apparently the worst spheroid designed to be kicked in the HISTORY OF MANKIND! It is so bad in fact that it defies the laws of physics. After the New Zealand-Slovakia match, one of TVNZ's in-house commentators claimed that the ball "picked up speed after you kicked it". Others claim that it keeps rising into the air.

But it has to blamed doesn't it? I mean it's too light and lighter means fewer goals. Like the +Teamgiest at Germany in 2006, which was also too light and where the teams only scored 12 more goals than the teams this time around (89 goals scored in 2006 compared to 77 at the same time this year).

Or what about the Fevernova? The ball used in the 2002 World Cup that was also too light and players were complaining that it was causing too many goals. Wait, what?

The Jabulani is the roundest ball ever. And the rounder and smoother the ball the weirder it's gonna move. Unsurprisingly the Americans know what this means: it's a knuckleball. A ball that has very little spin and so moves in an "unnatural" way.

So why is everyone complaining? The goalies are complaining and the strikers are complaining; one of them must be wrong. as Adelaide University professor Derek Leinweber said, goalkeepers want "an iron ball that sits at the centre of the field". The strikers are complaining they can't place the ball where they want because it moves oddly. I counter with if you can usually place the ball where you want then why don't you score more? And the guys crossing the ball into the penalty area seem be having no trouble finding their targets.

One thing that may be annoying the keepers is the pattern on the ball. When seen moving in slow-mo (and high def and I couldn't find a video to link to for this) the pattern exaggerates the movement of the ball. In some shots you can see the keeper's eyes trying to lock on to where the ball is actually moving to, despite the ball not actually moving that much. A recent scientific paper showed that a similar effect was true of a curveball in baseball.

Come the second round we'll probably be complaining about something else, like, I dunno, diving.

We play a very... well let's call it a physical style of play. Fallon has a nasty elbow habit and as was pointed out in the System, our defence seems to mainly be flailing limbs. And for all our high and mighty-ness, I saw many kiwi players flying through the air hands clutched to faces. Or maybe it was Bertos and Reid over and over, I forget. The sheer number of cameras, though, means every simulation (dive) is caught in perfect HD (and in some cases, 3D).

Diving is, in my opinion, the reason why football will struggle to be taken seriously here and in to an extent in the US. The nature of the New Zealand sports fan – and naturally I generalise here – is the type to yell "get up, ya sook", or words to that effect. And we are a nation who are incredibly good at rugby, a hard contact sport where feigning injury is on equal standing to causing it.

We are a nation of realists (with a tendency to go blind when swept up in our own success) and simulation doesn't gel with our mindset.

What does gel is the underdog amateur spirit of this All White squad. It's something that we haven't had in a sport team for a while. The All Blacks especially, but even our netballers competing against the rest of the world seem to be underperforming favourites rather than underdogs.

I mean it's hard to even look at Simon Elliot without feeling sorry for him.

The worst thing in the world that the All Whites could do is be successful. Sure, if they make it to the second round they'll be instant legends here. But then what happens at the next Cup? Football NZ needs to put a stop to their success before it gets out of hand. And God help them if they fluke their way to a win, there'll be no remorse.

On a weird note, when I was looking up the stuff about the last World Cup I found this:

[German Newspaper] Die Zeit, which questioned maternity units and birth clinics, reported a 29% rise in Bremen and 28% in Chemnitz. The full results will not be known until they are gathered by the Federal Office of Statistics next year, but the trend is clear, according to Rolf Kliche, head of the Dr Koch Birth Clinic in Kassel, which saw a 25% rise.

"The World Cup meant that people were in a constantly good mood for a month or so, which raised the amount of happy hormones and meant that people were ready for sex and their bodies more open to becoming pregnant," he said. "If we had a World Cup in Germany every year I think we'd have found the permanent answer to our low birthrate problem."

So what're the chances that we'll see a spike in births in February after all of those excited 4am hook-ups?

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