While most people are currently enjoying all the excitement and splendor of perhaps the greatest World Cup in recent memory, the Wall Street Journal has meticulously compiled a mostly worthless set of statistics intended to prove what everyone already knows — that sometimes footballers simulate injuries.
Over the first 32 matches of the tournament, the Wall Street Journal added up all of the "injuries" (in scare quotes because everyone is guilty even if they're innocent) and the writhing time (which, for some reason, did not get scare quotes) to produce a handy chart that proves...well, nothing. Only injuries that resulted in a player being substituted were deemed "significant" and excluded from the assumption that all expressions of pain within a match were simulated.
By this criteria, Clint Dempsey was possibly faking it when he was kicked in the face by a Ghana player, turning his nose into a blood-filled bendy straw, because he kept playing after potentially smearing his face with ketchup and getting in his suspicious "writhing time."
However, it's unclear if the scary moments Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira was unconscious on the pitch before disobeying the doctor's orders and playing on were counted in his team's four minutes and seven seconds of writhing time. But I guess a worrying period of lifelessness can be considered rather theatrical by the tournaments most twisted viewers, too.
The study showed one thing emphatically," the author writes. "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."
While a good portion of that is definitely down to time-wasting to protect a lead, it doesn't consider that teams protecting a lead could be more likely to get fouled as the losing side tries to get the ball at all costs and find an equalizer. Or that players on the losing team might be more likely to play through pain in their desperation to, you know, not lose.
Of course, diving and simulation are real things that happen too often and it would be ideal if it all just stopped immediately. But to assume that every player who doesn't leave a game with his bone marrow exposed is an enemy of the sport and must be punished only serves to enrage the person who holds such misguided obsessions and distract from the enjoyment and celebration of the 86 minutes of non-writhing time in each match. In other words, it all comes down to how you look at it.
Yes, embellishment and "writhing time" can slow down and draw out a match as more injury time must be added to the end, but that just means more broadcast time goes by without being able to air commercials for companies that support the awfulness of FIFA. In a way, faking injuries during the World Cup is like a small protest against corruption and profiteering. Or something like that.
Anyway, it's likely that despite all the time and effort that went into compiling the "World Cup flopping rankings" — as well as all of the hand wringing they have produced — they might not have been intended to be taken seriously. If this was a satirical work, then it was actually pretty genius. After all, it's a study of time wasting that is, in itself, a complete waste of time.