NOTE: Here is the transcript of this week’s “Scott’s Shot,” a 5-minute monologue where Scott takes a shot at someone or something. We liked this one so much that we decided to publish it on our website as well. If you haven’t heard the audio version in our podcast feed yet, we have posted the link at the bottom of this post. Thanks!
Hello, my name is Scott. My voice is back, and so is desire to take a shot at someone. This week, it's going to be the oversimplifiers. It may not be a word, but it's my target for this week. The oversimplifiers.
As humans, we have this natural desire to simplify things down to labels that we can easily understand: felon, lesbian, Christian, immigrant. It creates narrow points of view that are not always helpful, holistic, or even accurate.
This is true for things that matter in life, like religion and politics. And it's equally true for things of lesser importance that still matter to us, like Premier League football.
Now, I know that the last thing you probably want to hear within our podcast feed is yet another argument about whether or not Mo Salah is a diver. That's why I chose to talk about it here, and it will be the last time (maybe) that I bring it up for a while. However, I feel like the debate that continues to rage on about Salah can actually help us be better people in general.
Think about this for a moment: What exactly is a diver? The easy answer is someone who dives. But what exactly is a dive? This is where I propose that things get tricky.
Last week, when Dave and I discussed this subject, I suggested that there are two scenarios that need to be broken out. There are plays where players go down without contact in an attempt to get a call. And there are plays where players receive contact and then go down in an attempt to get a call.
The first play is clearly a dive. Another term for this is simulation, which is the right term for faking contact. I am in agreement with all of you listening -- I assume -- that this is a dive and worthy of a yellow card (at least).
The second play? This is where we may differ. I suggest that this is where your oversimplified label, diver, becomes inaccurate.
Take the first match of this past weekend, Wolves v. Leicester. Diogo Jota had an incredible match. His game-winning goal in injury time was an emotional moment. Lost in that moment, however, is what happened less than a minute before that. Jota was dribbing toward goal, received contact, attempted to fight through it, and in the end, his run came to nothing. When the color commentator on the world feed watched the replay, he said that Jota would have probably given the referee something to think about if he had gone down.
Now, obviously, this became a moot point in reality when Jota scored seconds later. However, what if he hadn't? What if the match ended 3-3? Is Jota better for being tough and fighting through the potentially illegal tackles in order to score? You might give him moral points, but those do no good in the Premier League table. You could have argued, in this revisionist history scenario, that he had cost his team two points.
Fortunately for him, Wolves, and all that is fair in this world, the result turned out much different.
Back to Salah. He took a different approach. Mamadou Sakho kicked him in the leg while Salah possessed the ball. It wasn't a terrible kick. It wasn't enough to knock Salah down, but it was contact. Possibly a foul. What did Salah do? He went down, even though he didn't have to.
Now, does that make Salah a diver? Maybe. Have you settled on your definition of diving yet? If you want to include a play like this, then you have just opened the definition of diving up to plays that would encapsulate more than 100 players in the Premier League. Because now you have to include any play that involves contact and a player going down unnecessarily. Don't we see that just about every match?
If that's what you want as a definition, great. Just be sure to call it out every time you see it. Not just when one player does it.
The reality is that referees usually require a player falling to the pitch before blowing the whistle. So when a player is conditioned to do that to get a call, is it wrong? Is it diving? Or is it good strategy?
In this case against Crystal Palace, Mo Salah didn't get the call. But what if he had? Just like he did in previous matches when he was fouled in the box? It would have been good strategy then. To be clear, I didn't love seeing Mo drop to the pitch when he did. But I get why he did it.
Listeners of this podcast, can we please be different than the masses? Can we avoid quick takes that oversimplify players into one word? Can we use our eyes to watch and then our brains to think through what we are watching? Can we see the complexities of the beautiful game for what they are? Complexities that are not to be simplified?
It's what you want whenever someone tries to condense you down into a label. You are more than just a...insert label here. So are our favorite footballers.
If you insist on giving Salah a label anyway, let's not call him a diver. I propose dropper. Mo Salah, because of the way he goes down after contact, is a dropper. Yeah, that works for me.