Decades ago, a football coach whose team had just finished a game tied at 0-0 uttered a now-famous refrain. A tie, he said, is like kissing your sister.
And that attitude fits American sports, where most of us do not embrace an outcome that has several names: Tie, draw, dead heat, stalemate, push, deadlock, even-steven ...
I mean, who wants to lay his/her body and soul on the line in a sporting event, then walk away afterward with the feeling that nothing counted?
So we go to great lengths to avoid that fate. We play overtimes to avoid deadlocks.
(Sometimes, we even try to avoid overtime. Remember a couple of years ago, at the end of Selma High’s magical season, in the Southern California regional, with a trip to the state championship game on the line, Bears coach Matt Logue went for the win with a two-point conversion instead of kicking a tying PAT and taking his chances in OT? The pass failed, and Logue was criticized by some folks but not by me. Go for it, coach. Play for the win.)
Our national pastime, baseball, keeps playing until one team is ahead after an inning beyond the normal nine. That can create some long games, up into the high teens in innings, even past 20 on rare occasions. (Which wreaks havoc on bullpens and managers’ psyches.)
Basketball plays overtime periods. College and high school football keep playing overtime until they get a winner. The NFL plays one extra period, waiting for someone to score. If no one wins in OT, it goes down as a tie.
Tennis has a tiebreaker system (which is not used in fifth sets in some major tournaments) and golf has various playoff rules (which often have the players re-doing Hole 18 several times).
Hockey used to allow ties. But it eventually went to penalty shootouts for games tied after overtime. (The NHL still plays out overtimes in the playoffs until someone wins — and hoping it occurs before players begin dropping from exhaustion).
Which brings us to futbol.
OK, I admit to being obsessed with the World Cup every four years, and this current one has been compelling.
The powers that run this worldwide game decided in the 1970s that a penalty-kick shootout was a better solution than drawing lots or flipping a coin, which was the normal procedure for deciding games that were still tied after overtime.
For some fans, a shootout is a dramatic way to end a soccer match. And they have a point; the shootout is intense and nerve-wracking.
But is it the best way to decide something as important as World Cup, the most prestigious futbol event in the universe that comes around only every four years?
To many of us who love the game, it is as sacrilegious as baseball deciding a deadlocked World Series game with a home run-hitting contest, or basketball going to a free throw shootout.
The beauty of soccer is in the way goals are scored. The chess-like passing and positioning, the teamwork that involves 22 players, the kicks that bend around defenders and posts and diving goalies. Distilling all that down to simply one-on-one can strip the beauty from the game.
So, for what it is worth, here is one man’s plan to rid futbol of the penalty shootout: In overtime, pull the goalies and make the teams defend with their heads and feet. And then begin eliminating players. Each team would drop a man/woman every few minutes until the teams are playing six on six.
My belief is that a team would score on a play from the field.
There is an unfairness to that scheme, as there is with any scheme. It would deprive us of great goalie saves, which are a big part of the game. I’m willing to do that to see a goal scored by someone running, kicking or heading, not teeing up the ball up for a guessing game.
That’s it. That’s my plan. Because nobody likes ties.
But there is one thing worse. According to former baseball star George Brett: “If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.”