Why Women Don't Fake It on the Field

Detractors of female soccer argue that the women's game isn't as interesting for spectators as the men's because men are bigger and stronger. When you watch a men's team play, you'll see more athleticism! More manly muscles! More grunting and five o'clock shadow and questionable tattoos! But there's another, less desirable trait that male soccer players exhibit with much greater frequency than female soccer players- the practice of "flopping."

For the non-soccer fan, "flopping," or "diving" (or "simulating" if you're fancy) happens when a player pretends to be injured in order to draw a foul against the other team or whittle time off of the game clock. It's an oft-used strategy, and some players- Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, for example- are known for being particularly spectacular injury fakers. There are dozens of loving tributes to the over the top theatrics of the male international soccer prima donna, and most fans have begrudgingly accepted it as a slightly annoying but occasionally comical part of the game.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University, female soccer players, while not totally immune to the siren song of the strategic dive, do so much less often than their male counterparts. Reports the New York Times,

The study reviewed video of 47 matches from the 2003 and 2007 Women's World Cups and compared injury rates with men's matches in regional tournaments. Apparent injuries were divided into two categories. They were considered "definite" if a player was replaced within five minutes or was visibly bleeding. Otherwise, the injuries were considered "questionable."

Researchers found that an average of 11.26 apparent injuries occurred in men's matches, compared with 5.74 in women's matches. Those considered "definite" involved 13.7 percent of injuries for women and 7.2 percent for men.

So, ladies are less theatrical on the field? I'm so confused; I thought ladies were always the more theatrical and flamboyant ones. Have television commercials been lying to me?

There are a few theories as to why this is happening. One is that women's soccer doesn't have the history that men's soccer has, and thus women have had less time to understand and exploit the rules of the game. There may not be many habitual divers outside of Brazil now, but give the ladies time. Human history has taught us that women, when given the opportunity, can act just as shitty as men.

Another theory is that women value the integrity of the sport itself more than the men, since men's soccer is a multi-quadrazillion bajillion dollar global industry and thus male players pull out all the stops in order to preserve what's at stake- endorsements, multi-million dollar contracts, Kardashians.

Finally, because men tend to be bigger, faster, and heavier than women (unless that man is Lionel Messi, but he's exempt from these examples because he is literally made of magic), there is more physical contact and thus more opportunity to dive. I'm pretty sure that science says that as two objects become more massive and hit each other with more velocity, the force of the impact is greater. Some of men's soccer dives may not be borne of an impact that's actually strong enough to cause injury but is strong enough to give one or both players in question a chance to more convincingly fall to the ground.

The end result of less diving is that watching women play soccer at the highest level is less encumbered by obvious cheating histrionics and more of a pure experience. Sans dramatics, fans can focus on the sport in its pure form.

While the "Why don't women dive as much as men?" question seems best answered by a combination of those three theories, I'd like to propose an additional theory- general male pain-wimpiness. Ever spent time around a man with a cold or accidentally elbowed a guy? It's like stepping on a cat's tail.

Routine Ruse in Men's Soccer Tumbles into Women's World Cup [NYT]