The favored topic of discussion during the NBA playoffs this year is flopping. For the uninitiated, flopping has also been known by more flattering terms like "selling the call." It's the act of overreacting when being fouled, or even when not being fouled, to draw a whistle from the ref.
"I think it's time to look at [flopping] in a more serious way because it's only designed to fool the referee," NBA commissioner David Stern said last week. "It's not a legitimate play in my judgment. I recognize if there's contact, move a little bit, but some of this is acting. We should give out Oscars rather than MVP trophies."
Stern suggests that there's no room for gamesmanship, or that it's even possible to discern a flop at full speed instead of with the aid of super-slow-motion video replay. And he's likely to get plenty of pushback from players who insist that dramatically overreacting helps to make up for all the real fouls the officials miss.
Of course, in the world of flopping, basketball players are rank amateurs. To watch flopping taken to artistic levels, one must tune in to international soccer. Starting this weekend, ESPN obliges by televising Euro 2012, the championship for European national soccer teams. Squads from Italy, Portugal and Spain are truly exceptional when it comes to taking dramatic dives.
As in the NBA, the best floppers are also among the game's finest players. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and the Netherlands' Arjen Robben crash to the turf when so much as breathed upon in the penalty area, where a foul results in a penalty kick. They roll on the grass and contort their faces into operatic expressions of anguish. If they fail to get the referee's attention, they resort to pleading with hands outstretched, palms facing skyward as though seeking intervention from a higher power.
Soccer has legislated against this kind of trickery and punishes blatant dives with yellow cards, although not very often when superstars like Ronaldo and Robben are involved. The guess here is the same will be true when the NBA establishes a no-flopping rule.