Defending the flop: A practical look at bending the rules in sports

So much of modern sport has boiled down to an athlete ‘selling the call.’  Whether it’s a soccer player tugging a jersey, a basketball player feigning contact to warrant a charge or a catcher moving his mitt back into the strike zone to make a ball look like a strike, all these techniques have become part of the game and have been for a long time.  The intent?  To sway the official’s call by bending the rules.

Yet more than any of these acts, fans see flopping as a character issue.  We criticize guys like Pau Gasol, Vlade Divac or pretty much every soccer player out there for doing so, yet they’re often rewarded for this kind of play. For example, in the 2010 World Cup, Brazil’s Kaka was given a red card, and summarily ejected from the game, after an opponent ran into him.  Instant replay later proved the ref got the call wrong but Brazil was still penalized.

With so much emphasis these days on getting the call right, officials are still NEVER commended for a job well done.  They are only ridiculed and reprimanded after getting a call wrong with little regard for how these forms of ‘cheating’ make their jobs more difficult.

Over the past few years, there’s been a movement to penalize the floppers.  Some think “habitual floppers” should be given technical fouls.  But with so much to keep their eye on, refs understandably have difficulty determining who initiated contact.  There’s no telling that even instant replay would correct the issue (see: Tuck Rule).

In real life, we bend the rules all the time.  We go seven miles over the speed limit, we leave work fifteen minutes early, we take candy from the dispensers at our local supermarket without paying for it, all because we know we won’t get caught.  (I swear I’ve never done any of these things).  We’re not breaking the rules per se.  We’re only bending them to suit our immediate needs.  Yet once again, we make the mistake of holding athletes to a higher standard.

To most, flopping seems like cheating… but then again aren’t all those things as well if they intend to bend the rules?  How is flopping any different from holding that doesn’t get called, a catcher trying to sway an umpire’s opinion or an infielder pretending to touch second base while turning a double play.  They’re not.

So my question is… would you flop?  Your immediate response is probably “I would never stoop so low!  It’s cheating, immoral and plain old wrong!”  But if you knew drawing a foul, altering the strike zone, or any such technique would affect a call and put your opponent at a disadvantage, then why WOULDN’T you do it, particularly when millions of dollars, and possibly your livelihood as a player, are at stake?  It’s taking advantage of the human element in sports.  Like Alfre Woodard said in Blue Chips “A foul is only a foul if the referee blows his whistle.”

So think twice before rolling to a stop at your next red light on your way to attacking Derek Fisher for taking a charge.  What you’re both doing might be one and the same.

25 thoughts on “Defending the flop: A practical look at bending the rules in sports

  1. Chris

    Isn’t the flop used by the effeminate athletes in today’s sports who just can’t cut it athletically ?

    What the hell happened to Dustin Johnson in the PGA Championship ? If you don’t fully understand the rules then your a_s shouldn’t be on a golf course to begin with !


    tophatal …….. 🙂

  2. Agreed, Al.

    Erik Kuselias was sitting in for Mike and Mike this morning and was appalled that Johnson got called for a penalty.

    Find me a professional golfer that puts his club in ANY sort of sand on a golf course during a round and I’ll find you a guy who’s hitting the clubhouse early.

  3. Cheating is cheating. Why do we excuse it by saying that if everyone is doing it,it’s not really cheating? Where do you draw the line or is there a line. Flopping,stealing signs, steroids, where does it end and what sort of message are we sending to the next generation. Sometimes wrong is wrong period.

  4. I think it somewhat depends on the flopper. Some of them work harder than others, and if flopping is a part of your “repitoire” or what makes you a good defender, then that’s weak. I understand why you’d want to do it in certain situations, but if you are labeled a flopper, you won’t always get the call, and when you don’t you leave your team down a man since you are lying on the floor crying foul.

    I’m not saying I would never flop, but I’d sure pick my places on when to flop. If I was somehow in the NBA, they’d never call me Floppy Divac!

  5. Agreed, Aer. Very good point.

    It’s like being half-pregnant, I guess.

    But is flopping really cheating? I mean, all a guy is trying to do is draw a charge and fake the contact.

    I don’t know that there’s anything in the rule book against that.

    Now should there be? Maybe.

  6. Floppy Chappy? I think we’re on to something.

    And I totally agree with you. There’s nothing more annoying than an NBA player who’s crying to the ref about not getting a call while his opponent’s are fast-breaking the other way.

    Most coaches tell their players to let them handle the refs. Too bad the players don’t listen.

  7. One of the announcers during the NBA playoffs used the term “accentuate the contact” when referring to the Boston Celtics (Paul Pierce, in particular.) He also said that some players were very good at “creating opportunities for free throws.” You’re the spin doctor, Chris. Is this the same as flopping?

    Obviously some of these floppers were not raised with a strict Catholic upbringing, lol. The guilt wouldn’t allow them to sleep at night!

  8. Yeah, I’ve always wondered if players realize that their bitching doesn’t ever help them get a call. If you were the ref, and heard a guy complaining everytime down the court, would you make more calls for him? I know I wouldn’t! It would make me want to sway the opposite way for that player if it was a “boarderline” call.

    I would hope that they wouldn’t nickname me Floppy Chappy 🙂

  9. The human element of officiating allows for favoritism, Chap, and despite what David Stern would tell you, we can only wonder what affect that has on the game.

    One need only look at how a guy like Rasheed Wallace was refereed over his career to see opinions take their effect.

    I agree with you. I would have to think the squeaky wheel does NOT get the grease in the NBA.

    Let’s ask Tim Donaghy what he thinks.

  10. Tim Donaghy would definitely take your call these days…he’s been featured on a few different sites. Why don’t you give him a ring and ask him if he’ll do a short interview.

    Despite all the NBA’s foibles (officiating, flopping, incompetent management of certain teams etc) I’m still a junkie…just can’t help it.

  11. Chris


    My bone of contention there isn’t so much what took place but the fact that it appears that Johnson didn’t even know the rules governing his situation at the time. So it doesn’t come down to the PGA here but the fact that the player simply wasn’t aware as to the rules . He’s got no one to blame but himself .


    I’ll try to attend one or two of the next home games of the Rays at the Trop . I’ve got one or two ex army buddies of mine in town from the UK here on a visit. If possible I’ll take ’em to a couple of games before they leave for the West Coast.


    I’ve got to admit the Rays were terrific against the Rangers last night. Who knew that they’d have looked so good ? The offense was solid but the defense was exceptional .

    🙂

    tophatal ……… 🙂

  12. Excellent and provocative post! While I agree that most rules are meant to be bent, I posit that the entire fabric of our society is held together by the illusion of trust and integrity (what’s money other than an agreed upon value- a promise of good faith?). That said, fuck Manu Ginobili, Anderson Varejao, or any other assclown distorting the fine game of basketball with such blatant disregard for character.

  13. Chris


    So ‘melo is unsure whether or not he wants to sign a contract extension with the Nuggets or possibly seek a deal with the Knicks ? Him playing alongside Stoudemire at best might make the Knicks no better than the fifth or six best team in the Eastern Conference .

    So phenom Bryce Harper signs a four $10 million contract with the Nationals. One more notch on the belt for uber-agent Scott Boras and kick in the nuts for MLB hierarchy !

    Washington Nationals sign Bryce Harper to $9.9 million contract

    By Adam Kilgore
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, August 17, 2010; 2:47 AM

    Together, they followed the owners of the Washington Nationals into the conference room on the third floor inside Nationals Park, relaxed and smiling after tense and successful negotiations that landed them another piece of a promising future. Mike Rizzo, Stan Kasten, Kris Kline and Roy Clark – the four men most responsible for bringing Bryce Harper to Washington – sat at a long table and described to the assembled media how they had done it.

    ======================

    Click on link to read in full.
    ======================


    If things pan out five years from now neither he or Strasburg will be players on that Nationals team . They’ll both be wearing Yankees’ pinstripes.

    🙂

    tophatal …….. 🙂

  14. Drew… that’s why I love you, man. I too am a hopeless basketball jones and will watch til the end of time.

    And that’s a great idea about Donaghy, man.

    SportsChump Exclusive!!!

    How are those Baby Kemp T’s coming along?

  15. Al…

    I totally agree with you on Johnson. In fact, I don’t know why everyone was making such a stink about it.

    Everyone knows you’re not supposed to ground your club. This particular course also made it clear to every golfer that there were bunkers everywhere, some clearly marked and some not.

    And who was the other golfer that came to Johnson’s defense and said that nobody actually reads those things?

    What’s going on with the PGA tour these days? Is it falling apart in front of our very eyes? If I were the PGA Commissioner, I’d pull a Stern/Goodell and fine that kid for saying that stupid shit in the first place.

    You don’t read the rules posted? Well suffer the consequences.

  16. We’ll see what happens with ‘Melo, Al. His going to the Knicks might be the natural progression of things.

    That Denver team has run its course. They’ll just underachieve once again next season. ‘Melo will be back and playing in New York and the possible addition of Tony Parker will make that a fun team to watch.

    So I’m okay with it.

    I’m also glad to see Boras isn’t totally sucking the blood out of the Nats and getting his kid to hold out.

    Although you’re right. We’ll see how long both Harper and Strasburg stay in the nation’s capitol.

  17. Chris

    It’s not so much that things have run its course in Denver. But it comes down to the uncertainty concerning the health of George Karl and the lineage progression in terms of his heir apparent .


    Retired professional and analyst David Feherty defended Johnson. But then again Feherty himself was also unsure of the rules .


    Strasburg and the Nationals’ new recruit Bryce Harper won’t be with that team four years from now. Strasburg and Harper’s agent Scott Boras will make sure of that because by then the Yankees will have started rebuilding for the next decade in their era. Need one say anymore on the subject ? We all know it’s true .

    🙂

    tophatal …. 🙂

  18. In a wide open Western Conference (from the two-seed down, that is) Denver should still compete, whether Karl is on the sidelines or not.

    Wait a minute, they didn’t keep Dantley, did they?

    And re: Harper, I’m surprised to see him sign for so little. 2 mil a year? That wasn’t very much. Strasburg’s deal was considerably larger.

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