What a hero. Take a bow, Gary Cahill. No no, don't fall down! Just a bow.
Breaking stereotypes like it's nobody's business, Gary "but he's just not that type of player" Cahill made like a swan and geronimoed his way down onto the Stamford Bridge turf on Saturday as he tried to do something that big English center halves should not be capable of. And I don't mean trying to split two defenders with something approximating technique and footballing skill. All the "Johnny Foreigners" stood and stared, aghast at the utter cheek of the big Englishman to take a page out of their own books. Meanwhile Branislav "awkwardest falls" Ivanović was furiously scribbling in his notepad, taking note of EBGC's technique, circumstance, and innocent post-event face.
That's if you go with the narrative* of course -- personally, I don't think it was a dive in that classic Cristiano / Suarez / Gullit-sense -- the narrative that has solidified Chelsea's firm grip on top spot in the Enemies of Football power rankings. Mourinho's has of course assured that Cahill's upcoming rest against Derby County has nothing to do with his balletic moves. Either way, it's good to be back in the friendly confines of our Evil Lair at the top of Evil Mountain. Us against them, that's how titles are won.
* David Meyler would of course never pretend to not have made contact with Cahill, right? Meyler would never put up his hands if he made even the faintest of touches, right? Right.
I do have one very serious bone to pick with Cahill. Yesterday, I just so happened to be listening to Drivetime on talkSport, hosted by bigmouth Adrian Durham and whoever his usual ex-cricket-playing sidekick is. But thanks to Cahill's little "incident," I actually found myself agreeing with Shock-jock Durham, the man whose sole job is to get people riled up and angry enough to call in or at least talk about his silly program.
What have you done, Gary Cahill?!
In all seriousness, diving is bad. Diving, in the classic sense of looking to cheat, not in the sense of avoiding injury or contact or even anticipating contact, that is. But it's as old as the game itself. Any game, in fact. As long as people have been playing games, people have looked to gain advantage over their opponent. Fair or foul, as long as you don't get caught, anything goes. Especially when there is as much money involved as in professional sports. That doesn't make it right, of course. But it's just how things are when humans get involved.
"If people cheat and do wrong they have to suffer the consequences, we've all had to do that. They do it in other things, so why not for diving or simulation?"
"The key thing is, we don't like it, it's in our game and it's very difficult for the ref to deal with. You have to leave him to deal with it. Really then it's up to the authorities to do something about it and deal with it."
-Steve McClaren; source: ESPN
What's the solution then? Same as it's always been. Post-match reviews, fines. Video officials. If we're going to judge players and referees based on slow-motion replays, that technology needs to become part of the live game. Reduce the role of match officials to just enforcing the decisions made by the video judges (i.e. more than just one) watching the game live (with on-demand, immediate replays and slow-motion). As the rules get more complicated and every second of the game gets overanalyzed after the fact, this is not only a needed but a necessary evolution.
The theory is simple. The implementation is anything but. Will we ever get there? Maybe. Maybe not. But perhaps one day we'll look back and raise our glasses to Gary Cahill, and remember the man who took but a small "dive" for man, yet a giant leap for the game.