Talk Description to Me

Episode 59 - Soccer

July 10, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 2 Episode 59
Talk Description to Me
Episode 59 - Soccer
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The Euros, one of the world's biggest soccer tournaments, is wrapping up this weekend, which has us thinking about the visuals of the planet's most popular sport.  As curious outsiders, Christine and JJ describe the particulars of the game, and how they affect the uniforms, the athletes, the celebrations, and the hilarious on-field drama. 

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JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to me where the visuals of current events from the world around us get hashed out in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

July 11 2021, is going to be the final of the Euros, which is the football slash soccer extravaganza. And so JJ and I, as total novices and not steeped in the sports world and any sons, we thought we would take this on, and do some description of the visuals that we we anticipate will be interesting to everybody. And I've actually heard it said by people who were not born in Toronto, that Toronto is one of the best cities to watch international football, soccer, because it's multicultural. And they there's actually lists of pubs where, oh, if when Ukraine's playing, you should go here or when, when Scotland is playing, you should go to this pub, and people actually do the rounds. And because there's people from different parts of the world here, you get lots of action. And JJ and I live, not too far from each other on kind of where the main drive there is lots of Italian, Portuguese, Spanish. And so we really get the steeped in the lively street life. When when football soccer is going on. So it's very much in the day to day life for us in the neighborhood that we're in. So we're going to talk about some of the visuals. JJ, should we start with the stadiums? Because I understand there's the spectator experience in Europe is different.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, it's it very much is so the pitch the soccer field is, I mean, the first thing you have to understand about the the soccer stadiums of soccer fields is just the scale. They're huge. So the field is massive, the stadium around them massive, so huge, huge crowds, that affects the energy, of course. And the size of the of the field itself affects a whole bunch of different elements of the visuals of the game. So the international dimensions of a football pitch. And yeah, we can go back and forth football, soccer, football, soccer, the International dimensions are 100 to 110 meters long by 70 to 80 meters wide. So that's about the same length and a little bit wider than an NFL field. For comparison, you could fit 15 basketball courts on one soccer pitch. It's Wow, big, it's big. And like I said, this size affects every aspect of the game. So the net, of course, is to scale. So the net for soccer is eight feet tall and 24 feet wide. For comparison's sake, the hockey net is about four feet tall and six feet wide. And the bigger field means that the bigger Stadium, obviously and also wider TV angles. So if you're going to be trying to pick this, this whole pitch up, if you are going to try and film a good part of this field, you're going to have really wide TV angles, which means your players are going to be tiny, they're going to be at a distance on the field. So the uniforms have to be designed in a certain way. It also means that the athletes have to be incredibly fit in order to run around on a field this size. So the look of the athletes, the body type of the of a soccer player tends to be different than in other sports. And you know, the on field drama in soccer is also affected by the size, the dimension so we can break down all of those things in a minute, but I just want to talk a bit about that the scale and how important it is. So soccer itself played on either natural grass or artificial turf. Either way, the visuals are the same. It's a large green surface. And there are straight white lines for the halfway line, the goal area and so forth, so very thin, straight white lines on a large green surface. And often the if it's if it's natural grass, the field has these perfect mowing stripes that span the width of the field. So when you mow a lawn or field, the blades of grass not only get cut, but they get pushed in the direction that the lawn mower is traveling kind of like the nap of a carpet or a pool table. So with professional fields is soccer or baseball, for example, they are very careful to mow the lawns to mow the grass intentionally. So that instead of having wild random mowing lines all over the place like you might have in your front yard, if you're pushing your mower back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, they don't want that visual distraction to the TV viewer, the stadium spectator, so they mow in perfectly straight alternating lines. And so what it creates visible visually is this kind of orderly striped pattern down the field. If you're watching soccer on TV, the primary angle is from the halfway line high up in the stands, so you're not totally overhead. But you are able to see almost the entire width of the field from the center from the halfway line. And if the camera is is panning from one side to the other, so you want a shot of the one goal at the far end, the camera pivots, and you can basically see about a third of the field length in any one camera shot, but the almost the entire width. So that's how most of the game plays out is from from a distance where the players are really very small, tiny, running around on this vast field. But then if there's a replay or there's a moment of high drama, they'll switch the cameras to a couple of field level cameras that can zoom right in on the action. There are also long boom arms that are behind each net. So you can kind of almost get like a goalkeepers view of the action coming toward the net. And now they actually also use drones. So there are camera drones that fly overhead, and track the action on the field. And this really lets commentators and viewers, like understand the chest like positioning of players on the pitch, you can really track the player movement and the ball movement because of these drone cameras that are overhead.

Christine Malec:

Wow. So I have no shame. Soccer's the one where you don't use your hands, right?

JJ Hunt:

Ha ha! That's right. The only one who is allowed to use their hands is the goalkeeper within the goal area. But otherwise, it is his football only with your feet knees in your head and such.

Christine Malec:

I want to come back to that head thing because that's pretty crazy. But you mentioned several things that are affected by the size of the pitch and one of them was the body type of the athletes. So I'm really curious about that. And I wonder could we compare it to body types of athletes and other sports and and having heard that about the feet and the legs? Do you see a way in which the arms or upper body are underdeveloped and what do they do with their upper body?

JJ Hunt:

Interesting. Okay, so yes, right off the bat the the athletes in, in soccer and football are I mean they're just incredible athletes, athletes are so fit, you're running back and forth, back and forth, often in the heat. So the body types tend to be very strong and lean really fit at closest to like swimmers bodies, swimmers tend to be maybe a little bit longer, but there's not an ounce of fat on these bodies. They are really, really strong and muscular. But not beefy soccer players tend not to be really beefy. If you want to compare to like a hockey athlete. hockey players tend to be bigger, like taller and stronger and heavier because you're checking your body is slamming into other bodies. And you tend not to have as much muscle definition in in hockey players because you have that just a little bit of extra extra body weight extra fat. Baseball players are kind of all over the map. Some baseball players are really fit and and super strong and you do have stronger shoulders and stronger biceps for swinging the bat and hitting but some baseball players are also known to be a sport where you can you can get a little Tubby, and you can probably still be a pretty decent ballplayer in some positions. So baseball players aren't necessarily known for being the most athletic soccer athletes, I would say are among the fittest athletes in all of pro sports.

Christine Malec:

So what about the uniform? How is it different given the scale of the field?

JJ Hunt:

It's really, I find this fascinating. So the basic uniform for soccer players is t shirt, shorts, knee high socks over shin guards and cleats. So it's very, very simple. Not a lot of high tech gear or anything like that. The fabrics tend to be kind of high performance fabrics. So a little bit shiny or slick, glossy quality to the look of the fabric and these days tends to be worn fairly tight to the body. But yes, because of the size of the field. And the fact that everyone from Spectators in the stands to viewers at home need to be able to identify their team. from a great distance. There's a real emphasis on color in the branding. So the colors have to be bold and high contrast and the color choices have to be really clean. So you don't see a lot of really intricate patterns and whatnot. Very simple design so that you can identify players, your team anyway from the stands. So for example, Brazil, bright yellow shirts with green trim around the collars and the short sleeves, a green number on the back. So you can identify the player, blue shorts, White Sox, super simple Portugal, red shirt with a gold number on the back, green shorts, Red Sox. So you know, often with national teams, these The colors are pulled from from flags and whatnot. With pro teams, it's the same kind of aesthetic, the same kind of styling, really simple, really clean, high contrast. So a team like AC Milan, for example, they wear a shirt with vertical red and black stripes. You know, fairly wide black stripes, black shorts, black socks, really super simple. But there are some quirks to soccer uniforms that are kind of interesting. One quirk is that the goalkeeper wears a completely different uniform than anyone else on the field. So the goalkeeper is not dressed in the team colors. In fact, by governing body rules, they have to look different. And my understanding is This is because the refs who are probably at a distance from the play, they need to be able to spot the goalkeeper in a crowd. Because the goalkeeper has different rules, like you said, like you can't use your hands in in soccer but the goalkeeper can. So from a distance, the reps need to be able to identify the goalkeeper so that if they use their hands, they know right away, well that's okay because that's the keeper in hockey. The goalie has totally different equipment, big pads big mask. So the goalie looks completely different from any other player, you would never confuse them from anywhere on the ice. But in in soccer the only difference in equipment really is gloves. I mean, the shin guards might be a bit bulkier, but really the only difference is that the goalkeepers wearing gloves, so from a distance, they need to be wearing a completely different uniform. So that's kind of interesting. And the other thing that I find really inch quirky about soccer is logos on jerseys. So again, it makes sense to me from a visual standpoint that you've got, you know that you have to focus on color focus on simple design choices to make the game easier to watch. The NFL by the way, very similar it for the same reasons. On field uniforms for the NFL are all about the colors, the color patterns, the color branding, with large numbers on the front and back to help identify the players. It's not about the team logo in in NFL, same with soccer. But what's odd to me is that not only is there a lack of team name or logo on the soccer uniform, maybe it's present in like a tiny patch or crest on the chest if it's a national team uniform. But for professional teams, for Premier League teams, across the chest of a soccer uniform is an advertisement. Companies advertise right on Team shirts. They're called the shirt sponsors and you can be the front shirt sponsor, you can be the sleeve sponsor. And so right across the chest of your shirt will be a full on ad. So it might say your jersey might read fly Emirates, the airline, or Chevrolet or Samsung. And even on the national team uniforms, there's an ad that's just as prominent as the team crest. So the crest for the the you know the national team might be on the left side of the jersey over the heart. And on the right side of the chest. There's an Adidas logo or a puma logo or a Nike swoosh over the right side. And when fans buy and wear t merchandise, they're buying and wearing advertisements. So like if you're a football fan or something like

Christine Malec:

Gasp. Oh my gosh. that, you might have a jersey that pulls the team logo and puts that on the front even though the on field uniforms don't necessarily have that. You might get a jersey that's got a you know, whatever the logo for your team is. That doesn't seem to be the case in in soccer football. If you are a Leicester city fan, you might be walking around in a blue shirt with bold white text on the front that reads "Thailand smiles with you!" because the Tourism Authority of Thailand is the main shirt sponsor. Ha ha ha! Wow.

JJ Hunt:

Or if you're a Burnley FC fan your burgundy jersey with powder blue short sleeves has white text on the chest first in Chinese characters and then below it in smaller English, it says "Love bet", which is an Asian gambling company. And that's what's on the front of the jersey for Burnley FC. It's really interesting. I've not seen that in, I shouldn't say in any other

Christine Malec:

Oh my gosh. sport in most team sports where you sell tickets. So if you're a baseball, hockey, football and you have a stadium, you sell tickets, that's where the team is making money. If you are in racing, so car racing, or cycling, where you don't have a team that's selling personal tickets, so you can't make revenue that way. That tends to be where advertisers come into play. So the race car team, the car itself will be plastered in, in logos and sponsor whatever a cyclist same thing, their jersey, their their shirt, their cycling shirt will be covered in ads, because that's how the teams make money. I think it's Oh my god! coming to my mind, this is the soccers the only place where you can sell tickets in stadium to make money for your team. And you still have ads on your jerseys. I think it's unique in that regard. So there have actually been some really interesting moments with regards to advertising and product placement in the euros this year. So there was this very funny moment where Cristiano Ronaldo. So this is a Portuguese soccer superstar. And he caused a bit of a stir at a post match press conference. So these are highly orchestrated events. And every bit of the visual screen space has been set up for monetization. The player who is being interviewed, comes and sits down at a table that is outfitted with a single thin microphone, and the table itself has a flat front panel, that's kind of a muted aqua color. And it's branded with the Euro logo. And behind the table is a backdrop in the same color, and the name of the host city. So games have been played in different in different cities, the name of the host city is overhead. And then there's a grid, a really big grid of sponsor logos behind the athlete. So horizontal rectangles with rounded corners, really, they kind of look like cell phones, and they all say different brands, FedEx, tick tock, booking.com, vivio, Heineken, whatever, and so wall of ads behind the athlete, and then on the table. on our left side of the screen. There are two glass bottles of Coca Cola sitting right there. So the athlete comes they sit down right in front of the microphone and on screen right in front of them are two crisp, refreshing looking bottles of Coca Cola sitting right there. Ronaldo comes in, one of the sport biggest superstars sits down a the press conference and he's gorgeous, gorgeous man. Mediu brown skin, dark, perfect

JJ Hunt:

I mean, this is one of the biggest sports stages in the y trimmed hair, very strong br w sits down at the micropho e leans back in his chair, a d then sits forward, picks up bo h of the coke bottles with o e hand, slides them down t e tables, you can actually he r the kind of scraping of t e bottles as he slides them do n the table off the screen to o r right. Then he reaches furth r to the left, picks up a plast c bottle of water holds it up a d says "Agua." and then mumbles "Coca Cola, mmmm" into the micr phone. Totally slagged the spons r. Huge Deal. And then there was this back and forth like oh oy, oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It was really it was really funn . It became a big deal. You kn w, the apparently Coca Cola s ock price plummeted when he di this. world, one of the biggest superstars in the world, completely dissing the corporate sponsor on, you know, international TV, it was quite a thing.

Christine Malec:

And these guys are superstars in a way that I think we can't relate to in North America. So yeah, big deal.

JJ Hunt:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Huge, massive mega stars. There are very few athletes that can compete with the international celebrity of a soccer superstar.

Christine Malec:

Yeah, yeah. Can we talk briefly about the use of the head in the game? That's just bizarre to me.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah. So the heading the ball is, is definitely a part of the game. And so there is some real neck movement that you have to have a very strong neck. That ball is pretty hard. It is it's well inflated. And so when that ball comes out you and you head the ball, you have to be you have to be very, very strong. First of all tongue in the mouth, you cannot have your tongue hanging out of your mouth as a soccer player. Really important. And you can head the ball forward, you can hit you know, head the ball to the side, so You will see athletes jumping up and you kind of push your head forward like it's a head but and that's you know, you're kind of bouncing the ball off the front of your head. So this is just above the forehead, you can also tip the to the side. So you might make a jerking action to the side, like head tipping to your shoulder, if you're going to direct the ball sideways, in athletes often when they're heading the ball or you're jumping above the crowd, so the ball is coming in high above a tangle of players and you are leaping up and heading the ball from above. I mean, that's not always the way it happens. But that is often you know how it works, you're trying to get above the crowd and head because you can't use your hands. So if you if you're if you're trying to play up high heading the ball is a real option. Otherwise, you're trying to do a windmill kick or something like that, where you're throwing your body in the air and making contact with your feet or knees. When the ball is like at head height or, or higher. And that's very difficult to do again, the athleticism is is kind of unmatched in in professional sports.

Christine Malec:

Do they always manage to land gracefully after a move like that?

JJ Hunt:

Not at all. Ha ha! As a non soccer fan, I wonder sometimes if like

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha! not landing gracefully is desired because there's like a real flailing sometimes when you land and the drama so the on field drama of soccer players is kind of well known so the way they land and flail about and it's it's, it's well known and well documented. So you know, no slag the soccer players when I'm when I talk about it, but again, I think in part, it's because of this massive field, right? You've got this huge field, and the officials, the fans are all you know, they're miles away. So if you don't want anyone to notice what you're doing, be it fans in the stands for a claim or referees because you're trying to get a call, you need to be dramatic. In the same way that a stage actor uses really broad gestures and expressions to reach the back row of the theater as opposed to a movie actor who needs to make little micro adjustments to their face and expression. To reach a you know, a TV viewer or a movie viewer. The you know, the soccer athlete needs to be big with their gestures and big with their expressions. So there's a well earned reputation for onfield drama. And in fact, there are some fantastic video compilations on YouTube of outrageous dives by soccer players. So a dive in soccer or in any sport is when you you fake being injured or tripped or in some way assaulted or hampered by another player, you fake it, you exaggerate it so that the other player gets a penalty. And so you know, a player will pretend to be tricked, hit, tripped, hit or bowled over. And then in soccer, feign grave injury, until the ref calls a penalty. So for example, two players might be fighting for the ball there you know, there's a real tangle going on. One player is kicking it around the other one moving it back and forth with the foot. And then what you know, while they're doing this, one of the players swings an arm into the air, and the other player throws themselves backwards as if they got hit in the nose, they grab their nose like it's been broken fall to the ground and roll around on the ground as if they are in total agony. You're waiting for the blood to gush. And from the wide angle on TV. That might look pretty bad, right like it really might look like the player got clocked. So within they cut to the replay, they get in close maybe they go in slow motion with the onfield camera angle, and it becomes perfectly clear that the swinging arm didn't even make contact. It might be a foot foot and a half away from the other player not even close. But the players just wanted to draw the penalty slow flail around on the ground like they've just been, like mortally wounded. Players dive pretending to have been tripped. They leap through the air with their mouths wide open their arms flailing roll around on the ground grabbing ankles or shins. And sometimes the the player who's supposed to be the offender in these situations, sometimes they vehemently protest. They throw their arms up. "No, it wasn't me. I didn't do anything!" You know, they throw their arms up in the air. And then because they need to be big and dramatic too. And sometimes they laugh and applaud, like trying to draw attention to the dramatics. Like this is ridiculous. In either case, they too are using the big grand gestures. They're playing to the reps. They're playing to the fans. My personal favorite incident of this was from 2005. It's kind of an internet famous head butting incident. So the ball goes out a play. Player steps off the field to get the ball so they can toss it back into play. But while he's off the field one of the trainers from the opposing team who's nearby, he starts chirping at him, you know, making some kind of nasty comment. So the player turns to the trainer and steps in really close. At this point, the trainer tips his head forward and gently touches foreheads with the player. And the trainer - the person who did this! - screams, throws his arms into the air and then flops to the ground like, like he's thoroughly wounded. Ha! Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

The player doesn't know what to do. It's such an absurd situation, he doesn't know what to do. So for a moment, there's this flash expression on his face of total confusion. And then he grabs his head also drops to the ground.

Christine Malec:

Heh heh heh.

JJ Hunt:

All the players or the refs rush right over to massive deal and then they get to the replay. And in slow motion, the whole thing looks absurd. It is just so Goofy, and some of this diving is so sudden the culprits are so dramatic, that it actually looks like they've been shot. So there are YouTubers out there who have cut together these fantastic videos of soccer footage, combined with war movie footage. So it'll start with like, start with a soccer game, playing out to players running down the field, you know, fighting over the ball, and then then you cut to a sniper on a hilltop covered in camouflage. And then you cut back to the game. They put a sound of a sniper's rifle in there. And then the player suddenly throws his arms in the air face and contorted agony and drops like he's been shot. And then you cut back to the sniper snickering then you repeat for three minutes one player after another after another being shot by movie snipers. Pretty fantastic.

Christine Malec:

So my brothers and nephews are big hockey players and my brother once gave me a really solid tutorial on the the bullying actions of a hockey fight. And there's names for like feed them the pizza, and there's all these like crazy cures. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And they all seem to be about bullying and losing face and machismo. And so how does the soccer football, dramatics? Yeah, compared to that, it's quite different. So the drama that goes on in on the soccer pitch is not at all respected by the kind of hardcore hockey fan that kind of "tough it out". If you if you are bleeding, if you get knocked over on the ice and your head slams into the boards and you got a big cut, you lose a tooth, and there's blood coming down your forehead. You casually skate around the ice with that blood comin. It's like your Luchador or something like that. You want everyone to see that blood coming down your face and you want everyone to see that you're not wounded. You're not affected by that there's a there is a different kind of kind of "tough it out" mentality in hockey. And I thinking in football too, that is different than soccer. The needs are different. Right? You don't need to to draw penalties in quite the same way in hockey. Now there is there is absolutely diving in hockey. It is very much a thing but it is it is looked down upon, it is frowned upon in a way that I don't think is necessarily the case in soccer. And I'm totally up for being called out on that. That might be a misconception on my part. Is that about the equipment. Do you think oh, it's not a factor cuz hockey and North American football. You're pretty armored up,

JJ Hunt:

Oh yeah, you definitely are. And I mean, there there are ups and downs with that you you have so much armor on that players hit each other with incredible force, because you feel invulnerable. In is not the case. But yeah, so I mean, you do look physically more intimidating as a football player or a hockey player with these massive shoulder pads. You're on skates. So the average hockey player in skates is like, you know, six, seven or something ridiculous like that. They're big, big, big players. Whereas in soccer, to gorgeous, like these are gorgeous men and women who are playing soccer, they are incredibly fit. And your face is always being shown, there's no helmet covering your face. So you are beautiful and being photographed all the time. So the aesthetics are different. The way that that plays out on your behavior on ice and the way that the fans respond and the kind of culture I think it's all affected by some of the things that are at least in part, come back to the visuals. So the classic goal celebration and soccer is running around the field and tearing off your shirt. Right? You're aware of this. This trope?

Christine Malec:

Gosh no. Oh, yeah.

JJ Hunt:

So the this is the classic idea but it doesn't always happen. You score goal and I mean, it's soccer. You know, big field, huge net. But still there aren't necessarily that many goals a game. And so when you score a goal, it's a massive deal and the drama is huge. So that what you do the classic idea, you rip off your shirt and you run around the field screaming. Your teammates are running after you chasing you

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha. down, everyone's screaming with joy. Sometimes it ends up in a big group hug. Sometimes there are kind of like staged celebrations as well, kind of like touchdown dances in football. I've seen clips of players that run to the corner flags on the on the field. They're on the pitch, they run to the corner, they'll grab the corner flag and pull the pole out of the ground and pretend it's a rifle and shoot down the other team. Or maybe they'll pretend that the corner flagpole is a stripper pole and they'll do a little grind against it. Oh wow.

JJ Hunt:

Silly dances, all sorts of craziness. One of the most famous incidents of this one of the most famous soccer celebrations. In certainly in in the US is Brandi Chastain. She won the Women's World Cup for the US team with a penalty kick, this was like 1999. And because it was a penalty kick, she scored, she won, and she was alone for several seconds because her teammates were way down the other end of the field. So she was celebrating by herself for I don't know what seven or eight seconds before her teammates charged down the field and got her. So while she's celebrating Brandi, who's this young, fit tan white woman with a long blonde ponytail, she rips off her white shirt, she spins it in the air over her head and then drops to her knees. She's wearing these big baggy white shorts. And now she's just got on a black sports bra. Her head is back, her mouth is opened in this roar. Her fists are held in the air, veins on her neck are bulging. And she's got these incredible arms, really powerful muscular arms and shoulders, very well defined biceps and shoulder muscles. And the photos that came of this moment were just glorious, so powerful, so joyful. And the photo was on the front page of every newspaper. But there was a little bit of controversy because it was a woman removing her shirt, and we could all see her sports bra. And it was enough of a controversy that FIFA, the governing body, actually decided a year later, following this, they made it a yellow card offense for either men or women to take off their shirt as part of a celebration.

Christine Malec:

Gasp!

JJ Hunt:

Because now women's sports were coming up and we were going to be seeing more women doing this. And it was a it was a bit of a big deal. And of course now that seems kind of ridiculous, right? Like these days, most female track and field athletes are wearing basically bikini bottoms and spandex crop tops that are really no bigger than sports bras. And one of the most common teen and preteen outfits that you'll see on the streets of Toronto or any other city is, you know, these, what are the called? Legging shorts? And a sports bra. That's a really common outfit. So the idea that this woman in a sports bra this athlete in a sports bra was getting can hold like this was risky, she takes her shirt off to some somehow inappropriate. It's kind of ridiculous, but it's really actually a very important moment in women's sports. Here we've got this incredible athlete looking really super strong, very fit, screaming like a victorious warrior. It was kind of, at the time certainly the most iconic photo of a female athlete ever taken. There was a riff on the old baseball headline the shot hurled heard around the world that kind of got attached to this which was this is the bra heard around the world. Oh is the most amazing image. And yeah, it's all about this like ripping off your shirt and you know amazing that it became such a such a controversial moment.

Christine Malec:

A final custom next time something great happens you and I JJ, we got to run down the street with our shorts off.

JJ Hunt:

That's right! That's right.

Christine Malec:

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The Soccer field
Soccer Athletes
Soccer Uniforms
Ronaldo vs Coca Cola
Heading the ball
Drama and Antics
Celebrating