Soccer without a goalkeeper


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on January 25, 2014

Bert van ManenThink about it for a second. The shortest possible definition of the game of soccer (or football, but let’s not get into that argument) is that you can’t use your hands, and you must try to score goals. And yet, we allow this one guy to prevent the other team from scoring goals, using his hands. Would soccer be so much worse without him? We would see many more shots from distance, and  matches would often end 11 – 7. Is that necessarily a bad thing?

That was not a serious proposal to change the rules of soccer, it was just an attempt to get you in the right frame of mind for this: what about 3-cushion billiards? The basic principles in our sport are, that you score as many points as you can, and you make life miserable for your opponent. There is nothing wrong with that, amongst good or top players. They have all the skill and the knowledge to deal with horrible positions. Sometimes they solve the problem, and sometimes they don’t, that is part of what keeps the spectators interested. But here’s what is weird about our sport: on the lower levels, there is considerably LESS skill and knowledge, and much MORE defense.

A few simple numbers will make that clear. If you are a 0.666 player who goes 100 innings, 40 problems on the table are your own doing. The other 60 were put there by your opponent. This is exactly the other way around for a 1.500 player. The relative importance of defense is lowest when the quality of play is highest. For the under 0.500 category, position play is a very minor factor in their game. What the opponent leaves them, that is the air they breathe and the ground they walk on.

I feel that the emphasis on playing defensive is taking away some of the joy and beauty of the game on the lower and mid levels, and also obstructs the introduction of young players, new players, pool players, classic discipline carom players, female players, to 3-cushion. Who would instantly be attracted to a game where every twelve seconds of satisfaction are preceded by eight minutes of frustration?

Attacking, scoring, tension-filled 3-cushion will have a better chance of making TV-time, of bringing in money, of rejuvenating the sport. We have allowed 3-cushion to contract osteoporosis, not at the top of the pyramid but at the bottom. Eddy & Freddy are certainly not to blame. It’s the grumpy old men (all over the world) and their “expert” carotte game that suck the life out of 3-cushion, one cowardly, negative shot at a time.

Can we make 3-cushion more FUN? This is a rather drastic suggestion, but one to consider: On the entry level, where we teach young (or new) players, we should stop using “my ball” and “his ball”. Instead, we call the red neutral (can’t be used), the other two are the ones you can play with. Go ahead, switch back and forth between the yellow and the white, in whichever order you like. That will very effectively discourage defensive play, it will be an incentive to try and make the point, always.

Again, think about it before you dismiss the idea. Talented youngsters will become good at problem-solving, and quickly discover position play as a means to outscore the other guy. Later, if indeed they become proficient players, they will learn about tactics and be sent into the real world.

There endeth my serious proposal. Here starts the spitballing, for fun. We could take the idea a step further. Let’s call the above rule “entry level”, anything under 0.500. In the “advanced level” (0.500 – 0.800), the rule could change in such a way, that you and your opponent have your own ball, but you can use the other guy’s ball to keep your run going. Only, you don’t get a point when you use his ball. All you get is the right to play on. This would leave the emphasis on scoring points intact, and negative play would still be strongly discouraged.

Naturally, for players over 0.800, the rules must be even more strict. In this class, we still allow you to use the other guy’s ball, but if you miss when playing it, you lose your entire run. Imagine the tension, if Kasido is on a run of  seventeen against Zanetti. He has a horrible shot with his yellow ball and a seemingly makeable one with the white. Decision time. I want Kozoom cameras to be there if THAT happens.

And a bonus:, when you don’t have to play complicated bank shots anymore, the clock can go from 40 seconds to 30.  Averages would go up but match duration would not. What you end up with, is spectacular, fast, tension –filled 3-cushion with many high runs. That is not necessarily a bad thing either, is it?  Who out there, can get two top players together for a practice match under these rules? Keep me posted.