Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bleachers Brew #400 Innovation at the World Cup

This appears in the Monday June 23, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

Innovation at the World Cup
by rick olivares pic from sporting news

During the World Cup match between Germany and Ghana, the television commentator mentioned that should the temperatures soar to 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) there will be a mandatory water break after every 30 minutes.

This gained further prominence when a Brazilian judge, Rogerio Neiva Pinheiro, of the Labor Court in Brasilia, ordered that FIFA comply or else face a fine of 200,000 real ($89,686) if they fail to comply with the water break rule that is incidentally in the football body’s protocol.

Brazil is a country with different climates. Technically, it is the winter season in the Southern hemisphere but the climates change depending on where you are and the time of the day.

In this World Cup, some teams play under the sweltering noontime sun while others see action in the late afternoon and early evening prompting people in the crowd to put on a little thicker clothing.

To give you an idea of the extremity, the climes in stadia in Manaus and Natal are hot and humid whereas the arena at Porto Alegre is cooler and a lot drier. That means the exposure to extreme changes in weather can wreak havoc on the human body.

Watching the teams play in this World Cup, outside the South American teams that are used to the weather, you could see the other sides struggling. Like the hometown crowds, the weather is the X-factor and one that does not favor European teams.

Obviously, the coaching staffs have anticipated that and their battery of trainers and physiologists have prepared for the humidity with hydration programs that are keenly monitored. And perhaps that is why we’ve seen far fewer cases of cramping. But nevertheless, it is a concern.

Imagine several years from now when the matches are played in Qatar (after the 2018 World Cup in Russia). Ironically, it is a chilling thought.

I believe that water breaks aren’t the only preventive measures FIFA should look at. They should look at adding at most two more substitutes during matches. Each team has about 23 players lined up for the World Cup and at the maximum, only 14 players are able to see action during a match. Why line up that many players when they will hardly play?

Adding at least two more players to the allowed number of substitutes will also be another preventive measure for injuries and will provide much needed exposure to others.

The goal-line technology (that has so far eliminated any controversial goals or non-goals) took a little longer to implement because of testing and implementation. On the other hand, the mandatory water breaks and adding two more substitutes should be a lot easier to introduce to the game.

This is also the first World Cup where that vanishing foam-like spray has been used to mark free kicks and defensive walls. That has made it easier in preventing any players from encroaching or moving the ball to a more advantageous position. It is a simple innovation that is beneficial for officials, coaches, players, and fans alike.

Now hopefully, this can be introduced to all domestic leagues.

Sans the heat, this World Cup is arguably proving to be the most exciting and best played of the lot. There have been incredible comebacks, massive upsets, new heroes to cheer for, and goals galore. And to think, the tournament is only halfway done. Furthermore, the innovations have been marvelous and welcome additions that everyone can appreciate. A few more cosmetic changes, such as the proposed breaks and addition of substitutes, can only mean better play for all.

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