NPR logo In The End, There's Beauty In A Draw

In The End, There's Beauty In A Draw

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is tackled by Guy Demel (right) and Emmanuel Eboue of Ivory Coast during Tuesday's Group G match. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) Laurence Griffiths/Getty hide caption

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There are probably a lot of reasons Americans aren't fully convinced about the importance of soccer. Underlying it all — undoubtedly — are the galling facts that we didn't invent or popularize the game.

We leave that unsaid, however, and most often point vigorously to the fact that games frequently end in ties. And if that weren't bad enough, it's not unusual for the tie score to be 0-0!

Where's the fun in that?

Case-in-point: Tuesday's draw between Portugal and the Ivory Coast. I mean, the game featured Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and an abbreviated appearance by electric Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba. Yet, it ended "nil-nil."

Need I say more? OK, I will say more.

Americans are so fixated on the need to declare a winner that our game of football has almost given up on the tie and America's pastime, baseball, will play as long as it takes to declare a victor.

Witness the Braves-Mets game I attended on July 4-5, 1985 in Atlanta. It went 19 innings, included two rain delays and ended with fireworks at 4 in the morning. The result? A 16-13 Mets win. Wouldn't a tie have been more appropriate?

There is something satisfying about a tie game. It makes soccer feel more like a reflection of life itself. It's hard to see the pattern in the chaos and the end result is often something more than a loss, less than a win.

That's life: It's inconclusive and there's nothing more you can do about it, no matter how hard you try or how loud you howl at the moon.

Some would say that sports are meant to be an escape, that we need to have heroes who raise their arms in victory at the end of the game. They allow us to be winners, even when we're not.

The truth is, however, that we also need to see our heroes in a human light, and that's what a tie does. It tells us that even the best sometimes can't rise above the rest to put the ball in the net. They're only human, just like us. They may make millions, they may be able to juggle a ball for hours and run for days, but, in the end, they're just like us: They can't always win (or lose).