America vs. Europe: Athletes Behaving Badly A billion people were watching the World Cup finals when French superstar Zinedine Zidane, in a moment of Gallic sanglant-intelligence, head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest. In a moment of Italian esagerazione, Materazzi flopped to the turf, writhing in a show of agony that would make a Verdi heroine jealous. The butt and the ensuing opera buffa got Zidane expelled, and Italy went on to win. So this got us thinking here in NPR's blogosphere. The entire three weeks of World Cup coverage gave American viewers new insight into the ways athletes misbehave. So here are some observations on how different cultures play dirty...

America vs. Europe: Athletes Behaving Badly

A video still of Zinedine Zidane head butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the World Cup final, July 9, 2006. hide caption

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A billion people were watching the World Cup finals when French superstar Zinedine Zidane, in a moment of Gallic sanglant-intelligence, head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest. In a moment of Italian esagerazione, Materazzi flopped to the turf, writhing in a show of agony that would make a Verdi heroine jealous. The butt and the ensuing opera buffa got Zidane expelled, and Italy went on to win.

So this got us thinking here in NPR's blogosphere. The entire three weeks of World Cup coverage gave American viewers new insight into the ways athletes misbehave. So here are some observations on how different cultures play dirty.

1. The Weapon

Europe: Use your head as a weapon, though Europe should include Great Britain, since the Scots will argue they invented it as "the Glasgow Handshake."

America: the fist is preferred. Makes sense--you only have one head, but you've got two fists, right?

2. The Performance

Europe: When you want the ref's attention, flop. Fall to the ground, grab your head or a vital organ, grimace and call on God's mercy. Good performances earn your opponent a yellow card; Oscar material gets him the red card and a seat in the locker room.

America: In baseball, stand chest to chest with the umpire and scream so loudly that spittle flies into his face. In tennis, apply "the McEnroe"-- tell the referee "You can't be serious!?" and smash your racket into the ground.

3. The Attack

Europe: Attack your opponents' legs and knees. If the ball is within 10 yards of your opponent, you have the God-given right to kick his legs out from under him. Extra points for knee-capping.

America: Mike Tyson perfected it but few have the guts to follow his lead. That's right -- bite off their ears!

Offer your own comparisons. We're all ears.