The Flopping Epidemic

A loud whistle is blown and a yellow card is thrust into the air. To the left, a man writhes on the ground in paid, holding his shin, his ankle, and anything else he can reach to show the crowd that he is, indeed, in quite a bit of pain. Just beside him is the culprit, hands in the air in disbelief.


Flopping is an epidemic throughout major sports. Almost every sport–contact or non-contact, features some form of flopping, often exploited to the advantage of the flopper.


It’s a common criticism of soccer; the athletes are more adept at rolling around on the ground than they are at putting the ball into the net. Those who don’t consider themselves to be fans of the game point more often to this phenomenon than most any other to display their rationale for not enjoying the sport. And flopping certainly is an issue in the soccer world. But it’s also an issue outside of it.


If you’ve ever watched a professional basketball game, you’ve seen flopping. If you’ve ever watched the Houston Rockets James Harden drive to the rim only to initiate contact and flail his arms wildly wild screaming in pain (perhaps, or outrage), you’ve seen flopping in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors backup center Anderson Varejao has made a career out of flopping. Varejao’s typical style is to position himself under the rim, take light contact from ball handlers, and throw his  6 foot 10, 267 pound frame to the ground, holding his face in agony.


American football is much of the same. Tune into any broadcast and pay attention to receivers during any pass play down field that results in an incompletion. While it may not be flopping in quite as traditional a sense, any ball that receivers can’t catch often turns into them throwing their hands in the air in disbelief that a flag was not thrown.


NFL Flop and Fake: The Art of NFL Flopping from bconn on Vimeo.


Even Major League Baseball, a wholly non-contact sport, sees a degree of flopping, though in a very different manner. Because a batter hit by a pitch is awarded first base, players have been seen hitting foul balls with their bat, then claiming it deflected off of their hands or elbows in an effort to get an advantage.



Flopping is often associated with soccer because of its less aggressive nature. Many collisions that look to a viewer as if they  would be painless are, in fact, quite painful. The collision of two shins trying to boot a ball downfield can easily result in fractures to one or both parties. Sometimes, flopping isn’t flopping at all.


Taking a dive to gain a competitive advantage is seen by some as doing whatever you can to give your team an edge. It’s seen by others as cheating, gaming the system, or taking the easy way out. Regardless of your thoughts on flopping, it’s present in most major sports, and more than likely will continue to be around for a long, long time.

Written by

Bjorn Koch is a businessman, world traveler, lover of fine dining and soccer fanatic. Born in Germany, where he fell in love with Bayern Munich, Bjorn currently resides in Boston, MA.