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November 5, 2012

Penalty kicks: A broken system

You see it across life’s spectrum, from family to business.

Broken systems that, year in and year out, continue to operate the same way simply because, well, that’s the way it always has been.

The Gloucester girls soccer team lived through such dysfunction twice over the past week, seeing both sides of the spectrum when their two Division 2 North tournament games ended the same way. Each evenly-matched game was decided by penalty kicks.

The Fishermen saw the jubilation that can come with a stressful penalty kick victory when they beat Melrose, 3-1, in PKs in the preliminary rounds.

They saw the other side of the coin in the following round, when their upset bid against No. 2 seed Hamilton-Wenham was cut short, along with their season, by a penalty kick loss.

After beating Melrose, Gloucester coach Alex White described penalty kicks as “the worst” and “a crapshoot.”

That’s after a win.

White is right, though. Simply put, it’s just a stupid way to decide a game.

Soccer is the ultimate team sport, a game often decided as much by the role players that don’t get much credit than a team’s stars.

So let’s give two teams 80 regulation minutes and two 10-minute overtime periods to settle a game naturally.

And after that, forget it. Let’s line up five individual players from each side to let it rip on an eight-by-24 foot goal from 12 yards away, and whichever team’s lucky enough to not ring one off the woodwork wins.

The other team? Well, that’s soccer. Good game. Good season. In some cases, good career.

Imagine Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, knotted at 2-2 through 12 innings, ultimately being decided by a 3-on-3 home run derby for the pennant.

Or how about a Final Four game that, after two overtimes, was decided by the world’s most intense game of “knockout.”

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