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The Zen of Soccer***

by Keone Michaels Thu Jun 29th, 2006 at 03:56:52 AM EST

I find the emergence of the World Cup and soccer on the world's stage including the American national one an encouraging sign.  Americans until now, as far as the definition of "football" is concerned have been constricted and narrow in their world-vision, their Weltanschauung, only recently begrudgingly granting soccer the name "football" that is used commonly elsewhere on the planet.  Going even further, I will assert that this worldwide media play, this enhanced and much ballyhooed World Soccer Cup television reality show, a profitable public countdown to arguably the best soccer team in the whole wide world for four years, this popular global event could be a significant precursor to a sea change in the American psyche.

***From the front page - whataboutbob


Before you think I am going all giddy and  weak in the knees over a silly football game,  please allow me to explain.American football is a metaphor for the American psyche.  When I was growing up I played football until high school when the other kids got bigger and I was then too small and too slow.  Until high school I was the one giving licking's not gettin' them.  But, in middle school (called Jr high then) I routinely was chosen for the line (center, right/left guard, etc.) because of my aggressive style of play.  I must confess, the thing I liked the most about football was the ability to give body slams and elbow cracks as hard as I could whilst on the playing field.   I've often mused in the years since that the the kids that followed their middle school successes with high school and college football, were like I was mean and aggressive, but had the good luck to have DNA that led to the breeding of larger sized humans.

Baseball, once, during the WW2, was considered our national game. Baseball, like football was another game with the stamp of "World Championships" that was in reality just the champs of the North American world, not the rest of the world.  When I was coming up, it was football that really counted.  So, our national game, a game where the meanest and most physically aggressive style prevails, where the biggest guy wins, where might makes right etc. etc. The game can absolutely be considered as a metaphor for the American conciousness.





The following list is a calabash of ingredients, a mixture of thoughts I have had over the years around this phenomena.  Please sort them out in that particular order which makes most sense to you.  I think that the World Cup is an important signpost of change as are the below somehow connected markers:
Until recently, until the emergence of the World Cup, our traditional American style of football was considered the only "football" because if you called soccer, "football" folks would laugh.  "stoopid, stoopid, that's soccer dude, the Brits and the Froggies play that, not us, real Americans we play real mean men's game, the only one deserving of the name football!!!!!



The emergence of women's movement inspired more independent, less warlike, soccer moms.  I wittnessed and I participated in this change first hand.  I was a young father, my emancipated and independent wife, found this new league, a soccer league.  Kids ran around the field after the ball and kicked it or head butted it into a goal area rather than body slamming each other.  The empahsis in soccer football was on style and finesse rather than bulk strength.  In some sense you had to be better fit to play this type of football and the type of sports hero that emerged from this game was more lithe and less bulky.  I knew for sure that soccer was taking hold when the corporate media did some comic stories on how the game of soccer might actually be more dangerous than traditional American football because of the head butts to the ball.  They hauled out the paid experts, graphs and tables, and really threw out the chum, churning the murky waters even further.  But, nevertheless, soccer Moms and soccer prevailed and soccer leagues became a routine part of the suburbanscape.



The Superbowl phenomena. Talk about testosterone on steroids? I don't remember when the super bowl became the big deal it has been the past decade.  Was it big from the start?  It was a big money way of consolidating the marketing efforts of two groups of competitors and calling it a world championship (if not directly, but by implications) ergo the "Super Bowl" of football, echoing all those post season bowls, here across America.  Super it may have been, world it wasn't because Americans are the only ones that play their silly ass pugilistic brand of football.  I don't observe the Superbowl religious holiday, but many Americans see this day as the high day of the year.  So, our national game, a game where the meanest and most physically aggressive stye prevails, where the biggest guy wins, where might makes right etc. etc. The game can absolutely be considered as a metaphor for the American consciousness and the SUPER BOWL IS THE EPITOME OF THIS SILLY SELF CONCEPT.



Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France.  Okay, perhaps I'm going to probably be treading too heavy here for some of my French brother's tastes, so let me issue my apologies on the front side.  There is only one thing that in my mind would interest Americans in bicycle racing when this type of atheletics was previously considered "sissy shit."    Motorcycle racing might maybe considered, but bicycle racing never, especially since it is the haughty French that were supreme until Lance arrived.  Lance was the ultimate publicists dream for popularizing The Tour de France in America.  That he was a cancer survivor was just icing on the cake.  But, because he was the right media catalyst at the right time, the result of Lance's victories was to turn America's face away from it's own strictly NASCAR navel and to Europe and European games and atheletic contests.  That the French gave him shit made us like him even better.



Skinheads and Soccer fights.  The previous is the ingredients, for spice, throw in the high visibilty fights that make such good televison after all.  Soccer fights, and the high emotional investment many folks around the world have in their soccer games primes the pump for news and for  feature television producers whose voracious appetites gobble the most insignificant visual crumb in this war of visual symbolism and soccer violence just stokes the furnace.



Of course, the broth that makes this whole stew viable is the global information network like CNN and the Internet.  We all watch televison and even the most backward village in remote India has a dude with a wireless, who is the local phone company.





I conclude then, that the present American television and satellite media promotion of European football, or soccer, is a good sign that Americans might soon get their heads out of their assholes and recognize that there is  America, and then there is the rest of the world.Last night, I was listening to a politician, a lady I think of the blue state stripe, I forget her name.  The first sentence out of her mouth in an attack on the war in Iraq was a silly boast, "America must be the strongest nation on earth" blah blah blah blah.  If that is the criteria, I hate to tell you Beeyatch, it is over already.  In calculus terms, the inevitabilty of the Chinese ascension is clear.  There are a thousand Yao Mings in a thousand villages ready to play in the NBA, a million linebackers bigger and more viscious than the "Refrigerator."

We are toast if we continue to play American football.   Personally, I think we had better learn to play Soccer.

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Have fun watching the world cup gang ...

alohapolitics.com
by Keone Michaels on Mon Jun 26th, 2006 at 09:33:26 PM EST
If American football players are so macho, why do they wear armor? Rugby players are the real macho men of the melon-shaped ball.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:33:02 AM EST
I think we can have the saying go:

"Golf is a gentleman's sport played by gentlemen, Soccer is a gentleman's sport played by thugs, Rugby is a thug's sport played by gentlemen, American Football is a thug's sport played by thugs".

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:37:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What does that make Aussie Rules Football? Methinks when it comes to being tough, that beats even Rugby.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:38:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Aussie Rules Football is a thug's game played like psycopaths."
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:45:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually it can't be much tougher than Rugby because contacts are less frequent.
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:47:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have the pleasure, so maybe you're right.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 05:41:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lance Armstrong is currently going down with dope stories  and we shall party about his demise for decades!

ps: the French don't like him much because he is a non-French mega-winner -that and the dope-.

Miguel Indurain was accepted however because he did not win more times than Bernard Hinault (5 times) Also, he crashed out in tumultuous conditions, and we tend to like part-time losers more than überwinners. It's our national psyche.)

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:44:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Miguel Indurain was ready to retire at 5 and they forced him to try a 6th when he was not in top form. He must have been really angry.

There is also the story that his team once prevented him from doing a TV ad endorsing some product or other, and after he quit cycling he did one and only one TV commercial, for that product.

Indurain was just a regular guy who could pedal, and a great person.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 05:46:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ps: the French don't like him much because he is a non-French mega-winner -that and the dope-.

It's the 'non-French' part, that and the fact that he comes off as a completely self-centered bastard. But I've never noticed the French fans having any problems with French cyclists surrounded with doping allegations.  My take on the sport is that every good player is doped up, but maybe I'm just too cynical.

Lemond was accepted much better, partially because he only won three, but also because Hinault had an unpleasant personality like Armstrong.

by MarekNYC on Wed Jun 28th, 2006 at 12:25:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not golf, cricket.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 05:46:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Has there been a match between the Men's and the Women's US national soccer teams? The women are top of the world together with the Brazilians.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:37:29 AM EST
What I've failed to understand is the lack of support for the USA team from American friends of mine. I only know of one, the rest tend to support the team of their immigrant origins.

Or Brazil.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 09:16:32 AM EST
First off, it is difficult to be a self-respecting American and proud of one's country at this juncture in history.  Also, patriotism has become such a manipulative and dishonest tool of this regime, that some of us just don't want to have anything to do with it.

Secondly, it is fun to see other countries succeed.  Yes, a bit of humility is good, but it's genuinely refreshing when it's not always about us.

Thirdly, most Americans who've been here long enough not to have strong ties with their country of origin don't care a ton about the World Cup.  Those who do are often first and second generation immigrants.  But maybe that doesn't explain anything.  There's a Russian-born commentator here in Chicago who loves the Netherlands' team...  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 10:59:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, Guus Hiddink will now coach the Russian national team. If they don't get at least into the quarterfinals on Euro'08 I eat my hat.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 05:43:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent!

What kind of hat do you have?  


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 09:32:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If soccer does replace baseball or football as our national pasttime, I think we'll need to blame those illegals who are coming here to take our jobs. </snark>  

That and the savvy American corporations who want to get in on the action and use the game to sell us more crappy beer and burgers. </double snark>

I mean, from a geopolitical perspective, it would be great if America embraced soccer and checked our exceptionalism at the door.  But is it worth it if the price is having even more soccer moms to dodge on the highways and court during elections?  Not so sure... </not really a snark, these women are dangerous>

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 11:11:55 AM EST
What Baseball exceptionalism? The US didn't even make it to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic, and the US fielded a team of Major League Baseball players, too.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 11:20:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the basketball team regularly gets thrashed by Croatia etc, but maybe they don't field NBA all-stars for the world championship ...
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 12:03:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The rules are different between international and American basketball.  I'm not exactly sure how, but there are differences, which it is reported lead to different playing styles.

I am not claiming that this is the primary factor for the underperformance of Americans in international basketball.  That, I suspect, has more to do with the difficulty of putting together solid national teams and getting players to practice together when what they, and everybody else, really cares about is the long and grueling regular season.  Then again, what do I know?

by Zwackus on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 11:16:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the narrative of soccer is too different from the american narrative.

Actually, baseball is the closest you can get to soccer (ont he narrative side of stroy-line, effect of msitakes, low scores->statistics less important, referee influence)and still there are continuous breaks.

Only with a political, media and space distribution ( I mean how the people live, ex-suburbs, suburbs vs city downtown) there will be no change in the national game.

If anyone wants more information Tristes Tropiques of Levi-Strauss explains how the distribution narrative affects the beliefs and ice-versa.

The distribution of spaces and the media landscape makes a narratives that fits with a particular game. American football will be king until the media landscape becomes more similar to the European, the people start living in more dense cities all around the country and the political discourse is similar to Europe (public financing). I know it seems completely uncorrelated and just a crazy argument... but Levi-Strauss argument also seemed crazy..until he demonstrated with ethnologic data.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 01:55:32 PM EST
Elegantly said, but not so crazy sounding.  Those are the markers indeed.  
The distribution of spaces and the media landscape makes a narratives that fits with a particular game. American football will be king until the media landscape becomes more similar to the European, the people start living in more dense cities all around the country and the political discourse is similar to Europe (public financing). I know it seems completely uncorrelated and just a crazy argument... but Levi-Strauss argument also seemed crazy..until he demonstrated with ethnologic dat


alohapolitics.com
by Keone Michaels on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 03:11:21 PM EST
oof. penalty kick, sorry Jerome.
by BooMan on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 03:28:59 PM EST


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