Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Soccer War: the Right Wing's War on "Football"

Ace of Spades has the definitive post on why Americans, especially those on the cultural/social right, will never embrace soccer and, more importantly, why self-important urban progressives insist that we do so immediately: (1) there's not enough scoring; (2) "America's best team-sport athletes, by and large, do not rise through the ranks to play soccer" (3) Americans already dedicate a stupendous amount of time to other sports, and cannot take the time to absorb the nuances of soccer; (4) Americans strongly suspect that the smug regard for soccer among progressives is just another battle in the endless cultural war against America: The Real Reason The Right Doesn't Like Soccer

I am willing to say that soccer is just as good a sport as my sport of choice (football), and that my fondness for football is largely a product of conditioning and familiarity. That there is, in final analysis, nothing intrinsically, objectively "better" about touchdown-football than soccer-football, but just that I have acquired a taste for the former and haven't bothered to acquire a taste for the latter.

But are progressive hectors like the NPR guy willing to say the same in return? That touchdown-football is every bit as good a sport as soccer-football?

I don't think they are. I detect a lot of culture-warrior rejectivism going on among progressives, here, actively championing soccer not just because they simply like soccer better, but because they actively and affirmatively reject the culture they grew up with and seek, as they often do, an alternative that is both foreign and therefore "better," and which also, quite consciously, places them in position outside the American cultural mainstream.

And from that position, they are better able to do what they always wind up doing anyway -- mocking American traditional culture and positing that every other culture, no matter how stupid, primitive, or barbaric, needs be necessarily better than American culture simply because it's not American.

I would add one other factor: soccer/football players, even at the World Cup level, don't strike me as being all that impressive athletically. Sure, they can run fast (although not fast enough given the glacial pace of most matches...), and I guess they need some foot-eye coordination to move the ball around. But speed and quick reflexes are the bare minimum needed to play American sports at any level, let alone that of the professional. I mean, look at David Beckam and then look at Sidney Crosby...or Lebron James...or Tim Duncan...or Vince Young...or Ichiro Suzuki...or Albert Pujols...or, anyone playing professional sports in America. Those guys have speed, size, grace, reflexes, charisma, plus they all play sports where split-second timing is everything. Not only, there are plenty of American sports stars who play a lot of soccer in the off-season, with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant being the most obvious examples. Hell, even Rod Stewart has played semi-pro soccer.

American sports are not just oriented towards action; the men who play American sports at an elite level also need the athleticism and the intellect to thrive under enormous time pressure (not to mention space constraints. while the baseball diamond and basketball court create endless traffic jams of athletes, the soccer field is huge with plenty of space for everyone to find some elbow room). I saw a clip of the American goal over the weekend against Britain. Big deal. The American had all of the time and space in the world to set up and make his shot. I couldn't even understand why he made that shot, as it lacked any power and went straight to the goal keeper, and in fact it was only the goal keeper's bone-headed play that resulted in a goal. If that's the best soccer can do, I'm not sold.

That's not to say soccer is all bad. If I'm at a bar and there's a soccer game on the TV, I'll sit and watch it while making the occasional tipsy comment. Also, soccer is impressively egalitarian. Like basketball, it has a low barrier of entry and can be played by anyone with a ball. Plus, soccer jerseys, like rugby jerseys, look great and can be worn as everyday-wear. And, who am I to knock someone else's choice of sport? Soccer fans - the real ones, not the SWPL types at NPR - enjoy getting drunk and cheering on their team, and you really can't argue with that.

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