"Soccer scolds" attack!
June 20, 2002 8:21 AM   Subscribe

"Soccer scolds" attack! The Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last has had it with gushing soccer writers like Slate's David Thomson ("[Soccer is] something made out of muscle, speed, grace and the soul") who see American lack of enthusiasm for the sport as a deep-seated national character flaw worthy of dire-sounding pronouncements. Is he right, or, as The San Francisco Chronicle would have it, can soccer really bring world peace?
posted by transona5 (29 comments total)
can soccer really bring world peace?

er, would that be before or after the riots?
posted by jburka at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2002

That bit about the Korean soccer players doing a speedskating "victory" dance was even more hilarious to those of us who had read Dave Barry's speed skating column.
posted by straight at 8:32 AM on June 20, 2002

y'know, personally i happen to like soccer. but is there anything more tired than the war between the soccer proselytizers and the soccer haters every time there's a world cup? crap. i wish people on both sides of this dead horse would shut their mouths and just watch if they like the sport or ignore it if they don't.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 8:36 AM on June 20, 2002

zoopraxiscope: time to don your riot gear and tell them that over at Fark.
posted by stuporJIX at 8:39 AM on June 20, 2002

He's right. Check this out from Glenn McDonald, music reviewer-qua-soccer fanatic: "When people who don't like soccer complain about soccer, they complain about stupid things. They complain about low scores, as if the game would be exciting if only goals counted for ten points and getting a corner kick counted for a couple. They complain about anything they think Americans aren't good at, although it's hard to see how they'll do that any more. They betray closed minds and unexamined xenophobia."

I love McDonald's writing but equating not liking soccer with xenophobia? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, because no other sports feature stars from outside the United States.
posted by aaronetc at 8:42 AM on June 20, 2002

It's so completely and utterly stupid to equate anyone's interest or non-interest in a particular meaningless leisure time activity - oops I mean sport - with any kind of national or character flaw. If you grew up on it, you will probably like it. If we exported American-rules football to Portugal and Korea and a few generations there grow up playing it in school and seeing football players as the kind of weirdly distorted "national heroes" that we do, they'll support a meaningless sports industry there, too. It's all a social construction, and I really don't understand the point of this thread.
posted by luriete at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2002

I just want more coverage of international soccer here in the states without having to pay for DirectTV or learn Spanish (not to say that it isn't fun to watch Univision).

I don't care about the British Open...give me some of that sweet sweet Champions Cup action coming up next on ABC.

If this somehow makes me a traitor to my country...fuck it, I voted for Gore anyway.
posted by thewittyname at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2002

luriete: It's not as simple as that. While you're not wrong, you're oversimplifying the effect social constructions (and in particular, European football) have on society. While I'm glad you can neatly pigeon-hole why some sports survive and other sports do not, you fail to mention anything about American attitudes towards soccer.

The fact that American adult males (the sports fanatics of this country) dislike soccer points more towards the "if it new, it must suck" attitiude most Americans have towards sports. I would have to say it's a character flaw, but by no means terminal.
posted by taumeson at 9:14 AM on June 20, 2002

Who is Jonathan Last? What is the Weekly Standard? Is it like the Evening Standard, with all of its silliness packed into one weekly edition?
posted by riviera at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2002

I am proud to say that my dislike of soccer is purely xenophobic. When you wake up every morning, as I do, simply staggered by the greatness of America, you think to yourself, what makes this place so great? What do we do different from other countries? And one of the first things that comes to mind is: We hate soccer. Other countries, for instance, Portugal and Mexico, love soccer. Well, we certainly don't want the USA to be anything like Portugal or Mexico. In fact, the less we are like Portugal and Mexico, the better. Soccer is the cultural imperialism of inferior countries.
posted by Faze at 9:40 AM on June 20, 2002

taumeson: I heard recently that soccer is the most played sport in America. How popular is Baseball or American Football in Europe? Seems to me that maybe not liking new sports isn't a wholly american characteristic.
posted by Doug at 9:43 AM on June 20, 2002

I think the following snippet sums up the depth of Last's ignorance:

"Michael Jordan is--still--Michael Jordan and Ronaldo, it's clear, isn't as globally popular as Tiger Woods, let alone MJ. (On a recent "Meet the Press," Tim Russert presented Russia's foreign minister with a Washington Wizards #23 jersey--the Russian beamed and exclaimed how happy he was to get a token from "hiz ayahness." Do you think his face would have lit up for a Ronaldo jersey?)"

er, yes, I would have thought so....
posted by salmacis at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2002

Doug: I've heard that too, so you have a good point. That's why I tried to qualify my statement by saying "American ADULT males". We all know soccer is ubiquitous when it comes to youth...but it loses its luster for some reason. I agree that not liking new sports isn't a wholly american characteristic...but I know that the reason most sports aren't too popular in other countries is because of how america overdoes most everything. People do like American Football and Baseball and Basketball...but they have Soccer and F1 to keep them happy, and really don't get into the american pasttimes. Go figure why Canada does. As far as Japan and Cuba liking baseball...I couldn't say.

I'm just thinking that international distaste for american sports is more some sort of movement against cultural imperialism (like I said, we overdo it) then "not liking new sports".
posted by taumeson at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2002

Question: If 'soccer' is so unimportant, why do those who dislike it keep going on about how unimportant it is?

On a thoughtful note, here is an attempt by an American footie fan to explain the whole US / soccer thing to some Brits. It works for me although I'd appreciate thoughts / comments from US soccer & non-soccer fans:


'It's not a sport too many Americans understand, which makes it difficult for them to watch. It's easier to dismiss it as "foreign." We are an isolationist
nation, and always have been first isolated by geography, then by history. We were thrust into a role we didn't want and didn't know how to play after WW II, and I think we're still a little defensive about our lack of social graces, intenational diplomacy-wise and world view-wise.

This carries over into the attitudes of the man in the street toward the rest of the world. Alas, if only Americans would admit there's a world out there and go to see it and experience it, things might be different. As they will, someday. And I do believe that the exposure the sport is getting right now will open some eyes. Of course, my foolish optimism is well known on this list and I may be living in the clouds yet again. Nice view from here, though ;-)'


Faze: Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit...very funny tho'!
posted by i_cola at 10:24 AM on June 20, 2002

I wouldn't recognise Michael Jordan if he passed me on the street. Is he the one with AIDS?

Does this writer honestly think "one of the major attractions of soccer" for foriegners is an excuse to bash America? This pro-anti soccer thing is an entirely American affair. Nobody else gives a toss.
posted by dydecker at 10:26 AM on June 20, 2002

Oh, BTW...'Soccer Scolds'

I'll repeat that. 'Soccer Scolds'

Possibly *the* most stupid sounding term ever. Makes the guy sound like some old granny!
posted by i_cola at 10:32 AM on June 20, 2002

The game is called football. The Football World Cup is the greatest sporting event on planet.

Roll on tomorrow morning. I'll be sat in a bar in Piccadilly at 6.00am awaiting the 7.30am kick off between England and Brazil. God life is beautiful.
posted by RobertLoch at 10:33 AM on June 20, 2002

The game is called football.

Or futebol, when it's played right. Otherwise I fully agree with you, Robert Loch. This Brazilian will be sitting in an NYC bar at 2.30am. Cheers, mate & saudade, amigo.
posted by liam at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2002

What is the Weekly Standard? Is it like the Evening Standard, with all of its silliness packed into one weekly edition?

*Led to 300 mph nasal transfer of just gulped gin and tonic. Riviera put down for two euros' worth of Ready Wipes.*
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2002

The game is called football.

A Google search on the word "football" returns the NFL website as #1 and the FIFA website as #2. It's soccer. :)

I'm just thinking that international distaste for american sports is more some sort of movement against cultural imperialism (like I said, we overdo it) then "not liking new sports".

As an American I could really care less if anyone likes our sports. I love hockey and I even follow German Elite League teams and Russian teams as much as I can. I think soccer is as exciting as watching grass grow and is nowhere near as cool as American football. Then again, I also avoid "American sports" such as baseball and basketball, and I also loath tennis, auto racing of all types and many other sports. I like what I like because I like it, not because I'm an American.

As for our sports being cultural imperialism, I suppose then that soccer would be cultural communism - and since communism has already failed on the world stage, why not just disband soccer now before it collapses upon itself in disgrace too!
posted by RevGreg at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2002

Faze: heh.

Jonathan Last is the guy who thinks that the Empire is good and Luke is evil. He also thinks that there is a "war on men's sports." Nevertheless, I thought this was one of the best things I'd read on the puncturing-bloated-writing front in a while. Maybe he pushes the anti-American thing a little too far, though - it seems like the soccer-is-important crowd are the same ones who warble incessantly about baseball as "America's pastime."
posted by transona5 at 1:32 PM on June 20, 2002

...nowhere near as cool as American football

now there's a real cultural divide. I can imagine many things to call American Football, even good things, but with my most tolerant, open-minded head on I can't see how it could be called 'cool'? Baseball, Hockey maybe; Basketball, X-games obviously; but American Football?

Similarly, In the UK rugby's a lot of things but it's certainly not 'cool'.
posted by niceness at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2002

I can imagine many things to call American Football, even good things, but with my most tolerant, open-minded head on I can't see how it could be called 'cool'?

Mea culpa. Bad choice of word!
posted by RevGreg at 2:20 PM on June 20, 2002

RevGreg, I think American football is cool. It's the only major sport that hasn't been overintellectualized to death by bow-tied pundits. Maybe that means it's the only sport that isn't cool, so it's cool. It wouldn't surprise me if all the indie kids, at least in the U.S., begin to embrace football as a badge of authenticity, since there's no cachet left in being a Cubs or Red Sox fan.
posted by transona5 at 2:26 PM on June 20, 2002

I've changed my mind a bit. Thinking about it, it's not so clear-cut - for a while in the UK the LA Raiders were slightly cool in a 'thug-chic' kind of way.
posted by niceness at 2:42 PM on June 20, 2002

transona5: Gridiron (football) overintellectualized? Never.
posted by DaRiLo at 3:23 PM on June 20, 2002

Oh, dear, I had forgotten. Although you could argue that Dennis Miller's over-the-top wit wouldn't work in a sport where people already expect pretension.
posted by transona5 at 3:34 PM on June 20, 2002

can soccer really bring world peace?

No, but at least it's not quite as tedious and boring as baseball.

It's close though.
posted by mark13 at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2002

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