Americans and the Beautiful Game

June 7, the day before the day before the World Cup, was apparently deemed the day to ponder how we, as Americans, fit into futbol fever. NPR started it this morning with our favorite NPR sports commentator Frank Deford.

On the Guardian Cup blog, Steven Wells warns all of us that, gulp, the U.S. could be the next world football power:

The US men's team is an overdog in embryo. A glance at the stats (pro-soccer in the US is already better attended than in most European countries while the grassroots game continues to explode) tells you that the US will soon be a soccer superpower.

And when that happens this intensely patriotic country will – for the first time ever – have a men's sports team that can consistently kick international ass (the US women's soccer team has been doing it for years). And that's not going to be pretty. There'll be nothing 'plucky' about it. Just the brutal application of raw demographic power…I suggest US soccer fans enjoy being underestimated, derided, mocked and written off while they still can. It won't get any better than this.

(Don't miss the comments section: bakazyaanai wrote, "Can't you just smell the fear of the Euro's and Brits at the idea of the US becoming strong in football/soccer?" Spizzoli's answer: Enough is enough. Chances of US winning in next 30 years = 0."

New ex-Chicagoan Daniel Drezner (alas) had this post and a piece in the Sunday Post (thanks, Ethan) on the hype of the Cup. From the blog, which unlike the newspaper column, has links to his research:

The punchline:

Soccer will never bring about peace on its own. The flip side is also true — by itself, soccer cannot start a war. The World Cup, like the Olympics, suffers from a case of overblown rhetoric. Bono's assurances to the contrary, the passions inspired by the World Cup embody both the best and worst forms of nationalism.

Soccer will never bring about peace on its own. The flip side is also true — by itself, soccer cannot start a war. The World Cup, like the Olympics, suffers from a case of overblown rhetoric. Bono's assurances to the contrary, the passions inspired by the World Cup embody both the best and worst forms of nationalism.

Here's a link to the Edmans, Garcia, and Norli paper demonstrating the correlation between international soccer losses and poor stock market performance…For more on the World Cup and international relations, check out Michael Moran's useful and link-rich summary at cfr.org, and Pablo Halkyard's linkfest at PSDblog…And let me once again praise Foer's How Soccer Explains the World as a good read regardless of whether you like watching soccer.

Meanwhile, I'm with Josh:

I am no huge soccer fan. I think I like the idea of being a football aficionado more than the reality. But I am genuinely amped up for this.

In planning which match to watch next Tuesday, I suggested to a friend Poland-Germany. "But their styles are so boring," he said, helping me to realize that I am more interested in the geo-politics of the World Cup, especially the historical oppressor v. oppressed matches, such as Germany v. Poland, Portugal v. Angola, and England v. Trinidad & Tobago. (As you can see, my teams usually lose.) I will be rooting for the U.S. for two reasons: for the first time, I really like the team, led as it is by Donovan and Beasley. Second, my Ecuadorian cousins-in-law are provoking me by doing things like sending me MP3's of the Italian national anthem and asking me if anyone here is aware that there is something happening in Germany this month. I'll be rooting for Ecuador, too, of course. 

4 thoughts on “Americans and the Beautiful Game

  1. Poland/Germany might be enough to turn you off football for the whole tournament. Try Argentina/Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday afternoon – West African football has a brilliant recklessness to it that plays well off the short-pass Latin game. The backstory of a nation at civil war fielding a team should give you sufficient political intrigue, no?

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