Monday, August 4, 2014

Soccer: Kryptonite of the Conservative Pundit

I have a confession to make. My great (who knows how many) grandfather was not only born in America, he was also the son of a congressman and governor, and fought as a Lieutenant-General in the American Civil War. But contrary to the "promise" Ann Coulter made to America recently, I watch soccer. In fact, during the World Cup, I watch nothing else.

In her blog post on June 25th, Coulter claimed that “America's favorite national past time is hating soccer.” Coulter's favorite national past time, on the other hand, is blaming everything she hates on liberals. If she hates asparagus, for example, it’s because liberals have ruined the universe.  Soccer, which is clearly a sport Coulter is wholly unfamiliar with, is just her latest excuse for blaming the galaxy’s moral decline on liberals.  The reason, according to her, is because liberals enjoy a sport that lacks a sufficient level of violence to keep the material universe from unraveling.  For her, soccer is not only the sport of Satan, it may be the reason behind every genocide throughout history. It even broke up The Beatles and shot Kennedy.

Coulter has used the World Cup to turn herself into the Andy Kaufman of conservatism, throwing political tirades and feigning moral whiplash whenever she can, and laughing about it all the way to the bank. Of course, the joke is on the conservative audience who buys her books, since it’s their money she's pocketing.

When conservatives pundits like Coulter complain, it's usually about liberals, of course, but it's always about something they, personally, dislike.  When a liberal complains, it's usually about something that effects everyone, like when a corporation pollutes a local water supply, as the Hooker Chemical Company did with the Love Canal Disaster. Not only is the reason for the complaint obvious, but the solution is so clear it goes without saying - stop polluting the water supply. For Conservatives, on the other hand, complaints are mostly about what bothers them. They’ll complain about soccer, for example, but the only reason they do so is to attract attention to them self.  And the only unspoken solution they offer is that the world should adjust itself to accommodate for their own emotional discomforts, and start playing American football.

Of course, Coulter is not the only pundit shedding crocodile tears about soccer these days.  On June 11, Glen Beck added cheese to her wine by claiming that "those who like the World Cup ... (are) the most likely to riot." In contrast, he continued, "I haven't seen the baseball riots." He obviously forgot about the baseball riots of 1924 following the game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers.  And while not a “riot,” more recently, a father and son ran onto the field during a White Sox’s game in 2003, and attacked the base coaches of the visiting Kansas City Royals.  That was the second riot of that year, the first occurring after the favored Oakland Raiders were trounced in the Super Bowl by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-21.  

Then there are all those riots after college sporting events that Beck conveniently forgot about. In 2013, for example, "after Ohio State's victory over Michigan, 30 fires were set, (and) after another game, one college athletics chief said she had feared for her life.”[i] And in Pennsylvania, students from Penn State University overturned a television broadcast van as they rioted over the firing of their football coach Joe Paterno. Maybe Beck overlooked these examples because he spends most of his time watching Fox News.

While Coulter feels that soccer isn't violent enough (“everyone gets a ribbon and a juice box after the game"), the Media Research Center's, Dan Gainor, feels it’s too violent ("generally football games in this country don't devolve into riots or wars"). Agreeing wit Gainor is G. Gordon Liddy, who denounced soccer for being a "game ...that originated with the South American Indians and instead of a ball, they used to use the head, the decapitated head, of an enemy warrior."

Gainor’s conclusion from all of this is that soccer "is being sold" as necessary due to the "browning of America.”  Whether this was in reference to the art of barbequing or a Freudian slip revealing a latent disdain for minorities, is as yet unclear. He later said of soccer, "I hate it so much, probably because the rest of the world likes it so much, and they riot over it, and they continually try to jam it down our throat." The irony of the World Cup, then, is that every country in the world loves it out of love for their country while Americans, according to Gainor and the clan, are supposed to hate it out of love for their country.  Of course, hating soccer simply because the rest of the world loves it is like refusing to search for the Higgs Boson simply because the rest of the world is curious about it.

Gainor complained further on the G. Gordon Liddy Show, that "the problem here is, soccer is designed as a poor man or poor woman's sport."  When paired with Coulter's claims that sports are basically “sublimated warfare,” he has a point, since it is always the “poor man or poor woman” fighting in the wars “designed” to support the interests of the rich.  He went on to say that "the left is pushing it in schools across the country." Soccer apparently isn’t just a game for Gainer, in other words, it’s just the cleverest trick ever devised by the Left to indoctrinate the youth about all things liberal. For him, the World Cup amounts to socialism in a soccer jersey.

Then there’s Rush Limbaugh. On the June 11 edition of his show, guest host Mark Belling chimed in with his own rendition of "cry me a river": "What I really want to do is make fun of the World Cup, but I'm not going to make fun of the World Cup because when you insult soccer you get the same reaction from soccer fans that you get when you insult an aging Democratic senator's hair, they go nuts and blow it up all out of proportion." Of course, his latter comment, about how “they're force-feeding [the World Cup] down our throats," along with Coulter's comment that any interest in soccer “is a clear sign of a nation's moral decay,” in no way blows the World Cup "all out of proportion"

What Coulter seems to miss in her rant about the world's most popular international sporting event, however, is that comparing football to World Cup soccer is like comparing a bus boy in a truck stop diner to Baryshnikov performing in the Russian Ballet. It’s the difference between watching men engaged in an organized mugging and watching a man play the violin, with his feet, while being mugged for 90 minutes. Of course, the great irony of how the conservative fun bunch feels about soccer is that rest of the world feels the same way about the military and economic intervention that America ‘continually tries to jam down their throats.'

Yet the real reason conservatives like Coulter and the crew hate soccer is because it challenges the idea that it’s all about them. In fact, the thought of the world coming together like a community to play a single sport is kryptonite to the conservative pundit whose job it is to divide the world into allies and enemies.  Indeed, if there’s one sport that holds all of humanity together like the Higgs Boson, even in the face of a World War, it's soccer. Conservative pundits hate this, of course, because if people aren’t at each others throats about something, they can’t draw attention to them self by telling us all who to hate, and why.

In all of this, one thing is clear: “what sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul,” is not simply “opposable thumbs,” but the fact that our technological developments allow an entire species to participate in a single worldwide event, instead of simply complaining about it like a bunch of cackling hens. 


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