Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Soccer, Shmocker. In last nite’s debut episode of the CBS comedy Listen Up, Newark’s own Jason Alexander, portraying a sportstalk TV show host, attacked soccer. I was delited.
CO-HOST (played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner “Theo Huxtable” in the old Cosby Show*): “In the world of soccer, qualifying rounds have begun for the 200... [stops because Jason Alexander has feigned snoring] Have you even tried watching a professional soccer match?
JASON ALEXANDER: You know, I turned it off when the lead became insurmountable. I think it was one-nothing.
MJW: Soccer is the most popular sport in practically every country but this country [and Canada, I might add, another proof of how well much alike we are].
JA: Then I say, “God bless America!” My heart is so filled with patriotic ...
JA: Yes! I feel a song coming on. [Stands to deliver song, to the tune of the patriotic song The Battle Hymn of the Republic.]
I go to foreign countries and there’s soccer everywhere.
They’ve got big screens for the World Cup set up in the village square.
But on TV in the U.S. soccer gets a zero share
‘Cause we know soccer blows.*
[Refrain (“Glory, glory, hallelujah” part)]
No one ever scores in soccer.
If there’s a hilite, it’s a shocker.
You win by saying “Referee, that player hurt my wittle knee.”
We hate this stupid game!”
[Concludes song] Thank you! Thank you!
Oh, no, Mr. Alexander. Thank you!
* The unacceptable sexual vulgarities "[It] sucks" and "[It] blows" will be the subject of another blog entry, some other time.
Jason Alexander's fictional sportscaster is not the only enemy of soccer in media, thank goodness. The late Mike Royko, a real Chicago columnist, was hostile to soccer: “Soccer is boring. I've never seen a more boring sport.”
Part of what makes it boring and unacceptable to Americans is the fact that soccer often ends in a tie even a scoreless tie. And the total number of goals scored is usually very low.
For reasons I have never been clear on, government and media in the United States nonetheless have, for at least 50 years, been trying to make the U.S. a soccer-playing country. They have met with some success. Amateur soccer leagues for children have apparently become popular in the past couple of decades, and the odious term “soccer mom” (“An American mother living in the suburbs whose time is often spent transporting her children from one athletic activity or event to another” American Heritage Dictionary) has achieved some currency in recent years. Despite this attempt to portray soccer as an “all-American” activity, it remains profoundly foreign.
(I had heard Joan Lunden, formerly of ABC’s morning infotainment show Good Morning America, credited with coining the term “soccer mom”, but find Mark Penn, a Democratic political pollster, credited with that dubious accomplishment. The claim is that he originated the term in 1996, but I think I’ve heard it for longer than that. Anybody know for sure?)
Soccer may divert small children and young teens, but by the time they reach the latter years of high school, the big American games (baseball, basketball, and, most powerfully, American football we never call soccer “football” here) have completely replaced soccer in their affections. The extremely limited ‘success’ of professional soccer in the U.S. is due almost exclusively to fans who came to the United States as immigrants.
A Denver Post columnist, David Harsanyi, in August of this year denounced as foolhardy the unanimous decision of the city council of Commerce City, a western suburb, to build a 20,000-seat soccer stadium at public expense. How much expense? A lot: “the plan... can only commence if voters approve a $64 million bond issue in November.” What peculiar madness has seized control of the Commerce City council? Maybe the voters, when they reject that insane bond issue, should as well vote out every single member of the council.
Somebody please explain to me why on Earth American governments and media are pushing this stupid, foreign game, intimately connected with mass violence and death? Don’t we have enuf violence in this country without bringing in more?
I suspect that anti-Americans in government, who prefer any other country to the United States and think we need to be more like Europe and less like the United States, are responsible for the government aspect. Misguided internationalists may think we need to play ‘the world’s game’ to identify and integrate more closely, emotionally, with the rest of the world.
I suspect commercial broadcasters want another big sporting event to draw a big male demographic, and are hoping for an advertising bonanza each World Cup every four friggin’ years! But why are they spending decades trying to build a soccer audience for an event that happens only once every four years? Do they delude themselves that because there are hundreds and hundreds of soccer teams all over the world, broadcasters can somehow induce tens of millions of American men to sit glued to the TV watching soccer teams from places they feel no connection with?
Even pro sports here don’t attract uncritical audiences. When the World Series involves just two New York teams, or teams from minor cities of no regional importance, broadcasters groan because the audience shrinks drastically. Why would they imagine American men would watch hours of soccer from Spain, Nigeria, or Uruguay?
Other countries have their history. Uruguay has its football.~Ondino Viera
In 1998, Brazil lost a World Cup final match and suffered national trauma over a stupid game.
Brazil. A miserable, nitemare land of grotesque social inequality, flawed 'democracy', corruption at the highest levels. A country in which street children have been hunted down and killed by merchants because the government wouldn't or couldn't provide shelters for them, and they became a nuisance to their customers!
As I observed at the time, http://members.aol.com/schoonmakr/Chairman.html at letter 101, to Jornal do Brasil:
Brazilians should be glad their soccer team lost the World Cup, because a win would have caused Brazil to celebrate, and Brazil has precious little to celebrate. If Brazilians would put less energy into playing soccer and more energy into bringing their country into the modern world, into achieving quality education for all, finding homes for Brazil's uncountable homeless children, building decent housing for everyone, pushing thru land reform and progressive taxation to spread the nation's wealth more equitably, and otherwise making of Brazil the fabulous country it could be, then Brazilians could celebrate every day in the way that counts most: by living well.
But soccer is for much of Latin America a solace for popular misery and distraction for the masses from the need to do something to fix their ugly societies.
The soccer-quote site also contains this quotation:
In Latin America the border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team.~Luis Suarez
There are far better reasons for overturning governments in Latin America. Do soccer revolutions achieve anything but shift power from one set of corrupt, useless oligarchs to another set of useless oligarchs? Not usually.
Political tumult for frivolous cause is not, however, the worst thing about the worldwide soccer phenomenon. Soccer is also linked to deaths. Lots of deaths.
Soccer is everywhere connected with death, thru violence and stadium accidents. British soccer hooligans, who have been around for 100 years, have actually killed people, over a stupid game!
No event illustrates the social phenomenon of "soccer hooliganism" more dramatically than the deaths of 39 Italian spectators at the European Cup Final between the Liverpool Football Club and the Italian team Juventus, played at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium on 29 May 1985 at the hands of soccer hooligans from Liverpool, England (Kerr, 1994).
After viewing film of the incident, Belgium authorities identified groups of Liverpool fans as those who instigated vicious attacks against the Italian fans, which in turn led to a stampede of people attempting to escape the violence.
Lest you think that “old news”, now irrelevant, realize that The Guardian, one of Britain’s most distinguished newspapers, maintains a website about soccer violence.
Apologists for soccer violence pretend there is no special link between soccer-related violence and any other sports-related violence. So why is soccer violence so common? Maybe it’s the nature of the game:
I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football [soccer], it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting. ~George Orwell, Such, Such Were the Joys
A CNN.com special webpage on soccer stadium deaths in 2001 leads off with this appalling paragraph:
Up to 125 people were killed when 70,000 soccer fans tried to flee a Ghana stadium after police fired tear gas on people throwing bottles and chairs onto the field. The May 10 tragedy came a month after 43 people were killed at a Johannesburg, South Africa, stadium and only days after eight people died in another crush in Lubumbashi, Congo. The tragedies have raised questions over stadium sizes, security measures and the continent's chances of hosting the World Cup in 2010.
A subpage deals with “Disasters in soccer stadiums”. A quick tally shows almost 1,400 people DIED in soccer stadiums around the world from 1964 to May 2001. More have died since. Some died from fires; others from collapsing stands and stampedes from various causes. But some 400 died in violence directly related to the game.
In 1994, a Colombian player who accidentally scored a goal for the U.S. team, producing a loss in the World Cup, was MURDERED upon his return to Colombia. This was the capper for the grand, first World Cup hosted in the United States! I recall, but vaguely, some disturbances by Mexicans in some U.S. city when the U.S. defeated Mexico in that same World Cup series right here in the good old U.S. of A. What a wonderful honor it was for us to host the World Cup!
I become furious when I see soccer intruded EVERYWHERE on TV, where it plainly does not belong. Commercials for banks and cars and cleaning products and foods use images of soccer games and soccer balls. Why? Stop it! We are not a soccer-playing country and hopefully never will be. Americans who feel as I do need to speak up and tell government, media, and advertisers we're tired of all the attempts to force soccer upon us. We're Americans. Let us hate soccer if we want to. Leave us alone.
Let me conclude this blog entry with one last quote from The Quote Garden's "Quotations about Soccer" webpage.
The rest of the world loves soccer. Surely we must be missing something. Uh, isn't that what the Russians told us about communism? There's a good reason why you don't care about soccer it's because you are an American and hating soccer is more American than mom's apple pie, driving a pick-up and spending Saturday afternoon channel-surfing with the remote control.~Tom Weir
As they might exclaim in Britain, whence soccer came, "Hear, hear!"
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