Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I imagine American right-wingers have a tough time dealing with the World Cup. On the one hand, it gives them a way to express nationalist sentiments and chant “USA! USA!” as much as they want. On the other hand, soccer seems somehow...liberal, if it makes any sense to attribute a political leaning to an entire sports. Soccer is more beloved by the world at large than America, it is played by guys who are mostly too small to play football or basketball, and it is decidedly collectivist in nature—one star player can't win a game by himself. Worst of all, the US isn't a soccer superpower, so unlike Olympic basketball, or swimming, or war, Americans can't expect to win at it. If you root for the US in the World Cup, you're going to have to admit defeat at the hands of a superior foe at some point, not a prospect that conservatives would enjoy.
So when the World Cup started, I figured that the talk radio gang would basically ignore the tournament unless we lost, at which point they would blame Obama. Actually, around the time the futbol matches were beginning on the pitches, Glenn Beck went on a tirade (tirade being his default speaking mode; when he goes to the grocery store he goes on tirades about double-bagging his eggs) about how Obama's policies were the “World Cup of policies” or something, in that Americans didn't like either, but both were being “shoved down our throat,” a phrase Beck picked up at the Conservative Commentator Subtly Homoerotic Implication Workshop. Other conservatives with mouths also mocked soccer, including some guys on convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy's talk show, who noted that the left was pushing soccer in schools (I guess because there are soccer teams?) and that originally, soccer was played using a human head as a ball in South America. Running through all of this discourse was the notion that soccer is being forced upon people who don't care for it and will never want to watch it. It's unclear who, exactly, is pushing soccer—ESPN? Illegal aliens? The Communists—but these conservatives aren't buying the notion that soccer is worth paying attention to.
If these guys haven't been watching the World Cup because they resent it being rammed suggestively down their pink throats, they've been missing out, as anyone who was sitting at a bar at roughly 11 am Eastern Time can tell you. That's when Landon Donovan's goal saved the US team from the brink of elimination and opened up the possibility of us making a deep run this year (we have to beat Ghana, then the winner of Uruguay-South Korea to get into the semifinals. Knock on wood). Even if you didn't understand the complexities of soccer you could appreciate a last-minute, game-winning score that gets the team into the playoffs. And even if you're a casual soccer fan like me you've been able to find plenty of exciting moments, even in games that soccer haters would sneer at--Algeria's 0-0 tie with England, for instance, was a very exciting game despite the score. I hope G. Gordon Liddy watches the next US match—and not just because if he's watching the game he won't be able to break into hotels. It'd be a genuine shame if he missed out on something good just because some people he doesn't agree with like it too.
Beck and company remind me of hipsters. Not in the plaid-shirt way, thank god, but in the way they are concerned with not just the things that they enjoy, but with the things that other people enjoy and expect them to enjoy. You might remember the backlash against Vampire Weekend because the music blogs loved them too much, proving that if hipsters hate one thing more than jocks it's being told what they should consider cool. If you first heard about Vampire Weekend from Pitchfork, your knee-jerk reaction might not have had anything to do with the music; it might have gone something like, “Oh, another fucking hipster band? (makes international symbol for “wanking” with right hand) I ain't buying that shit.”
I suspect conservatives went through the same thought process with soccer, and that's the shitty thing about the “culture wars” that are supposedly being waged on cable news channels: aspects of life that really have nothing to do with politics get politicized. Why is soccer-bashing a conservative talking point? What could possibly be the—sorry for the pun—goal of hating soccer? I guess some may honestly just dislike the World Cup for non-political reasons (Beck doesn't like sports at all), but shit—if you want to convince someone that watching televised athletic competitions of any kind is worthwhile, that clip above might be a good place to start. In fact, let's see it again:
If you don't like watching that you either aren't American, have a pathological fear of people not using their hands, or you have really indoctrinated yourself into hating anything that liberals would like. Sports can be political, like when this happened, but this isn't about politics. The World Cup has nothing to do with liberals or conservatives—I feel stupid pointing something so obvious, but some people would apparently disagree. Fucking hipster conservatives. Go supervise the writing of your ghostwritten best-selling thriller novels, why don't you? The rest of us will be watching stuff like this:
COMING UP NEXT WEEK: I read Glenn Beck's novel and liveblog it! Don't miss out!