I’ve received enormous amounts of email about my post on that idiotic piece from the Nation’s Dave Zirin about the right’s alleged hatred of soccer and the World Cup. Numerous readers complained that I didn’t take the paddle to author as vigorously as warranted. Maybe so. I just thought the asininity was so self-evidently resplendent that it didn’t make much sense to get in the way. But I am nothing if not a slave to the desires of my readers so let me add a couple more points.
First, the charge of racism as a motivator behind anti-soccer feelings is pretty bizarre given that the sports the rightwing trogs do champion – baseball, basketball and football – are dominated by nonwhites. And yet conservatives still champion them.
As for the suggestion that imperialist urges are driving disdain for soccer, feh. Whatever the roots of soccer’s origins, it seems indisputable that it spread around the world thanks to the imperialism of the British and other European powers. I am at a complete loss as to what America’s alleged imperialism has to do with anything.
Indeed, it seems to me that Zirin is displaying that all too common tendency among leftwingers to assume that if conservatives dissent from liberal affections and priorities, it must be because conservatives are evil. A far more plausible and good faith explanation for the conservative reaction to soccer can be found in the liberal overreaction to soccer. It seems to me that most of the conservatives I know who make a fuss about the World Cup (I should say a “make a negative fuss,” since I know quite a few conservatives who love soccer and the World Cup. I am not one of them.) do so because they are sick of being told how soccer is the future; how it’s elegant and sophisticated and cosmopolitan. As with women’s professional basketball, journalistic and other elites tell the masses they’re supposed to love it – and they just don’t. Moreover they resent being told to “evolve” in their sports tastes. Now, tastes change of course, and soccer will undoubtedly grow in popularity. But being told that all the smart and decent people love something is a sure way to get the Irish up in a lot of Americans. I am willing to concede that some conservatives get carried away in their anti-soccer tirades, usually just for fun, but I’d very much like to see a few more liberals admit that at least some of the soccer-mania here in the states is driven by a faddish desire to seem hip and worldly.
Oh one last thing about this racism nonsense. How many competitors in the World Cup are from nations guilty of ethnic cleansing in the last decade or two? How many are represent racist regimes? How many refuse to play sports against Israelis or let their women play sports (publicly) at all? A reader reminded me of the tendency of European soccer fans to make monkey noises at black players. I googled “monkey noises” and “soccer” and found no shortage of such stories. Here’s one from USA Today’s coverage of the last World Cup:
Despite the new look, the stadium might have a hard time escaping its history as a symbol of racial intolerance. Seventy years after what became known as the Nazi Olympics, increasingly menacing racism within Europe is a major story line for this edition of soccer’s quadrennial showcase.
In Germany and several other European nations, crowds shower minority players with racial insults at times. Several of the U.S. team’s African-American players who compete professionally in European leagues say they have been targets of discrimination and verbal and even physical abuse because of their race — on and off the field. There are concerns about how racial incidents might affect the World Cup in Germany, where the 32-team tournament begins June 9 and will be held in 12 cities.
An anti-racism group in Germany is so concerned that it has warned non-white World Cup visitors to avoid rural towns and villages outside Berlin, in the formerly communist eastern part of the country.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu (oh-GOOCH-ee own-YAY-woo), an African-American who plays for the Belgian club Standard Lige, is expected to be one of the USA’s breakout stars in this World Cup. At 6-4, 210 pounds, he’s also the biggest player on the U.S. team, which begins play June 12 against the Czech Republic. But recently, Onyewu’s size hasn’t deterred rival club fans from launching racist attacks on him.
“I’ve been harassed while in a car, punched in face, heard monkey chants,” Onyewu says matter-of-factly. Onyewu has played in France and Belgium the last four years but says this is the first season he has experienced such overt racism.
Onyewu, who is from Olney, Md., says in March he was leaving a rival team’s game with a few friends when he was spotted by some fans of Club Brugge, a league opponent.
“They were shaking the car, they spit on the car, they were throwing food, kicking the car, punching the car, all that stuff,” says Onyewu, who believes the incident was racially motivated. Part of the bumper of his Chrysler 300 was ripped off, he says. “I was too angry to be scared. My friends wouldn’t let me get out of the car because they thought the fans would hurt me.”
Onyewu says when his team played in April at a rival’s stadium where fans sit near the field, he was punched in the face — during the game. “I was going to throw the ball in, and some fans started doing monkey chants and I made a gesture like, ‘Whatever.’ And a guy reached over and punched me in the mouth.” Onyewu says the fan was suspended and fined.
But, ah yes, American’s are the racists for not embracing soccer mania more.