Alex Massie

America’s Crazy War on Soccer

Text settings

I'm guessing that we'll know Barack Obama's plan to turn the United States of America into a european socialist hellhole will be complete when he comes out as a soccer fan. Here's Stephen H Webb in First Things:

The real tragedy is that soccer is a foreign invasion, but it is not a plot to overthrow America. For those inclined toward paranoia, it would be easy to blame soccer’s success on the political left, which, after all, worked for years to bring European decadence and despair to America. The left tried to make existentialism, Marxism, post-structuralism, and deconstructionism fashionable in order to weaken the clarity, pragmatism, and drive of American culture. What the left could not accomplish through these intellectual fads, one might suspect, they are trying to accomplish through sport.

Oh noes! Actually it's even worse than that:

Yet this suspicion would be mistaken. Soccer is of foreign origin, that is certainly true, but its promotion and implementation are thoroughly domestic. Soccer is a self-inflicted wound. Americans have nobody to blame but themselves. Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves.

The horror and shame of it!

None of this is new and doubtless much of it is meant in jest. Equally it's no more tedious than British hacks' witless attacks on baseball or American football. But still, the American right has a weird obsession with soccer and its supposed cancerous impact on the moral well-being of the United States. Consider this 2006 example from the pages of the Weekly Standard which argued that

Our country has yet to succumb to the nihilism, existentialism, and anomie that have overtaken Europe. A game about nothing, in which scoring is purely incidental, holds scant interest for Americans who still believe the world makes sense, that life has a larger meaning and structure, that being is not an end in itself, being qua being.

The authors went so far as to argue that:

"Soccer, then, would appear to be a game better suited to dim-witted quadrupeds than to human beings."

All of which leaves one to wonder, obviously, about Intelligent Design. After all, a game suited to apes that is nonetheless beloved by humans might suggest a certain linear progression from one to the other would it not? Alternatively, you might have to conclude that the Great Designer had blundered in making the world's most popular sport a game that mankind is so ill-suited to playing. This in turn raises the awkward question (for some, that is) of whether it is in fact possible, in good conscience, to be a fan of Jesus and soccer? If soccer is un-American and a strike against nature mustn't it also be godless? Thank heavens this is the sort of thing the United States Congress can hold hearings on...

[Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleInternationalfootball