June 23, 2010
Soccer: The Perfect Socialist SportBy C. Edmund Wright
The world's most popular sport? Puh-leeze. This is like saying that dirt is more popular than gold simply because there is more of it. Last time I checked, soccer was very popular where starvation, archery, and badminton were the alternative activities. Where soccer has to compete with the NFL, college football, and basketball -- not to mention WWE, the X Games, cheerleading contests, and cage-fighting -- not so much.
And no, I am not some redneck soccer newbie who has never been exposed to the sport. Actually, I attended the prep school that brought the sport to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina -- one of the first soccer hotspots in the country. We are talking multiple decades ago. And frankly, I rather enjoyed playing it in one of the southeast's first little league soccer organizations and in high school PE class.
But watching it? Oh my God. The only thing more predictable than Barack Obama blaming George W. Bush and BP is that when you flip over to World Cup coverage, the score will be 0-0. I don't care who is playing or where you are in the game...er, match. It will be 0-0. And for those who think watching the grass grow is more exciting, I think these matches are so long they do have to mow the pitch at halftime. (Hey -- I know they call it a pitch, not a field. Told you I was not a redneck newbie.)
At its heart, soccer is the perfect socialist sport. That's why it will never catch on among Americans the way football or basketball has -- regardless of how hard ESPN or ESPN Deportes tries to force feed it to us. Soccer is a redistributive dreamer's delight, with most of the potential risk-reward strategy of the sport removed by rule. It is a self-esteem cornucopia, where a blistering rout of, say, 2-0 seems so close in the score book. No one's feelings get hurt at 2-0. And on and on the socialist feel goes.
A liberal's only complaint with soccer is that it entails such low scoring that there's no point trying to have a youth league where no one keeps score. It's 0-0. We all know that already. You can't even pretend not to know the score. Then again, 0-0 is the perfect score for a "no score" league, I guess.
Consider other ways in which it is the quintessential socialist sport:
Soccer is biggest where the "national teams" are the main sports focus of a nation. Hey, you can't get much more socialist than that. And everyone on every street and in every town pulls for the same team. Wow. Isn't that exciting? Whom do you pull for? Oh yeah, the national team.
And let's not forget the off-sides rule. Without getting buried in minutiae, suffice it to say that off-sides in soccer is like making the bomb illegal in football or the fast break illegal in basketball. This is a socialist sport. We can't be having any risk-reward equations here. You see, in soccer, it's not fair that you might take a chance to weaken your defense in order to spring a man deep downfield behind the defense. That would be unfair in a free-market, venture-capital-type way. No, no, no! You must let the defense be behind you. You cannot beat them downfield until you have the ball. That would be unfair and, no doubt, mean-spirited.
So ingrained is this into the soccer psyche that many of the world's best defenses employ what they call "the off-sides trap." In other words, they use the socialist rules to the hilt. Here, a defenseman gets beaten downfield on purpose to get a call against his opponent.
It's a lot like using high tax rates and the IRS to keep everyone's financial strata the same.
This leads to the another socialist issue, which is the low scoring and the self-esteem protection involved in that. In international soccer, 2-0 is a rout and 3-0 an absolute blowout. And yet, it seems so close. Hey, we only lost by three.
In reality, it's like losing by 21 in football -- or worse, actually, given the paucity of scoring. It's a total destruction, but it sounds so innocent at three-nil.
Another way soccer is the perfect socialist sport is the power vested in the nameless bureaucrats and their ability to never have to answer for their screw ups. This sounds like big government to me for sure.
Consider "stoppage time." In soccer, the official clock does not stop for out of bounds or other play stoppages. No, it rolls on, I guess to keep the carbon footprint of the clock operations low. You see, like socialists, the bureaucrats don't actually want to trust the real movers and shakers with information like, well, how much time is left. It's kind of like not knowing how much longer you can keep your current health plan if you like it.
The little bureaucrats on the field -- the referees, kind of like lawyers -- keep the time to themselves. No one else knows. It's the perfect case of untalented bureaucrats having power over the real talented people who make things happen (such that anything ever happens in soccer).
And no liberal or socialist sport would be complete without a generous dose of self-importance, arrogance, and snobbery among its followers. I mean, it's bad enough that we have to see the kids running around in almost soft-porn thigh-highs and sandals every Saturday as they pile out of mini-vans at every Shoney's, Applebee's, and Hampton Inn everywhere. But it's the "yeah, but it's the worlds most popular sport" attitude that really gets to me.
No it isn't! See the perfect dirt and gold analogy in paragraph one, please. Where people have a choice, soccer is not the most popular sport.
And it really gets bad every four months -- or is it four years -- when the World Cup rolls around. That's where the arrogance of soccer folks meets up with the one-world feeling and the can't-we-all-just-get-along crowd and all sorts of international bodies that want to treat the U.S. like just another country like Cuba or Iran. It's nauseating.
And what's so deliciously ironic is that when push comes to shove, the international referees will always manage to screw the United States, even as our PC crowd does all it can to convince the planet that we can love soccer, too.
No, we can't. Not as spectators. Hey, I am all for the fitness involved in soccer or any sport that involves that much cardio activity. But please don't make me watch it -- and please stop insulting my intelligence with the "most popular sport in the world" stuff.
Now, back to the game. It's nil-nil. Still.