“It’s all about purity, and peace, and tolerance, and…” “shut the fuck up”

A piece purporting to explain why soccer is now supposedly popular among American intellectuals. Yet the most obvious explanation is only barely hinted at in a single sentence: “Perversely, it seems easier for an American soccer fan to make common cause with Italian mobs, who might happen to be shouting pro-fascist chants, than with someone from Alabama, who might happen to be a Republican.”

I played soccer competitively through high school, and occaisonally on club teams in college, and for a while I was definitely very engaged as a spectator with international soccer. So I think I can say that at least personally a large part of the appeal was the snob factor–this was something that “sophisticated” Europeans were obsessed with, and one could consequently feel superior to all the American yokels that ignored soccer in favor of football, baseball and NASCAR. To be fair, many Americans have just as ostentatiously rejected soccer for ideological reasons, considering it the sport of wussy European socialists, so supporting it can have political connotations of a internationalist nature–opposing the “unilateralism” of the U.S. that also rejects the Kyoto treaties, the chemical weapons and land mines treaty, the International Criminal Court, etc. At the same time, watching soccer because of its indirect signalling of one’s political outlook definitely has a whiff of the pseudo.

So I am sympathetic to people that genuinely like the sport, having played it for a long time myself. But let’s be honest, it’s a fairly mediocre spectator sport: definitely more entertaining than baseball, but only about equivalent with basketball and considerably less so than football or hockey, in my opinion. And let’s be honest, given that many international clubs not only put big corporate logos right across the chest of their jerseys, which is something no American professional sports team does (with the exception of the tiny jersey-maker logos), but also outright sell star players to other clubs, without even making the pretence of trading for other players, which is pretty much de riguer in America, let’s just say that I’m skeptical of the argument that soccer is somehow purer and less governed by money and marketing than American sports.

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