I find the emergence of the World Cup and soccer on the world’s stage including the American national one an encouraging sign. Americans until now, as far as the definition of “football” is concerned have been constricted and narrow in their world-vision, their weltenshaung, only recently begrudgingly granting soccer the name “football” that is used commonly elsewhere on the planet. Going even further, I will assert that this worldwide media play, this enhanced and much ballyhooed World Soccer Cup television reality show, a profitable public countdown to arguably the best soccer team in the whole wide world for the year, this popular global event could be a significant precursor to a sea change in the American psyche.
Before you think I am going all giddy and weak in the knees over a silly football game, please allow me to explain.American football is a metaphor for the American psyche. When I was growing up I played football until high school when the other kids got bigger and I was then too small and too slow. Until high school I was the one giving licking’s not gettin’ them. But, in middle school (called Jr high then) I routinely was chosen for the line (center, right/left guard, etc.) because of my aggressive style of play. I must confess, the thing I liked the most about football was the ability to give body slams and elbow cracks as hard as I could whilst on the playing field. I’ve often mused in the years since that the the kids that followed their middle school successes with high school and college football, were like I was mean and aggressive, but had the good luck to have DNA that led to the breeding of larger sized humans.
Baseball, once, during the WW2, was considered our national game. Baseball, like football was another game with the stamp of “World Championships” that was in reality just the champs of the North American world, not the rest of the world. When I was coming up, it was football that really counted. So, our national game, a game where the meanest and most physically aggressive style prevails, where the biggest guy wins, where might makes right etc. etc. The game can absolutely be considered as a metaphor for the American conciousness.
The following list is a calabash of ingredients, a mixture of thoughts I have had over the years around this phenomena. Please sort them out in that particular order which makes most sense to you. I think that the World Cup is an important signpost of change as are the below somehow connected markers:
Until recently, until the emergence of the World Cup, our traditional American style of football was considered the only “football” because if you called soccer, “football” folks would laugh. “stoopid, stoopid, that’s soccer dude, the Brits and the Froggies play that, not us, real Americans we play real mean men’s game, the only one deserving of the name football!!!!!
The emergence of women’s movement inspired more independent, less warlike, soccer moms. I wittnessed and I participated in this change first hand. I was a young father, my emancipated and independent wife, found this new league, a soccer league. Kids ran around the field after the ball and kicked it or head butted it into a goal area rather than body slamming each other. The empahsis in soccer football was on style and finesse rather than bulk strength. In some sense you had to be better fit to play this type of football and the type of sports hero that emerged from this game was more lithe and less bulky. I knew for sure that soccer was taking hold when the corporate media did some comic stories on how the game of soccer might actually be more dangerous than traditional American football because of the head butts to the ball. They hauled out the paid experts, graphs and tables, and really threw out the chum, churning the murky waters even further. But, nevertheless, soccer Moms and soccer prevailed and soccer leagues became a routine part of the suburbanscape.
The Superbowl phenomena. Talk about testosterone on steroids? I don’t remember when the super bowl became the big deal it has been the past decade. Was it big from the start? It was a big money way of consolidating the marketing efforts of two groups of competitors and calling it a world championship (if not directly, but by implications) ergo the “Super Bowl” of football, echoing all those post season bowls, here across America. Super it may have been, world it wasn’t because Americans are the only ones that play their silly ass pugilistic brand of football. I don’t observe the Superbowl religious holiday, but many Americans see this day as the high day of the year. So, our national game, a game where the meanest and most physically aggressive stye prevails, where the biggest guy wins, where might makes right etc. etc. The game can absolutely be considered as a metaphor for the American consciousness and the SUPER BOWL IS THE EPITOME OF THIS SILLY SELF CONCEPT.
Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France. Okay, perhaps I’m going to probably be treading too heavy here for some of my French brother’s tastes, so let me issue my apologies on the front side. There is only one thing that in my mind would interest Americans in bicycle racing when this type of atheletics was previously considered “sissy shit.” Motorcycle racing might maybe considered, but bicycle racing never, especially since it is the haughty French that were supreme until Lance arrived. Lance was the ultimate publicists dream for popularizing The Tour de France in America. That he was a cancer survivor was just icing on the cake. But, because he was the right media catalyst at the right time, the result of Lance’s victories was to turn America’s face away from it’s own strictly NASCAR navel and to Europe and European games and atheletic contests. That the French gave him shit made us like him even better.
Skinheads and Soccer fights. The previous is the ingredients, for spice, throw in the high visibilty fights that make such good televison after all. Soccer fights, and the high emotional investment many folks around the world have in their soccer games primes the pump for news and for feature television producers whose voracious appetites gobble the most insignificant visual crumb in this war of visual symbolism and soccer violence just stokes the furnace.
Of course, the broth that makes this whole stew viable is the global information network like CNN and the Internet. We all watch televison and even the most backward village in remote India has a dude with a wireless, who is the local phone company.
I conclude then, that the present American television and satellite media promotion of European football, or soccer, is a good sign that Americans might soon get their heads out of their assholes and recognize that there is America, and then there is the rest of the world. Last night, I was listening to a politician, a lady I think of the blue state stripe, I forget her name. The first sentence out of her mouth in an attack on the war in Iraq was a silly boast, “America must be the strongest nation on earth” blah blah blah blah. If that is the criteria, I hate to tell you Beeyatch, it is over already. In calculus terms, the inevitabilty of the Chinese ascension is clear. There are a thousand Yao Mings in a thousand villages ready to play in the NBA, a million linebackers bigger and more viscious than the “Refrigerator.”
We are toast if we continue to play American football. Personally, I think we had better learn to play Soccer.