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Soccer is for Losers?

The mission of the American Enterprise Institute's blog is to provide "thoughtful and timely analysis on economic, foreign and social policy and politics." Today, Gary Schmitt wrote an extremely thoughtful analysis on the most important policy issue of the world, which is, of course, soccer, especially since Chancellor Merkel meets with President Obama today.

Not only is Mr. Schmitt bashing soccer, but he also trashes us Europeans by suggesting that we like soccer because the better teams tend to lose:

I can say unquestionably that it is the sport in which the team that dominates loses more often than any other major sport I know of. Or, to put it more bluntly, the team that deserves to win doesn’t. (...) And, in sports, that means excellence should prevail. Of course, the fact that is often not the case when it comes to soccer may be precisely the reason the sport is so popular in the countries of Latin America and Europe.

Michael J.W. Stickings takes issue with Gary Schmitt's analysis as well and describes it as "another example of the right's deluded view of American exceptionalism: Americans are different. They're winners." Indeed, he is not the first conservative who made condescending statements about Europeans for their love of soccer. But, as I pointed out in the post The Superiority of American Culture and Sports, the liberal Huffington Post has published offending rants as well during the last soccer world cup in Germany.

The Scottish journalist Alex Massie comments on Schmitt's article as well: "The Never-Ending Neoconservative War on Soccer". And Matthew Yglesias weighs in as well: Neocons Bemoan USA Soccer Victory

Related articles on Atlantic Review:

State Department Uses the World Cup to Improve U.S. Image
Soccer Diplomacy with Iran?
America is expected to win the Super Bowl

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Pat Patterson on :

Conservatives hate soccer? That's odd as my grandfather and his brother both played minor league soccer in Scotlan and Ulster before World War I and both could chartiably described as to the left of John L Lewis. But my dad and his brother hated all those "hunky" sports because as my dad always explained that only people that would send waves of soldiers into fixed firing lanes would find a tie a sport.

Pat Patterson on :

Now that I have had a little more time to read the original article, Matthew Yglesias's misrepresentation of it and a whole slew of comments by people that appeared not to have read Schmitt's post I can only ask what exactly is everyone so upset about. He congratulates the US for winning, no bemoaning, talks about how he has coached soccer for years, but points out the obvious in that after a concerted push for soccer at the amateur and professional level the effort has failed. Junior and high school girls in pony tailes excel then quit on graduation and the only adults still playing are mostly wearing the jerseys of teams from areas that most Americans couldn't find on a map or pronounce correctly. Actually Gary Schmitt was not really engaged in any description of an important world concern, I got the irony, but merely observing that Americans for over thirty years have originally risen from their couches and now zap the tv with the remote to change channels more often to a fishing program than endure three hours of soccer. But sometimes we do tape the end of the games hoping for a drunken riot to break out and then try to figure out what song some gap-toothed yob is singing while pummeling some other gap-toothed foreign yob with a different day glo scarf.

Pamela on :

soccer? What is the point? Nothing ever happens. Something always ALMOST happens - which explains why Europeans like it and most Americans just snort in derision. Baseball. Sublime.

Zyme on :

Yes it is a game involving much patience. But due to this it also has what a good story needs - ups and downs regarding tension - phases with virtually nothing happening, and phases in which the spectators are in full agony, either hoping for the final blow or fully scared. This I miss from American sports (footbal maybe an exception, but I dont know the rules of this sport)

Don S on :

I'm torn on this issue. Living in the UK I'm more aware than most americans of futbol, as it's the primary ntional sport in Englnd, and English club teams excel in the Champion's league. Yet, most Premiership action can be described as more boring than watching paint dry. The best club tems in Europe (Real Madrid, Man United, Barcelona, and the other top teams in Serie A (Italy) and the UK tend to stay on top year after year. The single exception among the major European futbol leagues seems to be the German league. On the other hand, futbol at it's best is stunningly dramatic. I'm thinking of the 2006 World cup semi between Italy and Germany and the final between Italy and France as examples. Big games usually really ARE big in futbol, unlike many Super Bowls in US football, which can be boring. Brazil is hand's down the best national team on earth, yet wins the world cup rarely considering it's talent. Brazil will typically steamroller it's opponent, but usually a lesser team has a great game and beats them on an off-day sometime during the competition. In terms of US sports it's best not to compare the World Cup with US football. No, think of the NCAA Basketball tournament. Not anyone can win, but most any team can pull off a big upset and advance well into the tournament. And any dominant team can lose, no matter how good they are.

Don S on :

The US appearing in the Confederations final is something of a fluke but not as huge a fluke as first appears. They lot 3-1 to Italy, but only after a huge red card which most observers believed should have been a yellow. That meant they were playing a man short most of the game. Nevertheless the US took the lead early in that game. Had the penalty been a yellow card, it is easy to visualize a close game, perhaps a US win or likely a draw. The US was missing one of it's best players and got steamrolled by Brazil. Perhaps it could have been closer with him; perhaps not. Then they caught an Egyptian team which probably deserved to go to the semis and almost did. They almost drew with Brazil in the first game, then beat Italy 1-0 in the second. The Egyptians had nothing left an met an inspired US team, losing 3-0 while Italy lost 3-0 to Brazil. None of the runner-up teams really deserved to go through but one does. The second round is typically when teams catch lightning in a bottle, and that is probably what happened against Spain. The Spanish were the tournament favorites and were probably looking past the US to the final againt Brazil. Bad mistake, they were down 2-0 before they knew it. The final could be a great one or a typical futbol yawner. The US could come out loaded for bear - or drained by the win over Spain (like Egypt was playing the US). I figure the US has maybe a 10 or 15% chance to win. They have only beaten Brazil once in thirteen games, but a lot of those were when the US had truly bad teams. Now the US is a mid-rank power at about the level of Mexico, Poland, Nederlands, Sweden, or Greece. There are a lot more of those kinds of countries, and sometimes they win big competitions - Greece won Europe 2004 for an example. More often not, of course, which is why I rate them on;ly 10-15%.

Zyme on :

I wouldn't count Greece among the mid-rank soccer powers, the stunt they pulled off 2004 was legendary for its luck. It has to happen once in a century, and it happened there. With those kind of tactics, you are doomed. That is why they haven't had any successes afterwards. The others probably are on the same level yes. I was surprised to see the US playing against Brazil in the final match. I am going to watch it afterwards, as long as it isn't a "yawner" like you said :)

Pat Patterson on :

These last few posts are probably exactly why Americans are bemused by soccer. Start with a serious discussion on sports exceptionalism and you end up talking about Greece's one in a million chances for some cup win somewhere before hell freezes over. No thanks!

Don S on :

Pat, you're being parochial. Americans mostly don't grok international competitions very well, with the exceptions being the Olympics and the Tour de France when Lance Armstrong and other Americans were on top. It's the same thing here. As you point out, most Americans don't give a rat's ass about futbol. Just as they don't give a rat's ass about speed and figure skating, platform diving, gymnastics, swimming, skiing, track and field, etc - except every 4 years when they care quite a bit. The same will happen in futbol; if the US goes to the semis in the World CUp I think Americans will start to pay (some) attention to futbol. Had they managed to win the Confederation Cup by beating Spain and Brazil I think it would have given futbol a shot in the arm in the US. Still as a lesser sport, of course, but still. The fact is that after many years of being totally hopeless in futbol, the US now manages to field a good team often as not. Not on the level of Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, Italy, or Argentina (yet) but they can beat many countries (like Mexico) at their national sport. WHich is saying something, I think.

Don S on :

Pat, if this keeps up they'll be shouting USA, USA like they did in Lake Placid. The US comes out loaded for bear and is up 2-0. Suddenly Tim Howard is hot, and a hot goalkeeper can help you win games you normally wouldn't. Also Brasil seems a bit logy. Probably were looking forward to playing Spain.....

Zyme on :

Kudos to the American team - performing very well against a Brazilian team that in the second half put the pressure we were all expecting for the entire match. Munich's Lucio dealing the final blow ;)

Pat Patterson on :

Are you sure you didn't hear people chanting "RSA, RSA?" The fourteen Americans in the stands were probably either consular staff or peons from some NGO trying to disquise themselves as Brazilians. When I went to pick up lunch at the pizzeria the entire staff of the place, mostly Mexicans and Salvadorans, were solidly glued to the tv cheering for...Brazil!

Zyme on :

Yes the current state of the match is amazing - but god can they turn these freaking Vuvuzelas off? I googled the german words for "noise" and "confed", coming up with 19000 results and finding out that this hellish device is called "Vuvuzela". This will be a real challenge for tv stations at the championship next year, should the FIFA lack the courage for forbidding them. Maybe focusing on sound transmissions from the playfield level and dampening the sounds above would help? Or only transmit the commenters voice? Otherwise, public viewing will only be enjoyable with muted sound alltogether. What a shame for the atmosphere that would be..

Marie Claude on :

Talk about RUGBY, that's sport

Zyme on :

Apropos sport, ultimate fighting has arrived here in Germany a few days ago. Is it true that it has been highly controversial in the US a mere decade ago, while it now even surpasses boxing in popularity? That is what the news agencies want us to believe here :) Are they right?

Pamela on :

No Zyme, they're wrong. I remember a few years ago when they tried to put it on cable TV. People were disgusted enough that they gave up on it. I don't think you could find a broadcast of it now on a bet.

Zyme on :

Strange, but as always, it seems useful not to fully trust what is broadcasted everywhere. It has provoked strict criticism from politicians here, but there seems to be a growing amount of devoted fans and sportsmen. There will be a documentary tonight in german tv about the first event which happened about a fortnight ago. These will be the first video impressions I am going to see about it. Now when there are no animals chasing christians in arenas around here, we should at least be able to watch this I think :) If it comes out big, the people might find a means to bundle their aggressions, which could in turn reduce crime and increase content among the people.

Don S on :

Zyme, ultimate fighting started out as more or less 'anything goes' and drew heavy criticism for that. It has reformed and laid down stricter rules and has been sanctioned (regulated) by state athletic commissions (much as boxing is in the US). After having been dropped from cable TV because of it's brutality it has now returned to relative respectability. I think it may be more popular than boxing now, because boxing has suffered a decline. I got most of this from wikipedia. You can read much more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_Fighting_Championship

Zyme on :

Yes these days boxing can really be mixed up with dancing sometimes..

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