Is soccer catching on in mainstream America? It's an endlessly recurring question. And when The New Republic's Howard Wolfson
raised it again
Sunday it reminded the Wire of an essay in Chuck Klosterman's 2004 book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
Klosterman, in his muscular diatribe against the sport, reminds culture
critics that saying "soccer is the sport of the future" has become old hat. Below, a short portion of the book that you should read in full:
I've spent the last fifteen years of my life railing against
the game of soccer, an exercise that has been lauded as "the sport of
the future" since 1977. Thankfully, that dystopia has never come. But
people continue to tell me that soccer will soon become part of the
fabric of this country, and that soccer will eventually be as popular as
football, basketball, karate, pinball, smoking, glue sniffing,
menstruation, animal cruelty, photocopying, and everything else that
fuels the eroticized, hyperkinetic zeitgeist of Americana. After the
U.S. placed eighth in the 2002 World Cup tournament, team forward Clint
Mathis said, "If we can turn one more person who wasn't a soccer fan
into a soccer fan, we've accomplished something." Apparently, that's all
that matters to these idiots. They won't be satisfied until we're all
systematically brainwashed into thinking soccer is cool and that placing
eighth (and losing to Poland!) is somehow noble. However, I know this
will never happen. Not really. Dumb bunnies like Clint Mathis will be
wrong forever, and that might be the only thing saving us from
Soccer unconsciously rewards
the outcast, which is why so many adults are fooled into thinking their
kids love it. The truth is that most children don't love soccer; they
simply hate the alternatives more. For 60 percent of the adolescents in
any fourth-grade classroom, sports are a humiliation waiting to happen.
These are the kids who play baseball and strike out four times a game.
These are the kids afraid to get fouled in basketball, because it only
means they're now required to shoot two free throws, which equates to
two air balls. Basketball games actually stop to annihilate
That is why soccer seems like such a respite from all
that mortification; it's the one aerobic activity where nothingness is
expected. Even at the highest levels, every soccer match seems to end
1-0 or 2-1. A normal eleven-year-old can play an entire season without
placing toe to sphere and nobody would even notice, assuming he or she
does a proper job of running about and avoiding major collisions.
fanatics love to tell you that soccer is the most popular game on earth
and that it's played by 500 million people every day, as if that
somehow proves its value. Actually, the opposite is true. Why should I
care that every single citizen of Chile and Iran and Gibraltar
thoughtlessly adores "football"? Do the people making this argument also
assume Coca-Cola is ambrosia? Real sports aren't for everyone.
And don't accuse me of being the Ugly American for degrading soccer.
That has nothing to do with it. It's not xenophobic to hate soccer; it's
socially reprehensible to support it. To say you love soccer is to say
you believe in enforced equality more than you believe in the value of
competition and the capacity of the human spirit. It should surprise no
one that Benito Mussolini loved being photographed with Italian soccer
stars during the 1930s; they were undoubtedly kindred spirits. I would
sooner have my kid deal crystal meth than play soccer. Every time I pull
up behind a Ford Aerostar with a "#1 Soccer Mom" bumper sticker, I feel
like I'm marching in the wake of the Khmer Rouge.
said, I don't feel my thoughts on soccer are radical. If push came to
shove, I would be more than willing to compromise: It's not necessary to
wholly outlaw soccer as a living entity. I concede that it has a right
to exist. All I ask is that I never have to see it on television, that
it's never played in public (or supported with public funding), and that
nobody -- and I mean nobody -- ever utters the phrase "Soccer is
the sport of the future" for the next forty thousand years.
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or send an email to the author at
jhudson at theatlantic dot com.
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