New Yorker's Hertzberg on right-wing media's hatred of soccer, World Cup

Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

With Spain's victory over Germany today, the world will be watching as the country faces off against the Netherlands in the World Cup finals this weekend. For many, the quadrennial excitement is palpable. For many media conservatives, well, not so much.

As the 2010 World Cup was just beginning in South Africa, Media Matters noted:

...conservative media figures have seized the opportunity to attack the tournament and the sport of soccer. They have also used soccer as a proxy to attack President Obama and progressives.

Towards that end, Hendrik Hertzberg is up with a great look at soccer and the right's hatred of the sport in The New Yorker, which you can read excerpts of after the jump.

Hertzberg writes:

Do Americans hate football? Not regular football, of course. Not football as in first and ten, going long, late hits, special teams, pneumatic cheerleaders in abbreviated costumes, serial brain concussions—the game that every American loves, apart from a few, uh, soreheads. Not that one. The other one. The one whose basic principle of play is the kicking of a ball by a foot. The one that the rest of the world calls "football," except when it's called (for example) futbal, futball, fútbol, futebol, fotball, fótbolti, fußball, or (as in Finland) jalkapallo, which translates literally as "football." That one.


Do Americans hate soccer? Well, some of us dislike it immoderately—not so much the game itself as what it is taken to represent. This spring, anti-soccer grumbling on the political right spiked as sharply as the sale of those great big TVs. Back in 1986, Jack Kemp, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback turned Republican congressman, took the House floor to oppose a resolution supporting America's (ultimately successful) bid to host the 1994 World Cup. Our football, he declared, embodies "democratic capitalism"; their football is "European socialist." Kemp, though, was kidding; he was sending himself up. Today's conservative soccer scolds are not so good-natured. Their complaints are variations on the theme of un-Americanness. "I hate it so much, probably because the rest of the world likes it so much," Glenn Beck, the Fox News star, proclaimed. (Also, "Barack Obama's policies are the World Cup.") What really bugs "silly leftist critics," the Washington Times editorialized, is that "the most popular sports in America—football, baseball, and basketball—originated here in the Land of the Free." At the Web site of the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, formerly a speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote, "Soccer is a socialist sport." Also, "Soccer is collectivist." Also, "Perhaps in the age of President Obama, soccer will finally catch on in America. But I suspect that socializing Americans' taste in sports may be a tougher task than socializing our healthcare system." And then there's G. Gordon Liddy. Soccer, Liddy informed his radio listeners, "comes from Latin America, and first we have to get into this term, the Hispanics. That would indicate Spanish language, and yes, these people in Latin America speak Spanish. That is because conquistadores who came over from Spain—you know, tall Caucasians, not very many of them—conquered the Indians, and the Indians adopted the language of their conquerors. But what we call Hispanics now really are South American Indians. And this game, I think, originated with the South American Indians, and instead of a ball they used to use the head, the decapitated head, of an enemy warrior."

Liddy's guest, a conservative "media critic" named Dan Gainor, responded cautiously ("soccer is such a basic game, you can probably trace its origins back a couple of different ways"), while allowing that "the whole Hispanic issue" is among the reasons "the left" is "pushing it in schools around the country."

Glenn Beck, G. Gordon Liddy, Hendrik Hertzberg
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