Soccer is for Wimps, Losers, and Sissies, and I mean it!
Soccer is ruining America, and there is very little anyone can do about it. Like a plague that weakens the body politic, it is spreading faster than AIDS in Africa, although, unlike sexually transmitted diseases, nothing can prevent its eventual triumph. Social critics have long observed that we live in a ‘therapeutic’ society that treats young people as if they can do no wrong. Every kid is a winner, and nobody should ever feel left behind. Whether the dumbing down of America or soccer came first is hard to say, but soccer is clearly the means by which American energy, drive, and competitiveness is being undermined to the point of no return. Whether Obama will destroy America is yet to be seen, but the impact of soccer is beyond dispute.
For those of you who are so used to the linear, two-dimensional play of soccer (its back and forth action is like the rocking of a boat but without any storm and while the boat is not going anywhere), I have numbered my objections to soccer for easy reading. I also want to give the soccer apologists an opportunity to respond to this article. Just email me at Webbs@wabash.edu and I will print the best of your replies. Try to write with some wit and intelligence, as if you are actually able to score a point against me, even though you probably have never scored a goal since your peewee days.
1. Every other sport is superior to soccer. When I was a kid, baseball was the
biggest sport. Striding up to the plate (even the language of baseball is overdetermined by rituals drawn from the deepest human experiences, like eating) and facing the almost certain spectacle of your own failure was the very definition of being a boy. We had square bases that had to be rounded, and there were no safety nets. A pitcher who usually was not much better than the rest of us threw a hard ball straight at us. Thus we had to face fear as well as the probability of striking out. We also spent a lot of time in the outfield chanting, “Hey batter batter!” as if we were Buddhist monks on steroids. At least this chattering gave us plenty of time for meditating on the frailty of human nature. And speaking of frailty, we played football only when we felt like beating up on each other, and we quickly figured out who we needed to avoid and who we could afford to hit hard. We learned to love pain, which readied us for the real world.
2. Any sport that limits you to using your feet, with the occasional bang of the head, has something very wrong with it. Anthropologists commonly define man (and I do mean men) according to his use of hands. We have the thumb, an opposable digit that was able to evolve only when we gave up walking on all fours. The thumb is what sets us apart from non-human animals; it lets us do things like throw baseballs. We can even talk with our hands. Have you ever seen a deaf person trying to talk with their feet? Even the lowest of monkeys can kick something. When you are really angry, and acting like an animal, you kick out with your feet. Only fools punch a wall with their hands. The Iraqi who threw his shoes at then-President Bush was following his primordial instincts. Showing someone your feet, or sticking your shoes in someone’s face, is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Do kids ever say, “Trick or Treat, smell my hands”? Did Jesus wash his disciples’ hands at the Last Supper? No, hands are divine (the hand of God!), while feet are in need of redemption. In all the portraits of God’s wrath, never once is He pictured as wanting to step on us or kick us. Only kids kick at things, like cans or rocks. And only hardheaded fools use their heads as weapons.
3. Soccer is a European, not an American, sport, because it is all about death and despair. Even the way most games end, in sudden death, suggests something of an old-fashioned duel. How could anyone enjoy a game where so much energy results in so little advantage, and which ends with a penalty kick out, as if both teams are ashamed to be declared victor? Is there any other sport where most of the fans hope for a draw? This is clearly an expression of European despair over starting and losing two world wars and then seeing their influence decline all across the globe. Soccer is all about learning to live with diminished expectations and overwhelming frustrating, rather than the hope and goal of victory. Soccer is for the weary and tired, the losers of the world, not those who want to build toward success. Shootouts are such an anti-climax to the game and are so unpredictable that the teams might as well flip a coin to see who wins—indeed, they might as well flip the coin before the game, and not play at all. And why is the only player who gets to use his hands called the goal keeper. In America, we keep things like gardens and pets. When we play sports, we make goal-line stands and we have fast break-aways. We do not keep a net safe, just as we do not need safety nets.
4. Then there is the question of gender. Any game where girls can play just as well as boys is a game that boys should not be playing. Girls do not have the reflexes, the visual excitability, or the foolish bravery to face speeding baseballs, and they do not have the strength or the need for pain to play football. And if they do play baseball or football, very few of them can compete with boys. But on the soccer field, speed and nimble feet even the field between the genders. Sure, when boys become faster runners as they get older, girls need a league of their own, but if you bring together some girls and boys together with similar running times, then you can have a competitive co-ed game. Any game that does not challenge boys to be men is not a game that men should be teaching their boys to play.
Let me conclude on a note of despair appropriate to my topic. There is no way to run away from soccer, if only because it is a sport all about running. It is as relentless as it is easy, and it is as tiring to play as it is boring to watch. The real tragedy is that soccer is a foreign invasion, but it is not a plot to overthrow America. For those inclined toward paranoia, it would be easy to blame soccer’s successes on the political left, which, after all, worked for years to bring European decadence and despair to America. The intellectual left in America tried to make existentialism, Marxism, post-structuralism, and deconstructionism fashionable in order to weaken the clarity, pragmatism, and honesty of American culture. What the left could not accomplish through these intellectual fads, one might suspect, they have accomplished through sport.
Yet this suspicion would be mistaken. Soccer is of foreign origin, that is certainly true, but its promotion and implementation are thoroughly domestic. Soccer is a self-inflicted wound. Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves. Americans have nobody to blame but themselves. Baseball is too hard, football too brutal, and basketball takes too much time and is too dependent on repetitive activity. American parents in the past several decades are overworked and exhausted, but their children are overweight and neglected. For a family with little time, soccer is the perfect antidote to TV and video games. It forces kids to run and run, and everyone can play their role, no matter how minor or irrelevant to the game. Everyone is a star, and everyone is tired at the end of the game.
I should know. I am an overworked teacher, with books to read and books to write, and before I put in a video for the kids to watch while I work in the evenings, they need to have spent some of their energy. Otherwise, they want to play with me! So soccer and TV are the perfect complement, the peanut butter and jelly of parenting. Last year all three of my kids were on three different soccer teams at the same time! My daughter is on a travelling team, and she is quite good. I had to sign a form that said, among other things, I would not do anything embarrassing to her or the team during the game. I told the coach I could not sign it. She was perplexed and worried. “Why not,” she asked? “Well,” I replied, “I read books on the sidelines during the game, and this embarrasses my daughter to no end.” That is my one way of protesting the rise of this pitiful sport. Nonetheless, I must say that my kids and I come home from a soccer game a very happy family.