Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Football & Socialism

In discussing (some may call it proselytizing) the World Cup this summer, one of the specious arguments thrown up, especially when the dis-organized efforts in the first 15 minutes of each USA game is trolled up, was that World Football is too Socialist a game to ever catch on in the Land of the Brave Home of the Free. While I always agreed with the other party in the "conversation" that the USA team engaged in Chinese fire drill hysterics in the opening minutes of each game, I argued that lousy coaching and not a political theory advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production was the cause for the dismal play (Note: While I think Bob Bradley should remain as the coach of the team, I feel someone should be appointed as the Opening Quarter Hour Coach, say someone along the lines of Attila the Hun).    I knew that if the person I was arguing with or any of the folks within listening range latched onto the Socialist label, I'd never be able to persuade any of them to give the World Cup a glance or two.  My usual tact in these arguments is to steer comparisons to baseball, i.e., the low-score of games, the seemingly endless hours between Big Events, the Sargasso Sea of motion going nowhere, and the enjoyment of the whoel process.  I even braved the waters of point structure, asking my conversational buddies to divide NFL scores by 7 and see what numbers they come up with so that they can make comparison to the low-scroing 3-1 or 2-0 World Football scores.  I actually felt I was making headway.

Then, this article appears in the Guardian.  In the piece Simon Hattenstone quotes "football legend John Barnes, (as saying that) England will never win a World Cup until our footballers embrace their inner socialist. "Players from other nations when they play for their country are once again a socialist entity, all pulling in the same direction,"   Of course, there were disagreeing interpretations of what Mr. Barnes said, including "corrections" that what Mr. Barnes referred to as Socialism was really Conservatism.  I'm hoping no one at ESPN latches on to this piece (and if they do, I strongly believe no one would talk about it on air as it would be self-defeating since ESPN is so involved with this year's World Cup broadcasts.)

Reading the comments to the latter linked article is especially interesting, as one commenter, a Mr. Little Richardjohn, quotes George Orwell and here I quote both:
Orwell's definition in this essay strangely entitled 'Socialists Don't Believe in Fun':

"At the risk of saying something which the editors of Tribune may not endorse, I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough.
Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue."
All football (Soccer to USA-ers) might now consider applying socialist principles to its transfer system, like the American NFL.

I emphasized the latter, as I found it curious to read someone outside the USA comment on what we here in the States view as a pure example of Big Business (and possibly Monopoly gone wild).  The NFL, an example of an organization run on Socialist principles?  Ouch, time to call in the commish on this!

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