Saturday, July 5, 2014

Seriously! It's Just A Game!

Soccer. Maybe I am naive, but I never thought I would hear such vitriol about a sport from people with whom I generally agree about some of the the big things of life (like politics and religion). 

And the criticisms are pretty lame (in fact much of it boils down to "a lot of liberals like soccer so I must hate it.")

I know, I know. Most of these rants are meant tongue-in-cheek. 

Seriously though, the criticisms are revealing. They reveal people who are  uninterested in liking soccer. Which is fine! There is no reason why they need to. I can rail on and on about basketball being boring because I have no desire to watch it. 

But if you are going to criticize it, at least learn a little about the game. Most have not spent any time understanding the game. They are thinking primarily of the kid’s version of the game. 

Take Ann Coulter for example: 

Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game -- and it's not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.  

She is comparing little kid's soccer games to professional hockey. Really? She has obviously never watched Clint Dempsey break his nose on someone else’s head (or was it a shoulder?). Not to mention that Brazilian player that cracked his vertebrae. 

I am not bragging about the brutality of soccer, I am just pointing out that you can’t make her argument if you have spent any time paying attention to the grown up version of soccer. 

Which leads me to MY criticism of soccer…and all other sports in this country and around the world. And Ann Coulter actually hits on this pervasive and troubling issue. She says: 

Most sports are sublimated warfare. 

So most sports involve men channeling their war-like tendencies into play. Fine. I get that at a certain level. The problem is that we are tempted to then raise the symbolic meaning of those sports to something noble (if we hold the soldier in high esteem) or we are tempted to be fearful of sports and moralize about how inhumane they are (if we hold the soldier in low esteem). 

Either way, we are taking sports too seriously. We are forgetting that sport is play. Watching it is entertainment. Pure entertainment. A distraction. Not a religious event (though some of the ceremonies and celebrations have all the marks of liturgy). Not a clash of civilizations or ideologies (though the intensity with which the fans defend their team and sport would lead you to believe otherwise). 

They are just play. Highly paid play. 

Perhaps Ms. Coulter would have been better off comparing kid’s soccer to kid’s hockey and kid’s football. And remind herself that the professional versions of those sports (all of them) are merely examples of society being willing to pay full grown men and women to play for their own diversion. And American football is no better than soccer at doing that. 

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with diversion or entertainment. Lets just remember that while sports can serve some good purposes, it is really all about fun.