As a student of public opinion, it has been fascinating to note that Americans have become much more interested in the World Cup than ever before. Of course, the rest of the world has been interested in soccer for about 100 years, but Americans are famous for not caring what interests the rest of the world.
The ritualized warfare of sports has long been studied by sociologists, who may not be very athletic, because they seem to think it is a bad thing. Although my own athletic career was cut short by a blown knee at age fifteen, I think sports as ritualized combat is a great thing; so much better than actual combat.
Suddenly Americans are betting on various soccer teams and rooting for various soccer teams and tracking various players. Of course, most want America to win. The general attitude seems to be: It’s about time America won something.
One reason ritualized combat is great is that old-fashioned concept of “good sportsmanship.” It meant fairness, following the rules and accepting victory with magnanimity and defeat with grace. Despite the Geneva Conventions, you will find no such concept operating in actual war. Though violence has sometimes broken out during soccer games, almost everyone, almost always, lives to play another day.
World sports contests will help Americans learn about the rest of the world, and learn that hey, other people are human beings, too! During a match in China, an interviewer asked what the fans were shouting. “They are saying that the referee is immoral,” his guide answered. “Oh, we say that, too,” the interviewer replied.
A certain right-wing American I know is furious; he thinks the World Cup is an Illuminati plot to spread one-world government. He says if I wasn’t such a sheeple, I would see that right in the title: WORLD Cup.
I read foreign newspapers online to get some semblance of truth. Sure, they are biased, but many are LESS biased than say, the New York Times. I thought, with ISIS invading Iraq, that Lebanon might be worried, so I checked out the (pro-West) Lebanon Daily Star.
I smiled when I saw how concerned they were with the World Cup instead.
With the crisis in the Ukraine, I thought Pravda must be full of articles on that. I smiled when I saw that the top stories were about the World Cup and one was a Russian version of “The referees are immoral.” We are all human beings after all, we have so much in common and if we must have combat, let’s have ritualized combat and let’s remind each other to be good sports.