Tuesday, June 18, 2002

SOCCER GRABS THE PUNDIT NATION: Anne Applebaum on soccer, the last place patriotism is allowed in Western Europe. And why rooting for the U.S. promotes geopolitical instability:

[T]he significance of the American team's weakness has always been underrated, too. Particularly now that the Olympics have been spoiled by total American dominance, it is nice for everybody else that the United States always loses at the only game the rest of the world really cares about. Now that the United States has started to do a bit better, the future looks darker. Hearing the score of this morning's Mexico game—and the rumors that riots might start in Mexico City—I immediately worried: If the United States started to dominate soccer the way it dominates basketball, then anti-Americanism might really start to get ugly.

As it stands, the relationship between the United States and soccer is perfect. Americans—citizens of a modern state—have plenty of opportunities to show their patriotism, on inaugurations and at school assemblies and on the Fourth of July. They don't need to do it in soccer stadiums as well. Europeans, on the other hand—citizens of postmodern states—have fewer and fewer, and need those soccer highs badly as a result. Cheer for the American soccer players if you will—but keep your fingers crossed, and hope the U.S. team doesn't upset the balance by winning too many more matches.

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