Almost everyone’s got a sport they dislike. Some people can’t stand tennis, others don’t like football. Hockey’s too fast, golf’s too slow. And some incredibly popular sports outside of the U.S., like cricket, are as well understood as trigonometry to most Americans.
Soccer is something of an exception. As a country, we’ve historically been unimpressed. We’ve even reserved its more internationally recognized name, “football,” for our own game, which barely involves feet. But it’s made an impact on young Americans—evident in the “soccer mom” appellation—and inevitably, it is gaining in popularity here. After all, soccer’s the most popular sport in the world.
However, according to right-wing talk radio, it’s un-American.
Fox News entertainer and part-time thriller novelist Glenn Beck took a long walk to lump together the World Cup with President Barack Obama. “It doesn’t matter how you try to sell it to us, it doesn’t matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn’t matter how many bars open early, it doesn’t matter how many beer commercials they run,” said Beck. “We don’t want the World Cup, we don’t like the World Cup, we don’t like soccer, we want nothing to do with it.” He then got to his point, and added, “The rest of the world likes Barack Obama’s policies, we do not.”
On G. Gordon Liddy’s show (when did he get a show?), his guest, the oh-so-charming Dan Gainor of the conservative thinktank Media Research Center, stated that soccer, a “poor man or poor women’s sport” (take that Christiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and Kaka!) is being sold as part of the “browning of America.”
So that’s it, is it?
It’s not hard to draw a line from conservative opposition to soccer and their ongoing narrative about “taking back America.” You know, before we played soccer. Or before illegal immigration? Or before racial integration?
Where does that line end, exactly? Maybe Glenn Beck can chalk that out for me.
It wouldn’t be so suspicious if the language weren’t so vitriolic and focused on a simple game. You may not like soccer or its values (because all-American steroid-infested baseball’s full of values), and that’s fine, but to frame the argument to imply that you don’t like the game because the people who play it may resemble the guy who took your manufacturing job is something else entirely.
The language that they’re using, by the way, is the same language conservatives hauled out for health care reform or the stimulus package. Mark Belling, a.k.a. the guy that fills in for Rush Limbaugh, said “they’re force-feeding it down our throats.” Beck said “I hate it so much, probably because the rest of the world likes it so much … and they continually try to jam it down our throat.”
Soccer fans are also portrayed as dangerous extremists, like “liberals.” Soccer fans are “the most likely to riot,” according to Beck, and he hasn’t seen any “baseball riots.”
While a very vehement minority seems to be selling the public on soccer equals liberalism and that baseball equals conservative America, it seems they have little to say about promoting the development of baseball in China. The MLB is investing millions into the development of baseball in China. Our all-American sport is already wildly popular in neighboring Japan.
Maybe that falls under the heading of “spreading freedom?” I wonder what the reaction will be when Shanghai is in the World Series. Would really do something for the validity of the pennant’s title, wouldn’t it?