Sports: Harmless Theory
Let's go to the odd sources. Saturday, June 17, 2006, the National Post up in Canada reprints an item from The New Republic the previous day, which in turn was adapted from an item in the anthology The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup. This is Franklin Foer asking the question that has probably occurred to more than a few people after seventeen World Cup football (soccer) extravaganzas, one every four years - what kind of governments produce winning soccer teams? Freedom and football victory? Juntas produced winners? Let's see.
The Czechs this time just embarrassed the United States in the opening round, and then they managed to lose 0-2 to Angola, a major upset. The heartened Americans then went out to face the Italian team - maybe it wasn't all over - and managed a 1-1 tie, with two players ejected and what would have been the winning goal disallowed. What does this mean about the governments? Who knows?
From Kafka through "The Good Solider Svejk" to the deeply ironic Havel Václav Havel (good friends with Frank Zappa) to the recent vote for the "greatest Czech of All Time" - the whole fictitious and absurd Jára Cimrman - the Czechs have looked upon the whole idea of government itself with some skepticism. It's not football. It's sillier. Who knows how things are run in Angola, other than badly? And how many governments has Italy had since WWII, with the most recent being that of the clownish Silvio Berlusconi?
Still, Franklin Foer wants to make a connection, as he explains here -
Probably for good reason.
But here's the rundown, and it starts with communism -
Yep, just like the whole system itself - sounds good, and doesn't work.
Foer implies the problem really was embedded in the political nature of the communist system - they weren't like us, the risk talking entrepreneurial loose and happy risk-takers of American capitalism, or something like that -
Yeah, right. The interesting thing is these guys lost the big ones because they trusted "science." One thinks of George Bush.
And what of fascism? There's evidence their teams are crap too -
Okay, and since then Francisco Franco's Spain and Juan Peron's Argentina got nowhere. And Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's Portugal appeared in only one tournament in the thrity-six years he ruled there. Jingoism and personal fear only go so far, or not very far at all. Someone tell Karl Rove. Bad for soccer, bad for the country. It's a losing strategy. Hyper-patriotism mixed with telling everyone they should be very, very afraid is only good for winning elections. What happens after you win matters too.
And then there is this odd "fact" -
Yeah that can be distraction, or it's a coincidence here.
But old-fashioned military juntas do win -
It is? But then they've won three of the seventeen times.
But the good conservative Foer says nothing beats good old cut-throat western competative capitalism for turning out real winners, where everyone talks about teamwork but no one believes in it -
So that's six of the World Cups for the world of individualism and cull-out-the-losers competition - over cooperation, forced or not, and over or the "science" of the sport.
Foer contends "the outcome of each match in the World Cup can be forecast by analyzing the political and economic conditions of the countries represented on the pitch." Just what we need, another sort of neoconservative theory of how the world really works.
You'd think, after Iraq, they'd learn. But maybe there is a correlation, and maybe the Iraq war was a fine idea. At least this theory is harmless.