October 2018
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The World Cup

For several years I was mildly curious about soccer. It seemed odd that the whole world but the U.S. followed the sport fanatically. I made it a point to catch a game or two on TV, to see if I was missing something.

Years later, my curiosity had shifted. I no longer wondered why the U.S. didn’t appreciate soccer. I wondered what the hell the rest of the world saw in it.

Eventually, I read an article somewhere that offered a plausible hypothesis. The writer, a neoconservative, I seem to remember, argued that soccer, low-scoring, slow-paced, circuitous soccer, was a sport apropos the goal-disoriented, crypto-nihilistic foreign mindset. Europeans or Africans, for example, are satisfied to cheer at a public nothing happening furiously for ninety minutes, just because they are satisfied to shrug through a private nothing happening placidly for threescore and ten years. The American mindset, in contrast, stresses man’s power to shape the world to suit his purposes. Likewise, when nothing is happening in his life, an American seeks to make something happen. When nothing happens in his sport, he wants a refund.

For the past few years, I have begun to wonder whether World Cup fever might not be catching over here. I seem to be overhearing more soccer-fan conversations. This year, it has been more pronounced than ever. It’s depressing to consider: maybe we’ve finally become Europeans.

I hope this is just a harmless case of pessimistic confirmation bias.

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