Every four years the sporting world, especially Europe, Africa and Latin America is held in rapt attention by soccer’s World Cup. It can tell us many things about the state of the world, from politics to culture and even religion, and that’s even before we get to the sporting angle. Now for purposes of full disclosure, my favorite sports are college football and college basketball, though having a mother who grew up in Germany has helped me gain some soccer knowledge. Many a book or intellectual statesman from Henry Kissinger on down the line have mused about soccer’s effect on the world, which seems to change each and every World Cup to reflect the sign of the times.
Unlike a relativistic world where social engineering has taken hold, it appears that sports are the world’s last venue where sheer work ethic and determination hold sway. Perhaps this is why sports are so popular in the world, especially Europe’ s social democracies. One should keep in mind that as high as the Super Bowl ratings are for US television, World Cup TV ratings for nations in the championship game are even higher. Let’s look at this World Cup to see what it can tell us about the state of the world.
Some of the political developments from the last World Cup were the rise of the African nations in the soccer world, perhaps reflecting the rise of the continent itself on political and religious grounds. Keep in mind tiny Ghana won the 20 and under World Championship last year defeating Brazil, quite an accomplishment. Also of note in the last World Cup was Germany’s rising national spirit as seen in public displays of flag waving, which had been a post World War II no-no for Deutschland.
If you read the comments here at TAC, no doubt you’ve seen the accusation that America suffers from a Calvinist dualism that sinisterly causes all of American conservativism’s woes like it was the Catholic Church in a Dan Brown novel. While these claims are exaggerated, there’s a bit of truth in the idea that when compared to Europe, we’re a little more dualistic.
In a few days the FIFA World Cup, which is one of -if not the- premier sporting events in the world, begins so I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the good of sports for those who don’t play them.
In modern sports, sometimes it’s hard to see this good. In sports today, we have college football conferences raiding each other in pursuit of the all-mighty dollar, destroying the wonderful regional nature of the game. We have Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time divas, two games away from yet another title. As Henry Karlson pointed out in a post a while ago, sports stars often find themselves in a position of privilege-both in terms of financial wealth and in terms of our excusal of their poor behavior (though I would attribute this in large part not solely to sports but also to the cult of celebrity we have today, which is another post for another day). We even had a stampede in anticipation of the World Cup.