Soccer vs Football, a parallel to Involvement vs Complacency

The great articulator of reason in this region of the blogosphere, Ferdinand Bardamu, has posted an epic couplet over the past week entitled broadly “The Rise of Generation Zero,” a memorial to that unsteady stream of disenfranchisement lurking within the bowels of our modern cultural matrix. He has spelled out much that those of us with dismaying senses of perception see in the haggard and robotic march of modern man as he climbs the ladder of materialism in his quest for…something. He has no idea what he pursues. But he knows he wants it, that which he can’t know.

Ferd wrote:

For all their bravado and chest-thumping, Americans are the most cowardly chickenshits in the Western world, far more gutless than the “Eurotrash” they love to mock. You suckers mocked the French as “surrender monkeys” and had a good laugh with your “Freedom Fries” jokes, but the average Frenchman has more courage in his pinky then an entire Tea Party rally has in their whole bodies. Why? He’s passionate about what matters. When public sector workers and university students in Europe have their livelihoods threatened by government spending cuts, they get angry. They hit the streets, they protest, they block traffic, they set cars on fire, they attack police. Their governments fear them because they don’t respond to threats to their lifestyles by vegging out in the soft glow of the flat-screen watching fucking Glee. Even if you think they’re a bunch of worthless moochers, you have to admire their resolve.

Reminds me of the latest profusion of foreign passion and revolutionary dissatisfaction in Tunisia and Egypt. A display which sends chills down my spine as I witness masses of people defiantly resist the certain armed superiority of governmental forces whose maniacal duty it is to battle back against the potential usurpers with weapons, fire hoses and armored personnel carriers. It reaffirms my faith in mankind to see such passion and courage in the evil face of a mighty and established government suppressor. For the sake of this post, the “right” or the “wrong” of the demonstrator’s putative cause is not important. What is important for the point I seek to make is that the self-righteous and fierce belief in one’s cause drives people to disrupt their lives by physically exposing themselves to harm and possible death for the sake of a conviction that may or may not end in victory. The passion paves the way for a willingness to “inconvenience” themselves for a concerted idea.

Ferd alluded to something I’ve often surmised was a primary “un-motivator” afflicting the typical apathetic American citizen. From the previous passage: “Their governments fear them because they don’t respond to threats to their lifestyles by vegging out in the soft glow of the flat-screen watching fucking Glee.” The fat, slothful, lazy American, the archetypal pop culture-obsessed ignoramus who can’t summon the slightest iota of passion over a governmentally enabled oligarchy that enslaves his fate and walls in his existence with dictatorial marketing strategies (but who will show uncharacteristic passion over the happenings of some bullshit not-so-reality show). Give him his standard dose of high fructose corn syrup and some hollow brain filler piped in over the hypnotic television screen and he will not give a flying shit who is trampling his rights or scavenging his future livelihood. I too believe that the civil complacency which numbs the revolutionary passions of our Red, White and Blue populace is indelibly etched in the mentally dissolute offerings of a pop culture which neither instructs nor thinks and the legacy is 200 million ignorant wretches bored out of their minds and seeking the electric succor in the fire-extinguishing pall that is the shit offerings from Hollywood and the rest of the dim product line the entire swath of the American entertainment industry can dish out.

I was struck by a parallel I noted when considering the enthusiasm with which many foreign nations take to the streets in cycling storms of uncivil disobedience as opposed to the American version of ideological protests which involves some tame and post-adolescent marching and chanting in Seattle or other geographical left-wing outpost only to be swatted down futilely by the might of the police who waving their iron penises around. We have no culture of political protest in the U.S. anymore. Some try, usually the young, but they cannot summon the faintest trace of ferocity in the over-25 crowd. The crowd that has finally attained its precious college degrees and married and birthed and looks forward to a wonderful set of entertainment options sitting in their living room, or who need to maintain their reputation and physical well-being for the sake of bolstering their credit score so they can finally buy the house that they are culturally obligated sink into debt oblivion for.

These are not the prime protesting demographics. Oddly, the parallel I speak of is international soccer and NFL football.

Have you ever noticed that the countries capable of the most virulent political protests are also unwaveringly faithful to their own brand of soccer? Which essentially is the rest of the world outside the U.S. And the U.S. which pays homage to its symbolic embrace of soccer even though its heart is not in it. Not like it is in the chalk-lined centerpiece of the American gridiron. Baseball is not the national pastime. Football is. Football long ago captured the boisterous bravado of the aggressive American temperament and its obsession with strategy and quadrants and the minute precision of timed intersections of action and rest. Football is so American. It is a big, wild and physically voracious sport with equally big scores. Football captures the modern mentality of the complacent American. The U.S., with its legions of apathetic and ADD-stricken consumers, provides the ideal template for the NFL mentality, the football paradigm. It’s a battle, it’s a physical crunching. It’s heavy layers of equipment. It is war delineated and neutered by rules and strategies and layers upon layers of assigned roles and duties. It is industry, it is magnificent American capitalism writ physically and ably. It is a sport of distraction, a sport of squandering… And there is the rest of the world where soccer rules the hearts. Occasionally the NFL attempts to interject its blase madness into foreign lands, such as London or Mexico City. The NFL is fond of touting these events as popular hits due to the sellout crowds, but this is merely a result of the novelty factor with the foreign audience. Football can’t fit into a foreign environment. It is at odds with the soccer/civil disobedience mentality. If football was a surefire hit overseas, wouldn’t we be witnessing as the gluttonous rush of American capitalists battled to the death to bring this profitable enterprise to the world? Of course, but it doesn’t happen. Because it won’t work. Bring soccer to the rest of the world and you’re guaranteed madness and sell-outs, time and again. Once the novelty of American football dies (not a hard feat to witness), I guarantee you the foreign audience would once again resume its soccer allegiance.

Soccer, of the minute scores and capricious time line and the most restrained of game attire. Soccer and its blaring uneventful nature is troubling to the American psyche and just as football will never take hold in foreign soccer-occupied lands, soccer will never take hold between our 2 shores. Soccer, in its subtle and understated tone of nimble athleticism is decidedly un-American. Its apparent nuance and fleeting repetitive dance appears weak and unremarkable by NFL standards, hence, by American standards. Yet its countries of residence give birth to the most violent and demanding demonstrations of societal anger and revolution you can find. Soccer is most popular in countries where people have balls and the intelligence and stoicism to know when their balls should be put on the line. Their priorities are in order.

American football’s creepy and overbearing hold on our psyche is emblematic of our cultural madness and reluctance to prioritize or consider the unpalatable truths that must be fought. American football lives out our undemanding vicarious haze by which we live out romantic notions of power and might.

The American revels in the sights and sounds of 300-pound meatheads colliding into each other and screams the frantic macho scream in response. Then he looks forward to beer commercials and leggy cheerleaders and intolerable half-time spectacles. And his government and masters laugh as they tighten the clamps on his fading liberty. But the macho boldness of NFL lunacy captivates his concern. He lives something through the violent sport. A sense of release settles in as the standardized clock counts down the minutes to the next parcel of inactivity. He goes home and sleeps.

But the soccer fan goes berserk over the subtle happenings on the soccer field. The clock rarely stops and not many know when it will finally stop. The sport is small but its glow is mighty. It does not occupy the grand depth of the fan’s perception that American football does its fans, and there is still something left in reserve by the time he gets home and realizes his masters are slowly prying his humanity from his life, and he fights back with all the ferocity of a wounded animal. The limber delicate maneuvers of the soccer field have not spent him nor affronted his sense of complacency with the harsh rumblings that overwrought American football serves his NFL fan counterparts.