lunes, 30 de junio de 2014

A letter for Ann Coulter on the "evils" of soccer

Dear Miss Coulter: 

I have just read your article about the growing soccer trend in the USA and found it, let's say, somehow troublesome. Despite the fact that I'm definitely not a fútbol fanatic (we call it like that here), I felt compelled to comment on your arguments against this sport and, quite strangely, to try and convince you to give it a chance. You see, for Mexican standards (and for World Cup standards as well), I might even be labelled as a soccer hater, given that I don't partake in the passion it stirs up in my country and because, most of the time, the exuberance and nuttiness of that very passion make me feel quite uncomfortable, apart from finding the game seriously tiresome. Yes, I may hate soccer but I can't say, as you so fiercely do in your article, that it is inherently immoral for the American people, nor for anyone else. 

I do believe there is some sort of evil lurking within the soccer industry and, in my opinion, it really has to do with how this sport has been ideologically used and cynically exploited by FIFA and by some national governments, such as the Mexican. I find it questionable (another word, could it be, for immoral?) that billions of dollars are spent on building state-of-the-art, high-tech stadiums, practically unusable after the World Cup, in countries like Brasil that have alarming poverty rates. I find it questionable that soccer players are passed around from team to team like consumer goods with no regard for their saying in the matter (they might be paid millions for "just" chasing after a stupid ball, but they deserve some dignity, don't they?). I find it really worrying that fútbol is blatantly marketed to sell almost anything, from sports wear (that kinda makes sense) to all sorts of food brands (including, and I kid you not, bread and milk). I find it even more worrying that some people are raised to care much more about this game than, say, the state of politics in their country, the lack of justice and equality or year after year of crippling economic stagnation. It is in this sense that I too resent that soccer, as you correctly state, is truly force-fed to lots of people who don't even care about it. When faced with the increasingly and already catastrophically high murder and forced disappearance figures in Mexico, going totally insane about winning or losing a soccer match in the World Cup (or anywhere else) can turn out to be quite flimsy.

My soccer hating ways might even make me compare it with the shenanigans that, long ago, went on in the Roman Coliseum: all people need is for their powerful, omnipotent rulers to give them a little (soccer branded) bread and a lot of entertainment, forget about democratic representation and participation and other not so modern luxuries. But, I think, these are no arguments to call fútbol immoral, even more so in the USA where soccer is a relatively new phenomenon that has not reached the excesses we have been witnessing for decades in other countries. Deeming the liking of soccer as "a sign of moral decay" in the USA (or, by extension, in any other country) is no more than a far-fetched, baseless, outlandish idea: soccer's so called innate immorality -if it in fact such a thing exists- lies somewhere else, not in the vast majority of its fans for sure, nor in the sport itself. 

I think some of the arguments you employ to dismiss fútbol in your article are slightly (to say the least) untrue. When you state that "individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer" you are wrong and show no knowledge of the sport you so harshly criticize. There are indeed "most valuable player" awards; goals are scored by individuals through team work, as it happens in many other sports, individuals who get all the praise if they are successful, or all the hate if they fail; there are indeed soccer heroes, a gazillion of them, being worshipped like gods all around the world. To some hardcore, extreme fans -as utterly insane as it may sound- soccer is a religion and footballers are idols, in the broadest sense of the word. Much to my own personal dismay, that is precisely another disturbing soccer fact: the fervent way in which fútbol players are revered for their feats on the field. I am of the opinion that they are just athletes. Nothing more, nothing less. It is true that soccer players seem to run up and down and all over the place before (and after) "a ball accidentally goes in", in your words. Non-stop running for 90 minutes straight (which, to tell you the truth, I find quite boring, just as you do) needs fantastic amounts of stamina or, at least, some serious physical preparation, would't you say? 

Moreover, comparing the (so called inherent) virtues of a sport with the (so called inherent) vices of another is absolutely pointless and unfounded: it's like saying that chocolate is obviously better than vanilla. Sports are a matter of taste, just as ice-cream flavors. I don't like fútbol but that doesn't make me think that, for instance, tennis is far more superior to it on moral grounds. They are just different sports catering for different tastes, likes, and abilities. Morality should be out of the question when evaluating taste (even in art, as Wilde is my witness!), so should personal injury. If we were to follow your claim that "the prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport", there would only exist two wholly true sports: WWE wrestling -where there's a lot of severe, relentless shaming- and snowboarding -where there are insane amounts of risk involved, due to the very real and scary possibility of life-threatening injuries. Following this conviction, the rest of the (would you say, "so called"?) sports left are just meaningless, stupidly safe child's play. Unless hockey, of course. I give you that Miss Coulter, I give you that...

Your reasoning behind football -or americano, as some Spanish speaking folk would say- being morally superior to soccer because the former favors "the use of hands" and their unsurpassingly valuable "opposing thumbs" is plain silly. (A situation that, at least, brings two urgent questions to mind: why call it football when feet are minimally used? Why risk them fingers?) Well, to put it bluntly, asserting that soccer is a game of "lesser beasts" because it is played with the feet, as you imply in your article Miss Coulter, is in fact a racist claim. Therefore, I guess tennis must be just morally flawed, aesthetically unrefined, and culturally inferior for using those artefacts called "rackets": tennis players can very well hit the ball with their bare, mostly European, thumb-opposable hands, can't they? Is swimming, then, a maddeningly complicated sport to evaluate in moral terms because it involves hands and feet (and arms, and legs, and necks, and torsos, and...)? Oh, wait: swimming isn't a genuine sport because it risks almost no injury at all... Thing is, both football and soccer (and, for health's sake, any other sport) are the product of people's brains, thinking out alternatives to make up rules that allow for some things and forbid others, even creating facilities, gears, and equipment to compete in and play with. Hands and feet are mere instruments used in various ways depending on the rules of any given sport. Plus, goalies in fútbol do put their hands to work -risking "minor" injuries, I assume, to their precious, noble thumbs- and there are also lots of potentially treacherous, finger-crushing, flying balls in your average soccer game. 

I guess your real argument behind fútbol evils has nothing to do with the sport itself, but it is rather inspired by a certain worldview, namely xenophobia. Soccer's greatest moral defect for Americans resides in being a foreign sport to the USA, as you openly state. (Soccer might be as foreign to the American public as Cricket is to Mexican audiences. I don't believe that the absolute and insurmountable foreignness of Cricket makes it necessarily evil in nature for the (almost inexistent) Mexican Cricket aficionados. I don't think Cricket can mess with anyone's good judgment. Oh, but there's the using-of-hands argument in Cricket… Although they play with sticks, like baseball, kinda… Maybe that was not such a good example after all…) Granted Miss Coulter: from that very limited standpoint of yours, soccer is indeed immoral for absolutely everyone, save for the man who invented its modern version, a Brit by the name of Ebenezer Cobb Morley, and for his fellow countrymen. (I suppose that this logically follows: the British are the only people allowed to shamelessly enjoy and play soccer and to hold it in high esteem. The rest of us non-Brits are utterly wrong and a bit wayward, for sure, if we dare do so…) That said, the whole world is dangerously overflowing with all sorts of immorality and corruption, depending on where you are located: Thai dishes surely bring about "moral decay" when eaten anywhere else but in Thailand and, of course, by Thai people. (My favorite Thai soup, tom kha kai, must bear witness to this kind of moral conundrum because I guess it has turned me into a very unprincipled, soup-eating, female monster since I have had it, several times, at a very Thai and foreign looking restaurant a few blocks away from my Mexico City home… Your evil ways got the best of me, you scrumptious tom kha kai, they sure got me… Moving on...) No doubt that burritos and tacos "morally corrupt" all those who dine on them, besides the Mexicans and only if those Mexicans eat their food within their own country limits. Complex globalization processes and all sorts of interactions among nations, which have been around for centuries, can only originate wretchedness, right? (Damn you, morally wicked European metric system that is used everywhere and regardless of borders for the dubious sake of understanding one another!!!) The consumption of Italian cars, German beer, French fashion, Japanese technology, and even Costa Rican bananas should be restricted to their own respective countries and be as much a cause of worry for American moral integrity (or any other nation's wholesomeness with regards to their specific foreign threats: that is, everything imported...) as soccer already is. That's what your logic, Miss Coulter, would ultimately result in.

What worries me the most -I even find it scandalizing due to its racist hue- is that you suggest that the source of this proto-soccer-mania in the USA has to do directly with the doleful influence of foreigners on Americans (fútbol-crazed Mexicans and many other "loco" Latin Americans living in the USA, I presume?). Only the spread of their heritage and its irresistible exotic allure explain why soccer has garnered fans in the USA. (We Mexicans depend mainly on tradition for survival, you know…) There can't be any other rational explanation. As you say, on the one hand real American people must have been brainwashed by those (nefarious, foreing-loving, soccer-spellbound) liberals into liking a morally defective sport. (Man, those liberals seem really dissolute: according to your own words, Miss Coulter, they are even Beyonce and Hillary Clinton devotees!!!) It's a sad day when you realize someone has lost her own free will… On the other hand, yes, all Latino neighbors -and some Italian, German, Dutch, and French ones- in every American city are clearly to blame for this change of heart concerning soccer. (And what if those pernicious, imaginary neighbours were not only Latinos, but Liberals as well… Don't you freak out. That was just a conjecture.) Oh, the mortal risks of cultural hybridization: it does work both ways (as chili con carne and mole poblano so deliciously attest). 

Regardless of birthplace, some other sports have also become worldwide industries, not only soccer has. People in Mexico and in many countries revel in the Super Bowl and watch it by the millions, as you accurately mention in your article. Granted that the Super Bowl is held only once a year, whereas the World Cup runs for close to an entire month, every 4 years. It does take a bit longer to host a competitive sporting event involving 32 different teams playing among themselves to earn just one first place, you see Miss Coulter. FIFA knows its business well. (Meaning that, compared to the Super Bowl's scarcity of on-air time, those villainous FIFA soccer crack-heads have many more days to do their best… which must certainly mean trying to win over the unimpressed. Forget about their fútbol glory: their true aim is to convert us all into Soccerism...) Apart from these petty time preoccupations, which I don't really think matter to the serious sport enthusiast, some other questions arise concerning the way in which global sports industries affect their avid fans and certain naive viewers: is it morally unsound to watch on TV -and enjoy, oh my!- every single match of the Roland Garros tennis tournament if one definitely doesn't live in Paris and is not even slightly French, despite the nationality of the players involved? (Exact same question might be asked for The (Legendary) Wimbledon Championships with the necessary setting change. By the way, in spite of all the tennis examples I've used, I'm not a tennis fan myself. My father is. And I did fall in love with David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest even while faced with a wholly-tennis-oriented main plot. Back to the questions...) Are those other existing foreigners who turn to football around the world morally damaged by not sticking to their own national sports fads? Or their enjoyment of fútbol americano makes them morally superior to those who don't like it... only in their own countries or outside their own countries as well? Or could it possibly be that non-Americans who adore the Super Bowl are being brainwashed into denying their national identities and innermost morals? (I smell a nasty earth-sized conspiracy in here...) I wouldn't take neither ANY of the above questions nor their potentially ludicrous answers seriously. I strongly believe, Miss Coulter, that sports and morality, as you weave them together in your article, have little if nothing to do in the same sentence. 

Your closing words are as follows: "No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time". I wonder where on earth the ancestors of the great-grandfathers you talk about were born. England, maybe? Or perhaps they were Sioux or Lakota? Maybe they were born in some obscure European or African country, right? In the hypothetical case [*laughs at the very thought*] that those ancestors were, in fact, some kind of foreigners, would their influence or tastes be directly judged as perverted or evil because of where they were born? I thought one of the greatest things about the USA was that it stood in for freedom and justice for all, even for the immigrants whose perils finished once they reached American land, mostly for them. The USA has branded itself as a melting pot of cultures, as the country of opportunities, thus attracting those less fortunate -whether in Guatemala, Poland, or the Philippines- with the promise of liberty and prosperity. Have I unwittingly bought into and fallen hard for mere foreign propaganda? I would very much like to think not. (By the way, the State of Arizona is doing a great job in demystifying that seemingly long ago forgotten promise.)

I do share your hope for those "new Americans" to drop their soccer fetish, notwithstanding the language or languages they may speak and whether this sport is really "catching on" in the USA or not. (I can't leave out an important historical reminder: the English language first arrived in America (the continent, that is) during the 17th century. Spanish and Portuguese people, together with their respective languages, mainly arrived during the 16th century. Because of those facts, perhaps we all should learn, say, one of the many Quechuan languages (dating as back as the 13th century AH) since they have definitely been around these shores for way, way longer and certainly arrived here before we both did. Don't we look like the real, original foreigners now? Moving on...) Fetishes only bring about a sort of alienated enjoyment, however multilingual they could be. But, in the end, who am I to say which passions are worthier of being pursued than others? You and I live in free countries (although sometimes I wonder if we Mexicans are truly free due to so many politically, socio-economically, even ideologically enforced limitations), countries where liberties are constitutionally upheld and where people have the right to do whatever they want with their time and energy, even if we wholeheartedly disapprove of it, don't you think?

Hope to hear from you soon.
Kind regards, Montserrat Algarabel

P.S. Here's a video (courtesy of YouTube user xCNS GamingPs3) that compiles some images of trivial soccer mishaps, exaggeratedly called "Worst Football Injuries Ever" just to get more views, for sure. I guess these dauntless footballers weren't made of rubber after all, although some of them do come across as really whiny, spoiled kids with their bones all sticking out and stuff...

2 comentarios:

Margarita Martínez Duarte dijo...

Ay, por favor, esa comentarista estadunidense suena francamente racista. Nada más le falta decir que el americano se inventó en el Mayflower. Me alegra que hayas atajado sus argumentos supremacistas. A mí sí me gusta el soccer (y también el americano, por cierto), y podría comentar sobre la belleza y las cualidades de ambos deportes. Sin embargo, no me preocupa convencer a nadie. Lo que sí me preocupa es que en pleno siglo XXI sigan usándose falsos argumentos pseudoevolucionistas para justificar la opresión de unos sobre otros.

Anónimo dijo...

Coulter hates the left and abhors immigration. Hence, her diatribe on soccer. Coulter’s inexplicable hatred of the Other is one reason why we should Never Trust Ann Coulter – at ANY Age, a new book available at