Culture

Soccer: The Single Greatest Threat to American Exceptionalism

A response to Sonny Bunch

(flickr user footysphere)

My colleague Sonny Bunch is on the wrong side of history. Even worse, his "qualified defense" of U.S. soccer fandom is an affront to the exceptionalistic values on which this country was founded.

In a just world, Bunch’s desperate attempt to curry favor with the mob of faux-patriot hipsters known as "U.S. soccer fans" would invite charges of treason, or worse. In just world, we wouldn’t be having this "debate."

In describing soccer as "an opportunity for America to prove that we’re great even at things we actively disdain," Bunch reveals a gross misunderstanding of the mindless cult he longs to join. His blindly idealistic assessment is as adorable as it is ignorant. Perhaps he should spend more time in the overcrowded upscale bars in our nation’s capital, or in the overcrowded stadiums of Natal, or Manaus, and less time nursing his liberal ambitions from the comfort of his suburbanite cocoon.

The scarf-adorned "douchemongers" whom Bunch (rightly) denounces are not interested in a world in which American dominance at the World Cup mirrors its military and economic dominance on the world stage. Liberals are drawn to soccer precisely because it is one of the few remaining venues where American exceptionalism does not prevail.

The World Cup, rather, is a working model of President Obama’s foreign policy vision: a world in which America has no special role, where inferior countries are no longer humbled by American greatness, where every country is exceptional, and free shots on goal are not earned, but given away as a handout to those who have mastered the art of falling down. In the group stage, at least, the games can end in a tie. How American is that, Mr. Bunch?

Attempts to exert even a modicum of American exceptionalism—e.g., calling it soccer, instead of "football," like everyone else—are greeted with disdain. President Obama, for example, thinks we should abandon these imperialistic pretensions. Of course he does. He has spent the last six years trying to weaken America at home and abroad. Why stop now?

Perhaps it’s because using the term "soccer" is frowned upon in the company of "interesting Italians" dining at the Villa Taverna in Rome. Or maybe it’s because talking about your favorite "EPL club" is the latest iteration of "I’m Canadian," as recommended in the American Hipster’s Guide to Fitting In Abroad.

Bunch dreams of the day when the United States wins the World Cup because he "savor[s] the thought of how immensely butthurt the rest of the world will be." He dreams of a day when America "can crush the hopes of every nation." That day may never come, but even if it does, would it really be cause for celebration? Or would it mean that the "international community" is the real winner, having successfully convinced us to care enough about their silly game to try and win it? Should the United States also strive to be the best at socialism, just to make other socialists feel "butthurt"?

And what of the domestic fan mob? Should the U.S. men’s national soccer team ever achieve a status worthy of the country it represents, if the players ever familiarize themselves with the American tradition of winning at all costs, that’s when the scarf-adorned douchemongers will lose interest, and eschew unironic patriotism once and for all. Sonny Bunch will find himself alone on an empty field (pitch), writhing in fictitious agony, appealing for a penalty that will never come, because the game is already lost.