Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Spread of American Culture

I have never been a soccer fan. Not until today, that is.

World Cup final match, Italy vs. France. Two teams kicking the ball all over the place and having practically nothing to show for it after 90 minutes of "action" and 30 minutes of overtime: boring. Italy winning the match on penalty kicks because someone on the French side screwed up: yawn.

France's Zinedane Zidane smashing his bald head into the solar plexus of Italian Marco Materazzi, intentionally and for no good reason? Now, that's a tackle that an American sports fan can get into!

I'm not proud of my bloodlust, but let's be completely honest here. When it comes to the pageantry of sports, Americans are about as refined in their choices as the Romans were when feeding gladiators to the lions. Football needs no explanation: it's really all about bodies slamming against each other. Basketball these days is about "in-your-face" stuffs and over-the-back flagrant fouls. NASCAR is sitting through an afternoon of left turns, hoping that one car becomes airborne long enough to smash about a half-dozen vehicles into twisted, flaming metal. Even hockey is dominated by players who, long ago, lost their front teeth to flying chunks of hard rubber.

Of the more "placid" sports, baseball today is all about raw displays of power: hitting for distance, spitting sunflower seeds for distance, scratching for distance ... oh, and pitching. The elegant game of tennis has been taken over by musclebound, grunting, screaming bundles of testosterone (and the men's game has fared no better). And in a country where Mike Tyson can still draw a crowd (despite the fact that Iron Mike will threaten to eat its children), do I need to say anything about boxing at all?

I figured that any soccer match in which two countries, representing the weakest European armies of the 20th century, would try to overcome their legacy of mediocrity would be a worthy investment of time.

But not until the game's 110th minute (do we really need to honor a sport that requires a timeline?) did Zidane sprint ahead of Materazzi, then turn around and ram his head directly into the Italian's sternum. Predictably, Materazzi dropped to the turf like ... well, like the Italian army. Zidane was ejected by the referee (actually, they said he was "sent off", presumably without any supper).

And the greatest French athlete since Jean-Claude Killy ended his career, not in triumph, but in disgrace.

What a quintessentially American thing to do.

posted by Gary @ 5:52 PM 15 comments links to this post

Location: Houston, Texas

Why the heck wouldn't you want to read the toxic byproducts of my mental processes? It's not like you're too busy to waste a minute or two here, you know. You ARE just killing time by mindlessly surfing the web. Pop open a brewski and stay a while.

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