Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Hangover: Soccer in the City of Angels, an Introduction

On Saturday, we indulge in the pleasures of the beautiful game. On Sunday, we wake up with a global headache.

A collective romance with fair play grounds the entertainment value of sporting events. We love the idea of a level playing field, stories in which the best competitor wins, or in which the well-played match is its own reward. We love our team even when they don't bring home a trophy. But, oh, when they do! Messi is a gift from the heavens. His team is a family. Més que un club. Ferguson says "No one has given United a hiding like Barcelona did." Guardiola declares "This is the way we want to play." The world wraps itself in a cozy blanket, the story of the perfect game.

But even casual participation in sports forces a break with this illusion - racism, sexism and homophobia; economic manipulation of a team's "brand" and "value" at the expense of the team and its fans; the hyper-leveraging of club assets; doping, mismanagement, cronyism and bribery. What name is now on Barcelona's shirt?

What sport is "clean," really? Being a sports fan is a lesson in bi-polarity. Manic highs, paranoid frenzy, and then you throw out your television and hide from the game ruining your life.

Over the next couple weeks, I'll publish a series of articles describing my involvement with a local league here in Los Angeles. These articles are inspired by FIFA's shocking (and yet not surprising) decision to proceed with its election of a single candidate whom everyone knows is a corrupt, sexist and homophobic bastard. (At the moment, he is accused of condoning heavy bribery in the bidding process for future World Cups.) At today's press conference FIFA's Secretary General and Official Cynic (Jerome Valcke) said that this decision was made in the interest of the organization's stability. Of course it is.

We are all wondering how long this can go on - how long the international stewardship of the game will rest in the hands of liars and thieves.

FIFA's corruption unfolds alongside complaint and ethics charges. Our collective relationship to it looks a lot like what Slavoj Žižek calls "interpassivity," in which "we are active all the time in order to make sure nothing will happen, that nothing will really change." ("A Plea for Aggressive Passivity") We tweet, update our statuses, we sign petitions and complain - but we turn on the TV, we buy our tickets, we go to sports bars and cheer.

How long can FIFA sell itself to the world using a language of social good, of unity and community? When will the world wake up to the fact that it's been playing a shell game? Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe the shell game is what we want, after all.

As we ask for the king's head on a stick, we must also look closer to home and consider the game we say want, versus the game we actually play - the game we buy into, and sell out. That's the charge I've issued to myself....

Next: Usage Agreement

1 comment:

  1. Hey Doyle, I have a suggestion, instead of blaming men for the lack of popularity of the women's game why not encourage women to support the ladies game. The truth is, most female football fans watch and attend the men's game. My girlfriend and I are Barca fans and she doesn't miss barca game and she bought the jerseys of Messi and Iniesta. She is not following the women's world cup because she said " I restpect the women's game but I am into the men's game" and I am sure most female football fans feel the same way. The fact is, if only male fans supported the men's game it would still be very popular and be bringing $ billions in revenues. As you know, women outnumber men on planet earth. So if only 20% of the worl's female population regularly attended women's football games, wathed those games of TV and bought jerseys of their favorite female players what do you think would have happtened to the women's game? Answer: the popularity of the women's game would have reached record heights. Sponsors would have battled to sponsor female leagues and teams and broadcasters would have fought tooth and nail to win broadcasting rights for the women's game. So the question, why aren't female football fans supporting the ladies game instead of watching the men's game? take a look at the crowd in the Gold Cup final between USA and Mexico and you would see the faces of thousands of women. The same thing in the game between USA v. Spain in Foxborough or USA v Argentina in the meddlelands stadium in NJ. So I wish you dedicate you energy and blog to encouraging women to support the women's game instead of breaching hate towards men. I watch women's olympic sports such Athletics, swimming, gymnastics, tennis, wightlifting,cannoing, valley ball, fencing etc. because I think the women in these sports are top-notch athletes, their sports are very competitive and exciting which is why I love to watch them. However, women's soccer and basketball are just not exciting, competitive or entertaining enough for me and I don't have to watch them just to prove that I am not sexist. So in short, you have to admit that if women supported wome's soccer and basketball, then these sports would have enjoyed popularity comparable to the popularity enjoyed by the equivalent men's games. So stop bashing men, it will get you nowhere and istead, start encouraging women to support women's sports because if that happens then I assure that sporship, advertising dollars and media attention will quickly follow. good luck.


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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