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I’m enjoying The World Cup….. some though aren’t June 26, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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Have really enjoyed the World Cup so far, attacking football some excellent games and of course delighted to see the ban for Suarez!
I’ve read a number of pieces on the growing popularity of the game in the US. Some in The States have not been enjoying it so much though ….. Any growing interest in soccer a sign of nation’s moral decay

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1. Michael Carley - June 26, 2014

Where she claims that `Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer.’

So football fans spend their time talking about the achievements of the collective; they probably can’t even tell the players apart.

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2. ejh - June 26, 2014

I’ve not clicked on that – I assume it’s the Ann Coulter piece I’ve not been reading?

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3. fergal - June 26, 2014

Anybody hear the Muntari form Ghaba story. After Ghana’a heroics on Saturday night Muntari left the team’s complex to go ….clubbing? drinking? or to a nearby shantytown? In the nearby shantytown he gives out all the cash he has on him to the local kids. Class. Shades of Ali staying up all night to talk to Kinshasa’a street kids.
In a separate incident he’s been suspended by his FA for bad behaviour on the training ground!
Best World Cup I’ve seen so far, since 1982

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4. Dr. X - June 26, 2014
5. Liberius - June 26, 2014

Outside of the quite frankly gob-smacking lack of knowledge on the subject she’s writing about, what I find most bizarre about that article is the section in the middle where she elides into a critique of the metric system, what on earth has that to do with the subject?

Though much perniciously there is the line which states that something isn’t a sport if it doesn’t involve serious injury, which not only fails to recognise football’s potential to lead to broken legs, ruptured ligaments, concussions, brain damage and heart attacks from over exertion, but actually also leads us back up to that old UK public school dictum of institutionalised violence being “character building”, a concept that has no valid underpinning other than the belief of violence loons that they should have the right to batter anyone they like.

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PaddyM - June 26, 2014

Outside of the quite frankly gob-smacking lack of knowledge on the subject she’s writing about

This is Ann Coulter. This is what she does for a living.

Obviously the solution is for someone to invade their countries, kill their leaders and make them play baseball.

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Ed - June 26, 2014

… then they could have their asses handed to them by countries other than Cuba. Fans of Buffy will presumably remember Giles asking why it was that a nation that prides itself on its masculinity felt the need to dress up in body armour just to play rugby.

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WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2014

Ms. Calendar: “It’s just such a rugged contest.”
Giles: “Rugged? American football? Heh heh.”
Ms. Calendar: “And that’s funny because…?”
Giles: “Well, I think it’s rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby.”

Cheeky, but not entirely inaccurate.

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WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2014

Though got to agree PaddyM, she almost makes Myers et al appear like the soul of reasoned debate – to me she’s actually closer to a performance artist of some kind than anything else. I doubt she cares an iota about what she writes about for good or bad, it’s just something to write about and provoke a reaction. In a way though I wonder if there’s even enough soccer fans in the US to generate that sort of reaction?

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Mark P - June 26, 2014

It’s funny but it really isn’t accurate.

Collisions in rugby are problematic enough, particularly as players get faster and stronger and physiques get more and more comically inflated*, but collisions in American football are orders of magnitude more dangerous. Hit someone in league or union in a way that would be entirely normal in American Football and not only are you getting sent off, you will be looking at a lengthy suspension. There is a strong argument that the body armour and helmets contribute to the problem – you can’t play the game in a way even close to its current format without the armour, but the armour allows players to throw themselves into collisions in a way that they would otherwise flinch from. The brevity of typical NFL careers and the physical state of many ex pros are appalling.

* not that this in any way indicates that PEDs are overwhelmingly prevalent, right?

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WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2014

Well as a fan of Friday Night Lights as well as Buffy I’ve got to agree that American football isn’t the effete sport its cracked up to be – hence my equivocation above. Though as you say, the padding/etc does tend to exacerbate its more physical tendencies. You’re spot on re the injuries players suffer and that’s a whole different story too.

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PaddyM - June 27, 2014

Though got to agree PaddyM, she almost makes Myers et al appear like the soul of reasoned debate – to me she’s actually closer to a performance artist of some kind than anything else.

A closer equivalent in Ireland than Myers would be Mary Ellen Synon. Myers is, sadly, totally serious in the stuff he comes out with. I suspect Coulter, on the other hand, is running a “liberal outrage” generator program and slotting the results into her output.

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droq - June 27, 2014

Another odd feature of the NFL vs. the national ethos is how it protects its losers through granting higher picks in the next draft of players, in contrast to the hypercapitalism of European club leagues.

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droq - June 27, 2014

Though I suppose in that it protects owners who have been granted a franchise, it can be seen as crony capitalism, even if they had to build some socialist redistribution into the system to provide it!

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Liberius - June 26, 2014

Least anyone be thinking that I’m soft on Coulter I should say that when I say gob-smacking, it’s more a matter of lamenting that any editor would let this be published when it contains such willing idiocies like the question she poses early on about Most valuable players (An annoying phrase that is a testament to how deeply embedded in American culture capitalism is), surely we should be expecting the ability to answer factual questions before publication as a basic minimum even for the most ludicrously unreasoned arguments?

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6. WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2014

Staggering in its lack of everything.

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7. Mark P - June 26, 2014

Coulter is essentially a funnier Kevin Myers.

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8. Jolly Red Giant - June 26, 2014

I love American Football – it is the ultimate team sport – 11 guys who have to work as a complete unit to make something happen – with a serious amount of talent.

The NFL is completely different to rugby – the NFL is about explosive power – rugby is about endurance. No rugby player has ever made it in the NFL and couldn’t because they are not built to have the explosiveness – its the same vice-verse.

Saying that – the NFL is a brutal physical sport that is driven by money and has a brutal physical and psychological impact on the players, many of whom end up with permanent brain damage, serious physical injuries or bankrupt and often all three. It is a sport driven by money and profit (all the NFL teams make huge profits and it is a monopolised market) and will continue to be so. The NFL owners are stubbornly resisting efforts to provide proper medical care for former players because they don’t want to spend the money. But despite all this I love it.

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Mark P - June 26, 2014

The thing that makes American Football so fascinating is the combination of incredible, often brutal, athleticism with one of the most sophisticated and complex tactical games in sport. As a simple spectacle, it’s a strange mix of seconds of action surrounded by minutes of nothing. But once you start getting a grasp of the tactical side of things, the whole sport becomes much more interesting, though I will cheerfully admit that I’m still oblivious to at least half of the subtleties.

There is, of course, a huge amount about the sport that is grotesque, but as I’m also a boxing fan I’m hardly in a position to get on my high horse about that. The professional half of boxing at least is completely indefensible. And over the years I’ve really tried to come up with a face saving justification. Name something bad about any sport and the chances are it’s worse in boxing.

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WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2014

+1 to both of you. It’s insanely watchable, and like you say Mark P a lot of it goes over my head too.

Just on a linked issue five (I think) NFL cheerleaders have been suing over pay rates. I’m extremely conflicted about the whole cheerleading culture (and the level of exploitation is shocking) but no harm at all to see a push back from some of them.

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Mark P - June 26, 2014

It’s not the most obvious comparison, but the sport it most reminds me of is pro cycling. On the surface both appear to be essentially contests of freakish athletic prowess, but underneath there’s a Byzantine tactical complexity. You can watch and enjoy either without having the first notion of the tactical part, but after a while it’s that bit that provides most of the interest.

Cycling of course has its own problematic history.

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Gewerkschaftler - June 27, 2014

And both sports (cycling and AF) share an unusually high levels of pharmacutical/biomedical ‘enhancement’.

I never personally saw the attraction of American Football – lots of waiting around for set pieces, 8 seconds of action and then more waiting around. Not to speak of the ad breaks. But each to his own.

The ultimate capitalist sport would comprise unarmed fights to the death with the most expensive pharmacutical / bioengineering enhancement that the sponsors could buy.

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Mark P - June 27, 2014

I would suggest that “enhancement” of that sort is extremely widespread across all professional sport and even relatively serious amateur sport.

Soccer, tennis, rugby, boxing, MMA, baseball, basketball, American football, etc all have three things in common:

1) Testing regimes that only the stupidest, laziest or unluckiest cheat could fall foul of.
2) Potentially vast rewards for success.
3) The potential for PEDs to very significantly enhance performance.

The calculation is not a complex one. Yet the world is full of people who enjoy some or all of those sports while sneering at cycling. Cycling still has a very significant number of drug cheats, but due to its scandals it has had no choice but to introduce what is by far the toughest testing regime in sport. That testing regime can still be beaten, but doing so nowadays involves a great deal of effort and expertise.

By contrast the main thing other sports learnt from the travails of cycling is that catching stars is very bad for business.

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Liberius - June 27, 2014

Though on the issue of drugs in football, the Legendinho Tim Vickery is often to be heard saying that PEDs don’t offer the same benefit to players in a sport like football that they do in other sports as a result of its emphasis on the skills like passing and positional awareness rather than the outright individual physicality of a sport like cycling. Though that could lead to complacency, which would be something to be wary of.

Actually on the subject of the ledendinho, are they any regular listeners of the BBC’s World Football Phone-in amongst the CLR denizens?

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Mark P - June 27, 2014

That sort of opinion doesn’t “risk” complacency. It is entirely complacent, to a degree that can only be explained by naivety, foolishness or disingenuousness.

Anyone who thinks that being faster, fitter or stronger in football isn’t an advantage either hasn’t thought seriously about it or is an idiot. Modern doping methods can allow a footballer to better hold off an encroaching opponent, get to a ball faster, cover more ground, keep running after 90 minutes almost as fast as they could at the start of the game, recover from injury faster, recover from match exhaustion faster, train harder and longer etc etc etc.

The differences between winning and losing, between coining it as a top division player or earning a journeymans wage, between making it as a pro or not are all tiny. The advantages PEDs can give are large. The risks of being caught are tiny. The maths are not hard.

By the mid 1990s at least some top soccer clubs had already started introducing in-house doping regimes, following in cycling’s footsteps. We know this because Juventus were actually stupid enough to get caught.

Cycling’s third biggest doping scandal, Operation Puerto, stemmed from a Spanish doping doctor getting caught with bags of blood from large numbers of riders stored. The cyclists were mostly named and banned. But the scandal should have been a cross sport one: the same raid found larger numbers of blood bags belonging to athletes from other sports. The athletes from other sports were never named or banned. Only the cyclists. The doctor concerned has admitted that the other two big sports involved were football and tennis.

I see no reason to think that doping is any less common in football than in other rich sports. There is no potential benefit to any financial stakeholders in the sport in catching cheats and there are massive financial incentives to avoid major scandals.

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Mark P - June 27, 2014

Or to put it another way, right up until it was revealed that steroid use was nearly mandatory in Major League Baseball, the baseball equivalents of Vickery would smugly tell you that PEDs couldn’t help you hit a fastball.

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Mark P - June 27, 2014

Just got spam blocked I think. I was trying to post links to coverage of Operation Puerto and the Juventus doping regime.

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Liberius - June 27, 2014

On that I agree that Vickery really shouldn’t be keeping his head in the sand over this issue. I suspect in his case it has to do with an unconscious desire for skill to be the only determinative in successful playing of the game. Something that would be lovely, but unfortunately fails to recognise that any professionalised large sport is subject to the basic nature of athleticism, if they weren’t then the world would be full of 120kg, 1.5 metre tall world champions, it’s just not like that. Tragic as he’s not bad when it comes to the knowledge of the game’s history.

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Mark P - June 27, 2014

I don’t really mean to single him out for naivety – I think that across sports many of even the best specialist journalists and writers have a huge amount emotionally invested in their sports. The notion that doping might not only exist and not only be the province of the proverbial few bad apples but may instead be widespread to the point of institutionalisation is something akin to Denning’s “appalling vista”.

Baseball (along with boxing and cricket) has over the years been the subject of a disproportionate amount of the very best sports writing. I don’t think that most of the journalists who used to dismiss the idea that doping was extremely common in that sport were cynics (although some of them were). They really did believe that PEDs couldn’t enable you to hit a fastball. They were even sort of correct. But the point they missed is that PEDs could enable you to hit every pitch you connected with significantly harder. Which gave the sport their home run derby years and permanently mucked up most of their records – which is the biggest tragedy of the whole mess to many baseball fans, the true nerds of the sports world. And that’s before you examine the effects of steroids on pitching speeds and perhaps most importantly on the ability to stand up to the wear and tear of an almost ludicrously long season.

In football, people like Vickery are clearly correct that no amount of PEDs will give you incredible vision or inventiveness or balance. But both blood doping and steroids will give you the ability to use skills in ways you otherwise couldn’t. And they will give you the ability to do a hell of a lot of other things that are important parts of the game. But most people really, really, don’t want that to be true.

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6to5against - June 26, 2014

I think Green Bay are community owned? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Bay_Packers

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Mark P - June 26, 2014

Yes, and also the most successful club (“franchise”) despite being based in a small town in a minor media market. I’m sure I could spin some spurious “socialism works” point out of that, but I’m feeling lazy.

My general rule of thumb when getting interested in a US sport is follow the team from Detroit. I have no meaningful connection to any US city, so I might as well decide based on my record collection. If I’d taken a more ideological tack in deciding which team to follow in the NFL, I’d have enjoyed considerably more in the way of vicarious glory, instead of taking perverse satisfaction in following what is historically the worst team in the sport by a mile.

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9. ejh - June 26, 2014

One of the reasons I’m hugely sympathetic to the US team is that it largely represents the US of not-Ann Coulter and her ilk.

Anyway they’ve got through. Well done them.

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Mark P - June 26, 2014

Isn’t it a sport primarily played by women and watched by Latinos, other immigrants and the less insular parts of the rest of the population?

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Jolly Red Giant - June 26, 2014

Yep – sport in America is primarily based on ethnic groups – whites play hockey, blacks play basketball, whites and Hispanics play baseball, and soccer is primarily a sport played by women (because they don’t play American football or baseball – not ignoring softball) and Mexicans and Latinos. American football is the only mass sport in the USA that crosses all ethnic lines

Several of the current US squad were born in Europe and several more are first generation from European parents. Clint Dempsey’s grandparents were Irish.

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droq - June 27, 2014

One of the cool things about that is male isn’t the default assumption when talking about the national side—fans commonly use the USMNT acronym, for “men’s national team”.

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Gewerkschaftler - June 27, 2014

Yep – the US audiences at we’ve seen here on the TV during the US matches seem to have been pretty well mixed in terms of race and gender.

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Gewerkschaftler - June 27, 2014

But I’m a bit biased – I’ve got a (vanishingly small) flutter on the USA to beat Belgium.

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10. 6to5against - June 26, 2014

on that last point: I always found that football truly was the mass sport in the US, but only in the number of people following it. the handful I knew who played were all male jock-types.

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Mark P - June 26, 2014

Well, American Football is a mass spectator sport but it is not a mass participation sport. It’s more like motor racing than basketball or soccer in that regard.

An American Football team is extremely expensive to run and requires considerable logistical backing. If you aren’t good enough to make THE team in your college or high school (if there is one), then you don’t play. It’s also bloody dangerous enough that few people who watch it seriously think, I’d like a go at that. Even if they wanted to though, there are few if any opportunities, so those who do play are pretty much entirely both male and highly athletically gifted. If a random teenager of unexceptional athleticism is on a sports team it will be soccer, basketball, baseball, softball etc.

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Jolly Red Giant - June 26, 2014

That is absolutely true – it is a sport for the talented athlete not the sports enthusiast.

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11. Joe - June 27, 2014

And hats off to Algeria. They made the last 16. One of my abiding WC memories is the WC of ’82? and seeing an Algerian lad crying as he watched the W Germany vs Austria “match”. It wasn’t a match at all because they’d agreed beforehand to play out a boring no-score draw ensuring they’d both qualify at the expense of Algeria. This after Algeria had shocked the Germans 1-0 in the group.* Here’s hoping Algeria can pull off the shock of the competition so far in the next round v Germany.
*Some of the details above may be incorrect but you know the gist.

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Michael Carley - June 27, 2014

I remember that too. One German fan burnt his flag in disgust. Algeria have been waiting a while for this chance, and it would be nice to see them beat Germany.

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ar scáth a chéile - June 27, 2014

The generals will be happy…probably makes it easier to keep a lid on discotent in poor old Algeria

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ar scáth a chéile - June 27, 2014

Typo alert: discontent

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Michael Carley - June 27, 2014

I think you’ll find there’s a lidless disco tent at Glastonbury.

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ar scáth a chéile - June 27, 2014

That is a good one!

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Gewerkschaftler - June 27, 2014

That match is still know as the ‘match of shame’ among some German Fans.

Given the way Germany played against the USA I’d say they’re unlikely to loose against Algeria. But you never know.

And (I’ll type this very quietly in case the people around me can hear) the ensuing national mourning and breast-beating would be somewhat amusing.

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12. Paul Wilson - June 27, 2014

Last time I was in the States 15 years ago I was suprised by the number of people who seemed interested in Soccer, I was asked at a party to explain why people with no hair were giving the Nazi salute at Chelsea match’s, it took me a long time and they still seemed somewhat bemused with my explanation.

The USA is a vast nation and you can find that musicians and groups that are famous in the UK for example are not even known in some parts depending on where you are, I think Soccer could perhaps be viewed in the same light.

An American friend here in Spain is avidley glued to her laptop and she comes from Texas.

Yes well done Algeria, USA and Nigeria. I think myself that the era of Spainish football has passed to Latin and Central America. Costa Rica maybe?

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13. Jolly Red Giant - June 27, 2014

The primary reason for the dominance of the Latin American teams over the European teams is primarily down to money. In Europe young fellas play FIFA 14 on the PS4 – in Latin and Central American the kids play soccer on the streets. It is noticeable how few kids are out playing soccer compared to 30-40 years ago. Yes kids play in sports clubs but it is rare they do it against a gable wall or in a park. Around where I live now the only kids I see outside playing sports are a bunch of Filipinos kids out playing basketball with a hoop they nailed onto a tree.

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Gewerkschaftler - June 27, 2014

Now you mention it, you just don’t see street football at all anymore practically anywhere I’ve been in Europe recently.

The hours … no days … no weeks we must have spent wacking a ball against the bus garage wall and pretending to be X playing for Y…

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Pasionario - June 27, 2014

Dominance? The last two world cups were won by European teams in all European finals. I think the fact that the tournament is being played in Brazil gives a massive boost to all the Latin American teams. Whenever they’re playing any European team, almost the entire crowd is on their side and will jeer their opponents relentlessly. Then there’s the climate…

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14. Sport, culture, history | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - June 27, 2014

[…] don’t do much on sport here and that’s a pity – but after IEL’s post here expect more on the World […]

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