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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The right's weird soccerphobia

Posted By on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 12:40 PM

Much research has been done in the past few years into differences in the ways conservatives and liberals think. A lot of the research merely reaffirms the obvious: Liberals are more open to considering new ideas and information that contradict their normal beliefs, while conservatives often have a nearly instinctive resistance to new ideas and situations. Those aren’t judgments of either persuasion, just measurements of how their thought processes usually work. Now, however, some conservative pundits and spokespersons are taking that “resistance to new ideas and situations” to new levels of absurdity, by slamming the World Cup as un-American, alien, and even — gasp! — socialist!

Call me crazy, but if I found out that a particular form of, say, music, or beer or what-have-you, was, by an overwhelming margin, the most popular music, beer, etc., in the world, my first reaction would be to want to know more about what I’ve been missing. Not so, apparently, with conservatives and soccer. They don’t understand it, and more importantly, they don’t want to understand it — not any more than they understand, and don’t want to understand, the rest of the world. In fact, right-wing guru/clown Glenn Beck recently laid it out plainly when he said, ““I hate [the World Cup] so much, probably because the rest of the world likes it so much.”

Read that last sentence again, please, because, that is exactly the dumb-and-happy, “I don’t care about anything I don’t already know” attitude that exemplifies the conservative mindset at its worst. I call it Gooberism, or, in a recent column, “deliberate dumbassedness," and if there’s any justice left in the world, it will be the downfall of the American right.

Beck isn’t the only right-winger who suddenly feels that soccer and the World Cup are terrible. As a new column by Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker relates, the Washington Times, a very conservative paper, wrote that “silly leftist critics” like soccer because “the most popular sports in America — football, baseball, and basketball — originated here in the Land of the Free” (never mind the many leftie fans of those sports, much less the fact that football and baseball evolved out of British games). Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen actually wrote, “Soccer is a socialist sport,” while talk show host/famous nutcase G. Gordon Liddy hosted a conservative media critic who said “the left” is “pushing [soccer] in schools around the country” because it’s popular with Hispanics.

So, says the right, soccer — which around five million grownups play regularly in the U.S., and which more American kids play than any other team sport — is un-American. Not only that, they say, but Americans as a rule hate soccer — yet another instance of the right-wing brain having difficulty processing new information. Here’s an important fact Hertzberg points out: The U.S.-Ghana match in the World Cup was watched by 19.4 million Americans. That’s a ton of people for a sport that we supposedly hate. Hertzberg writes, “It’s more people than, on average, watched last year’s World Series games, which had the advantage of being broadcast in prime time. It’s millions more than watched the Kentucky Derby or the final round of the Masters golf tournament or the Daytona 500.” And for the anti-Latino faction out there, you may be interested to know (but probably not) that only a quarter of those 19.4 million viewers watched the Cup on Spanish-language Univision.

What I’d like to understand is: How did conservatism, which, agree with it or not, used to be the province of serious thinkers, devolve into the Gooberism it peddles today — to the point that it embraces the kind of small-minded, mulish B.S. that would try to make a bogeyman out of ... well, the most popular team sport of humankind?

Glenn Beck: I hate soccer so much!
  • Glenn Beck: I hate soccer so much!

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